Pretty much since blokes started prancing about on the stage, a dominant dramatic theme has been the love that seems to be written in the stars, but sadly not in any agenda for two people’s lives. And it almost always was blokes doing the prancing, by the way: long before Noel Coward sang Don’t put your daughter on the Stage, it was considered an outrage for any decent woman to be near such a place.
The most famous star-crossed play of ‘modern’ history is probably Romeo & Juliet, although more recently there was Running Bear and Little White Dove: trivia question – who sang the 1959 hit? My Catholic Aunt Mollie had a long affair with a Jewish tailor called Macovski, who was of course never allowed over the threshhold. This was a tragedy because he used to run up my suits, and you could not have met a nicer guy. Or a better tailor, already.
But these days, it is more often the complex circumstances of modern life that get in the way. A longstanding adman friend of mine met a girl half his age, and she wanted a family. She was the woman he’d waited for all his life, but he already had four grown up kids and didn’t feel able to dilute their inheritance or neglect their needs – so he finished it. I think he was wrong, but on the other hand I fully understand the point at which one realises one is just too old to put up with interrupted nights, school fees, and teenage dramas any more.
We’re all living longer, we’re all more mobile, we’re less tied by religious mores, and we’re more open to romantic possibilities on everything from Twitter to Facebook. I never cease to be amazed, when I look back to the times before any of that existed, at how many of my relationships with women were kicked off by a chance meeting, remark, situation or coincidence which – if you put them in a romantic novel – would have editors roaring with cynically disbelieving laughter. Truth really is stranger than fiction. A close friend of mine is deliriously happily married to a gorgeous Philipino lady, the news of which prompted a mutual friend of ours to ask over lunch if he’d bought her on the internet. My chum was, quite rightly, angered by this brainless remark, but the actual circumstances of how they met are far more interesting and circuitous than that….and infinitely more romantic.
A life is an odd series of segues from missed chances via unspoken desires through to gradual revelations that don’t hit home until the moment has passed.
I knew a girl – I was her boss – at a major advertising agency, with whom I felt an instinctive connection: but she was American, married to a rich banker, and I was married to a person I didn’t realise at the time was wrong for me. I dismissed all thoughts about her as a silly fantasy. But years later I discovered she returned the feelings. A now distant but once close friend met a girl on a weekend course who, as he put it “seemed put on this world to understand me, and vice versa”. He did nothing about it, and now sits grumpily in a dead relationship where money is the only thing binding the two of them together. The collective sadness of all this is amazing when you think one could probably multiply it by two billion on Planet Earth as a whole.
But this is the really odd thing about lost love: here we are, little specks of life-dust on a bigger lump of grit created as a result of its capture by a bigger cloud of white-hot gases. These clouds sit in much bigger swirls called constellations along with millions of other small clouds and orbiting grits. And quadrillions of these constellations twinkle away in our night sky, allegedly going on forever to make up an infinite Universe. Yet somehow, the human ego seems so self-important, it writes enduring plays about the emotion of loss, of serendipity, of tragedy, and of diverging life courses.
Except that I’m no longer convinced (or even prepared to accept) that all of this is merely the residue of reproductive desire involving one sub-atomic species. A great deal of the mind-boggling size thing, quantum physics suggests, is unreal. All things are connected, and separation is an illusion. I was sitting at one end of the pool this evening, kicking a leg idly in the water. Within seconds that action had changed the molecular arrangement of the water via waves. Waves we don’t yet understand allow spinning electrons light years apart to respond instantly (and appear to be in two places at once) when really, their separation is perception, not reality.
What is reality? For me, I suppose it’s that part of existence to which our five senses have access: we can see, hear, touch, taste and smell reality…but we can’t do any of those things when it comes to the past or future. In those cases, we have only a once-removed memory of guilt about the past – which in turn feeds anxiety about the future. This is what Tolle is on about when he stresses the importance of Now as being true Reality, because in Now there is no Time….yet another element of our perception which, physicists suggest, is an invention.
So then, Time and Space are illusions.
If you think about it, they’d have to be: infinity is an expression taken to mean ‘endless’. But endless doesn’t really mean zillions of years, it means something that has neither beginning nor end. We tend to see it in terms of ‘forever’, but ‘timeless’ means, literally, no Time exists. And as for infinite size or distance, well – they too are inventions of an interpretive mind. Spinning electrons aren’t in two places at once: it’s just the same electron mischievously appearing in two places on an imaginary Time/Space continuum. The continuum is an illusion: the infinite Universe of which we hear so much might ‘in reality’ be one atom with three dimensions.
Does this mean that lost loves and blighted lives are therefore just as important as they seem to us at the time? I think that yes, they might well be. I am an existentialist, in that I do believe we have the power to be free in making our own choices independently of others and can develop our own “self” through such choices. We can make our own meaning of life and live up to our own values without worrying too much about all those billions of light year distances and zillions of physical year evolutionary processes, because neither are real.
The bottom line is to try and be authentic, not fake. Being true to yourself is the only way to be genuine. Asking others to love you for who you are – and getting it – is the ultimate existential triumph. I’ve wasted far too much off my life trying to impress people with my potential, when really doing so is just a form of human futures trading. But the Past cannot be regained, and the future cannot be ordained
If I could have my life over again, I suspect I’d be an Existentialist Life Coach. But by far my biggest and most demanding client would be me.