Ted Cleaver

Tag: Love

Falling in Love

Living a loving life is the word. Love has many beautiful forms, each of which enrich our lives. One of the most exciting and refreshing feelings is to fall in love. It happened to me last summer while rolling sushi with this little mermaid I had met two days earlier. We hit it off from the moment we met.

I’d Pick More DaisiesJ.L. Borges D. Herold

She was sitting on a bridge that leads into the city centre. I was on my way to have biological burgers with my posse from work, an appointment I had perfect reason to be late for. Her radiant smile sparked my interest. I wanted her. There was enough attraction for me to ravage Goldilocks’ curls right then and there, but I figured self-control is sexy. So I leave with nothing but the names of her and her friend. Two days later we share our first kiss, while waiting for the train that would take our bento and us to an idyllic little park. The sensation of falling for someone is so vibrantly expressed through our sense of touch. Whether it’s holding hands or exchanging passionate kisses, there is a subtle desire that grows until it envelops you completely. Sweet temptation, flirtatious gesture, affectionate embrace, exhilarating interaction, and playful persuasion, seduction is you. Entice me, engage me; let me take you by the hand, trust me, let me love you. Being in love is a continuous surge of pleasure that transforms the way you look at the world.

“Love is a serious addiction.” – H. Fisher

Pioneering brain research offers rational explanations for the sensation. Phenylethylamine causes love-drunkenness, noradrenalin and cortisol trigger excitement, and dopamine and endorphins reward you with euphoria. We are equipped with the biological equivalent of highly potent love potions. There is a lot to be said about their supply and effects, what’s important here is that our neurochemistry allows for passion without long-term commitment. Helen Fisher conducted MRI scans, charting brain activity of people who were madly in love. One of the most surprising findings is that the immediate desire, the urge, to be with the person you fell for does not stem from your emotional core – the (meso)limbic system. Instead, the must-have-you craving is neurologically analogous to a cocaine rush. The burning desire to be with your lover naturally grows more powerful. This addiction is fuelled by the hormonal concoctions your very own love bazar peddles, quite ironically to the point of obsession in case of rejection. Finishing up on neuroscience, oxytocin is the hormone responsible for long-term commitment and monogamy. It may be an evolutionary failsafe, as it comes to dominate once the other invigorating effects have worn off.

“Love is a perfectly normal improbability.” – N. Luhman

Luhman believes that true love comes down to fulfilling each other’s expectations. This arrangement is by far less profound for lovers. Nonetheless falling in love is exactly that, improbable and yet normal. It is normal because we are social animals, but it is improbable because the likelihood of meeting someone who transcends our preferences and desires is quite small. If the magical improbability does occur it should be cherished and treasured. Last summer, I discovered the Holstee Manifesto and was getting more and more adept at Bikram (hot yoga), while my love ninja shared her fascination for contemporary interpretations of Zen teachings with me. Connecting on a spiritual level provided fertile ground for fully appreciating all our experiences. Dreaming under the clear blue sky, partying in clubs, feasting on Asian fusion cooking, learning from each other, going deep between the sheets, and laughing it up, every moment was one in augmented awareness. One of the best parts of being in love is discovering improbable similarities in the little things. For instance, this girl might be the only person I know who used to fill her cup until it nearly spilled over, something I always do with delicious drinks.

“Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas.” – B. Pascale

Our adventure was intense and uplifting but ended rather quickly. My friends called her gorgeous and pressed me for answers. They wanted to know what had gone wrong, why I no longer spoke of her. The truth is that both of us are wise enough to follow our hearts, and both our hearts stopped beating for each other. Emotions can be elusive, that is what makes them exciting. Rationality on the other hand demands a sensible explanation. Moreover, when exiting a relationship the brain’s negotiator shows increased activity, weighing pro’s and con’s of the person you are dismissing. Con’s by definition will reflect negatively on a very special experience. The arrangement between emotion and reason is functional; it does wonders for protecting your ego. There is one fundamental problem though. Blaise Pascale coined it. We all know it. Rationality can never ever explain, let alone reflect, the thrill of falling in love. Theoretical and empirical insights approximate the truth, but the experience itself is on an entirely different level. Whether our hearts tell us to keep holding on while our minds signal the red flag, or our emotions subside while all expectation points towards a shared future, the heart is the only authority in love matters. Trust it. There is no need to detract from a little bit of bliss. Because if the only legitimate decision is made from deep within all other reasons fall by the wayside. For me, nothing had gone wrong past summer. Everything went exactly the way it should. From intense crush to beautiful memory, bypassing the hangover, our affair was pure win.

