Nov 7, 2013

Why Relationships Require Belief in a Distant Sacred Object


Love? Yes Please, But Only at a Distance

When I was little my dad used to sing a song called "Sunset". It went something like this:
You are so beautiful you are like the sun
But I must appreciate and love you from a distance
Because the sun will burn me if I get too close
The metaphor here is ironic. Because it is not that the lover fears being overwhelmed, heartbroken or "burnt" by the object of his love but rather, paradoxically, the only way for the subject to maintain and sustain his love for her is by maintaining a distance. Here what the "sun" burns is not the lover but love itself in the absence of distance between the subject and the object of this love.
To elaborate, love as a feeling is often sustained and most intense when the object is beyond reach, unavailable, distant and hence only fantasized about. As such, love lives in one's imagination sustained by a belief in a future where the subject and object of this love unit. The comic tragedy being that as soon as this couple does unit, this "love" that lives in their imagination sustained by belief can no longer exist. For one, there can be no more belief or faith since the goal which the belief was founded on has been achieved. Second, when reality and imagination collide, imagination usually disappears and disappoints since no reality can come close to its virtual version. This is why in order for relationships to survive there always has to be another end or element that sustains belief in the relationship. For some it's sex, some have kids or start a business together and others accumulate status symbols or experiences as a couple. This is also true for careers or academia. In order for people to keep working or studying they have to create an illusionary belief in an end when they become "the boss" or a "founder" with a high salary, respect and power. But of course, for most this is just an illusionary belief that has to be sustained by a distance and illusions of getting closer to that sacred end by meaningless titles and promotions.

Religion is the best example of this as well. There is a sacred notion (god) and distance (god shows up in afterlife) which belief requires. However this distance is too great with no evidence, this is why in order for religions to sustain this fictional belief, they provide dogma, traditions, social networks and sense of importance that act as fake mile markers on the spiritual highway giving the perception of getting closer to this sacred "god".

Feelings require belief in a future sacred state that never is fulfilled or achieved with the illusion that one is getting closer to this "sacred" state. Distance is necessary for the sacred to remain as such otherwise the belief is undermined and a third element or party is needed to sustain the belief. As Zizek says, the best way to undermine a belief or an ideology is to over-identify with it or become a fanatic and in doing so eliminating the distance between us and the object of the belief and hence destroying the belief itself.

It also follows that best experiences are those that are often hard to replicate or recreate.  As such they only live in memory as nostalgia but never again in reality.  

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