Two disparate thoughts accompanied my breakfast this morning.
The first was from a book called 365 Buddhist Inspirations, which I’m using for my morning reading:
So many of our problems arise because we always feel cut off from something we need. We do not feel whole and therefore turn expectantly toward other people for the qualities we imagine missing in ourselves. All of the problems of the world, from one person’s anxiety to warfare between nations, can be traced to this feeling of not being whole.
—Lama Thubten Yesme, Introduction to Tantra
The second came from an article in my newspaper about a new App that has recently come onto the market. For $24.99 a month I can sign up to have a virtual—well, let’s be more candid and use the word fake—girlfriend or boyfriend. I would even get to design this person, physical attributes, interests, style. For this price, I can then receive from my created love interest up to one-hundred text messages a month plus ten voice-mails and one handwritten note.
I have to assume that many, perhaps most, who buy this App do so as a kind of running joke, but reading the article did make we wonder if more of us might profit from a bit of Buddhist thinking. Maybe we are too focused on what we need from others and not paying enough attention to all that lies within ourselves.
Both the Buddhist quote and the story about the App, however, also set me ruminating on the nature of love.
All mammals seem to experience something that could be called love, at the very least a strong bond between mother and infant comes with the dependency of nursing. This can be explained easily enough with the contemporary scientific idea of the “selfish gene.” We are programmed to love our infants and they us so that they—and consequently our genetic material—can survive.
And it seems very possible that, throughout our lives, when we humans reach for other human beings beyond the rather brief call of sexual desire, we are simply returning to the experience of infancy: wanting, needing a mother. If that’s not the entire explanation, it’s certainly a meaningful part of it.
What would happen then if we were all “whole”? Would we love? Especially romantic love? If we didn’t want/need other people, would we choose them anyway? The ideal of two whole people standing side by side, neither one leaning? Or would we all go off to become monks meditating in our mountain huts?
Yes, I know, the question is totally theoretical, as spun out of virtual reality as the boyfriend/girlfriend App. I am not “whole.” I suspect you aren’t either. But as much as gathering myself in, holding myself, being content in and of myself is a worthy goal, I know it is only that … a goal. Something to aspire to. A state to live toward.
The reality is I rejoice in my incompleteness … and yours. Even when it leads to weirdly amusing Apps.
And though it’s true that, if there were no needing, no longing, we might not have wars—either in our homes or between nations—it’s equally true that without our profound incompleteness we also wouldn’t have stories.
Think about it.