PS
Poetry may have been a better choice to reflect how I feel about this subject.
PPS
This romance was quite unique because of the parallels in how we felt at what point.
PPPS
Of course this is a bit of idealization, when telling each other it was over there was a whole lot of less bliss for a week or two. The End.

Dealing with Death

One of the few certainties you have in life is that you will die. So will your loved ones. My mother passed away on the 1st of March 2003. It so happens that on that exact day of this year, friends of mine celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their crew in a club 3 minutes from the hospital my mother died in 9 years ago. This year, after no less than 9 years, was the first time I could fully live up to the promise I made to her.

She was hospitalized and comatose for a month. It is absolutely horrific how much technology is required for life support. The sheer amount of tubes and syringes going into her body, regulating her respiratory system, her cardiovascular system, and her gastrointestinal system, to name the most important ones, traumatized me. It was impossible to visit her and remain clear-headed, every trip to the intensive care ward was accompanied by cognitive dissonance. In the first three weeks visiting hours were limited to the usual schedule. After the doctors told us that there was no more hope, we were allowed to visit her daily for the remaining 7 days. Then, in the final moments, I was devastated by the unmistakable and irreversible flat line sound of her heart monitor. Seconds later her hand turned cold. These are the types of things nothing can prepare you for. You’ve heard the flat line sound before in hospital shows or movies, but if it signals the end of the life of someone you love unconditionally, it is the most shattering experience imaginable.

We had stayed with her that last night. I read one of her favourite books, Le Petit Prince by St. Exupéry, out loud. Ever since it has become a tradition of mine to read the book, or at least parts of it, once a year. My mom had good taste in literature, so this is just another blessing I received from her. One of the most memorable quotes in the book comes from the fox: “On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” What the Little Prince’s unusual friend understood is that love is the essential connection. A focus on the superficial detracts from the quality of your relations. My mother had wished for one thing, she wanted for us to remember her with our hearts. That is easier said than done. The intense emotional pain, the resulting trauma, the difficulty of accepting the fact that she chose death as a way out, and the utter unfairness of time not stopping, the world not stopping to spin, made matters difficult.

Our society is obsessed with youth to the point that it negates death. A bold statement, one that is vividly reflected in the ease with which we talk about plastic surgery and botox, while explaining the indescribable pain losing a loved one causes creates social discomfort. I am most likely not representative of the average person, if such a thing exists, but in hindsight I have come to the conclusion that our society is ill equipped to deal with death. After my mother died, three influences helped me immensely to move forward. Neither came from the institutional support network. The first was a letter I received from my friend Tommy, whom I wrote about earlier in his capacity as a gifted musician. He told me how incredibly unfair it is for death to rip people out of our lives, but no matter how vile the grim reaper is, he has no power over the love and memories we hold in our hearts. This is so true and comforting, to this day I repeat the phrase to friends who have lost someone as well, and to this day I am thankful for these empathic and insightful words.

