We speak of ‘falling in love’, and the phrase implies that the experience is unsought, accidental, and irresistible. The person who falls in love doesn’t do so from choice, and didn’t expect a passionate involvement. According to the ancient mythology, the act of falling in love suspends consciousness, will, and judgement. The cheeky chap Cupid shoots his arrow and the victim becomes hopelessly infatuated. The object of the person’s love may be utterly inappropriate, like the donkey-headed bottom in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, for love, they say, is blind.
“Love”, says Samuel Johnson, “Is the wisdom of the food and the folly of the wise.” The world’s literature and history bear witness that love and the pursuit of love have been major preoccupations and follies of mankind from time immemorial. The Trojan wars were fought over rivalry for a woman’s love, Julius Caesar sent his armies into unpopular campaigns for Cleopatra, and Mark Anthony sacrificed his career and his life for her. “The world”, says the poet John Dryden, “is well lost for love.”
Traditions, legends, folklore, and the fact of history combine to show that prudence, sense, judgement, and even the basic animal instinct for survival, can be overwhelmed by the passion called love.
Love is a passion that can override all other considerations, and although falling in love can be a delightful experience it can also be an inconvenient and even a disastrous one; especially if you are already attached. I bet you feel as if little pieces of your soul are disappearing if you’ve ever searched Tinder in the hope of love!
It is often the danger sited when new couples or single people enter the world of swinging and ‘casual hook-ups’. Those outside the community are nervous about being a part of it; they worry that their spouse might fall in love and that the emotion will be something that cannot be kept out of it. People within the swinging scene say that 99% of the time it is about fulfilling or exploring fantasy and in fact, sometimes the greatest love of all can be witnessed in the trust and excitement shared between the committed swinging couple.
The metaphor of falling is also often used for the abrupt cessation of love. For a person to fall out of love can be as bewildering and distressing and experience as falling into it, but without any compensation. Teenagers often they wonder how they will be able to distinguish true love when it happens to them and yet – they fall in and out and in and out of it with drama and tears at every turn.
Why are all those songs and tunes that we sing along to are always about the same melancholic message; how perplexed we are by the seeming capriciousness of the emotion that is the source of both the greatest joys and the greatest miseries.
In Plato’s symposium, there is a parable and it completely sums it up for me. Humans were once spherical creatures so clever and energetic that the gods felt threatened. So they cut each human being down the middle, making of it two halves which became male and female. Thereafter the human creatures devoted over all their energies to trying to become whole again, to unite with ‘their other half’, and so they ceased to be a challenge to the gods.
The parable not only states that love is such a consuming passion in human beings that some impractical and metaphysical myth motivation must be assumed to be behind it, but give us a reason for our sex and love motivation being so powerful and compulsive. It suggests that through the experience of sexual love people may obtain a wholeness of being and a sense of expansion and transcendence that makes them feel God like. Could this be why some lovers often behave as they do, rejecting prudence, wealth and success in their quest of an experience that some would see as only an ephemeral and temporary joy? And this joy exacts a heavy price: at best prolonged servitude and at worst distress and even death. And yet the same patterns repeat themselves generation after generation, and the reason must be deeper than congenital deficiency in the makeup of man.
With thanks, in part, to the The Complete Book of Sexual Love