The third influence is a book from a psychologist I bought rather recently. It goes well with the Holstee Manifesto’s line that all emotions are beautiful. See, this psychologist lost his son in a car accident. Experiencing grief himself for the first time in his life, he realized that the treatment he had been offering his patients was grossly inadequate. Deeply ingrained in the field of psychology is the assumption that the psyche and emotions are manageable. Techniques for dealing with grief make this assumption rather transparent with the introduction of step programs. Thinking about it, the theoretical underpinning for a 7-, 8-, or 12-step program is evidently linear. Pass one stage and advance to the next. Even if the possibility of relapsing is accounted for, the teleological foundation of such programs is reminiscent of the fallacious adage “time heals all wounds”. Time does not heal anything, healing requires a conscious effort and appropriate techniques. It is not only the trajectory of such programs that fails to treat grief realistically. The analytical approach to neatly partition grief into distinct phases almost begs the question whether any empirical research has been carried out to inform the ivory tower. The truth is however that unless you have felt agony, despair, anguish, sorrow, hopelessness, disbelief, and frustration to the point that it physically immobilizes you, you cannot understand it. Said psychologist understood the depths of emotional pain after losing his son and developed a new approach. Instead of attempting to regulate his emotions, he let them run freely, actively fuelling them by inviting memories of his dead son. In a society obsessed with positivity, this may sound like a form of masochism. It is not. It is accepting reality, dealing with it, and thereby processing emotions, relieving trauma, and alleviating emotional blockades.

The second influence is as much constructive as it provides much needed balance. Buddhism has a way of dealing with death that by far surpasses Western religions. It is not my intention to rant, although I must admit that with spite I once asked a Catholic priest if my mother would go to hell. The Catholic Church displays the same measure of compassion for suicides as it does for homosexuals: they are considered moral evils. Of course he evaded the question, perhaps sensing that I was more than willing to challenge the inept dogma of his faith. However, what I learned from Buddhism is that difficult situations sometimes require simple solutions. The eye-opener came from a lecture of the Dalai Lama who posed a simple question accompanied by some simple facts. In line with Buddhist teachings, when a person dies it is their karma to die. Hence, they die. Since death is not escapable and we all die, would it not be wiser to accept the situation fully and act accordingly? An important aspect of the Buddhist take on death is the concept of desire. I object to the idea that all desires should be abandoned, however relinquishing the desire to keep someone alive who is dying makes perfect sense. Instead of wishing for the life of a loved one to continue when it is impossible – oh the many subtle ways in which this desire stealthily manifests itself – one should wholeheartedly wish for the loved one to die well. I believe my mother died well. We had the opportunity to say goodbye, a gesture powerful enough to transcend diazepam-induced coma.

Combining these three influences has proven fruitful. I cherish the love and memories in my heart, accept that karma is inescapable and respect death, and I allow all emotions to flow freely. In the end, the pain caused by losing someone is an expression of how much and intensely we love that person. My mother was loved by all who had the opportunity to meet her. She was popular with our friends because of her humour, openness, hospitality, and generosity. She knew what was important in life. Of all the useless advice I received from various sources, hers rings forever true. She always encouraged my brothers and me to follow our hearts, go for it, and chase our dreams. In my case that meant writing, dancing, and finding a French girlfriend. Well, I am certain she would have adored most of the girls I have been with, whether they were French (they weren’t) or not. One of the coolest things my mother ever did was to join in with my breakdance training, just like I helped her train for her marathon. She learned the six-step when she was in her late forties.

It so happens that on the 1st of March 2012 I spent the best part of the day very close to the hospital where she died. It so happens that on this day one of my best friends, more like a brother actually, and I entered a battle for old times sake. We used to train together for hours on end and she supported us all the time, mostly by ensuring we always had space to practice. This day and this night were the first 1st of March that I felt no pain. There was nothing but gratitude and fulfilment. The anniversary was a celebration of life and everything that makes life worth living for.

As personal as this account is, I hope it does not come across as the story of an ego. My intention is to share experiences in way that provokes thought and tackles a notoriously uncomfortable subject. Timethief’s blog post on how Eastern philosophy, from Buddhism to Ikebana, helped her deal with her mother’s death gave me the final nudge to dedicate a post to this subject. With utmost sincerity, I hope my experiences and insights will help someone in the future. It helped me, when I had the opportunity to say farewell to my uncle three days before he died. If eyes are windows to the soul, I saw his soul radiate pure light. All it took to witness this miracle was to say: “Thank you for everything. I don’t know where you are going, but I love you and I wish you a pleasant journey.”

Ronin

It was Soul Saturday. Many don’t know, but Âme, the infamous German deep house duo, is the French word for soul. It is questionable whether two electronic music producers are able to do the concept justice, however their performance enticed a lively crowd to celebrate their humanity freely. If there is an innate human quality, this is the type of party where people connect with each other on a deeper level of understanding.

Enter bboy Ronin, an old friend I hadn’t seen for many years. Between then and now both of us have reached a new stage in our lives. Back then, we battled together and did commercial gigs as part of the same syndicate. More than that, we trained and hung out as friends. The affiliation with this syndicate was by no means exclusive; my most important bonds at the time were with my crew and friends – as was the case for all part-time mercenaries. As a bboy you are an autodidact, plus gaining experience by friendly or hostile exchange is the best way to improve your skills. You use your own creativity to develop your own style, keeping in mind and building on foundation and new schools of flow. Dancing is an expression of your soul. This is best observed when you feel the raw energy of a dancer who completely loses himself in the music. Ronin’s style was powerful, complex, and intricate. He stood out because he invested a lot of time into his brand of movement, and of course his badass a.k.a.

He tells me how he’s making good money as an account manager. More importantly, we talk about relationships. I can count the people I know whose eyes light up when they talk about their partner on one hand. He is one of them. Call it a soul mate, call it the Body Magic Index: you know a couple is meant to be when the chemistry between lovers sparks passion and spreads harmony at the same time. One of these people I know found out in Brazil that “every cell of [his] body wants to be with” his girl every second of every day. Now, my man Ronin tells me his fiancée and he are going to travel South America for a whole year. It’s fitting. A ronin in the modern sense can refer to an employee who is between jobs. However, this does not preclude involuntary unemployment. The ronin in his rawest form embarks on a path by conscious decision. The meaning of this journey has changed from mastering swordsmanship to leading a fulfilled life by sharing the most special experiences with the person most special to you. In the spirit of the Holstee Manifesto, by all means, travel often, share your dreams and wear your passion. Y.G., I salute you for taking the road less travelled.

There is an interesting analogy between the stages in our lives – from climbing the ranks in the breakdance scene to working fulltime, albeit interrupted by a meaningful journey – and feudal Japan’s history. Bear with me. A ronin traditionally is a samurai without a lord. The role and function of samurai and ronin changed drastically after the final unification of Japan by Tokugawa Ieyasu. From the 12th century up until the Edo period, samurai were fighting for a living. Especially the 200-year long Warring States period was plagued by never-ending violent conflict. During the first phase (1185-1603) of feudal Japan, samurai were the military strong-arm and police force of their lords or province. Ronin, basically samurai with no formal allegiance, could either seek to become new retainers to a master in need of more swordsmen, freelance as mercenaries for hire, or become entrepreneurs outside of the law: bandits. In all cases military proficiency was a necessity, however the average skill of samurai and ronin alike is largely overestimated. Unless of course the ronin chose for his status deliberately. Miyamoto Musashi, arguably the most famous Japanese warrior to have ever lived, chose to live by the sword. He devoted his early life to honing his skills beyond mastery. Being born late in the Warring States period, there were plenty of adversaries for him to crush with his signature style Niten-ryu. Later in his life, privileged as a warrior in good grace with the Tokugawa shogunate, he would reflect on his style and his philosophy in the Book of Five Rings.

The Edo period (1603-1868) was one of peace. Samurai were no longer warriors, the designation now referred to a social class accredited by birth right. As the dominant class, subdivided into three levels, they received a large chunk of the countries resources. With their primary function – doing battle – obsolete, many samurai spent their allowances on prostitutes, alcohol, clothes, and gambling. Most were employed as administrators in their province, while some, like Musashi, took to writing and philosophizing, or the pursuit of another art or craft. Disenfranchised samurai in this period had little hope of relying on their martial prowess to earn a living, but also for ronins artisan- and craftsmanship were a viable option. Grossly oversimplifying things, there were two options for the warrior class. They could either fit in the bureaucratic system engineered by the totalitarian state while spending their allowances on conspicuous consumption, or they could use their creativity in a chosen discipline and pursue a personal goal. True heroes did the latter, although one managed to produce the foundations for one of the most pervasive misunderstanding of Japanese history.
To be continued…