Ted Cleaver

Tag: Zen

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.

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Haiku

Seniority

The tree has strong roots

Fresh leaves grow

This is my first haiku. It was a gift for Tony Montana – he turned 61 yesterday. Tony is part of my 30 Day Challenge group, and family in a way because he’s Buddha’s father. Wait what? We use nicks for privacy and swag. And now, Buddha is Tony Montana’s son. Ain’t that something. I could/should/might/will come up with a fictional story how that relationship worked out, the ultimate showdown between the American dream fuelled by dopamine overdose and the embodiment of relinquishing ego and desire. In real life, the two are an inspiration to all people around them. Their father-son dynamic is characterised by love, open communication, learning from each other, and so much more of the social fabric that makes a home your temple and a family your reservoir for unconditional love.

Tony joined our group to write one haiku per day. He is a seasoned karateka, takes his lovely wife on motorcycle vacations to the mountains, works as a personal coach for C-level managers, and is extremely knowledgeable and curious about Eastern philosophy. His haiku are inspiring to read. Key characteristics of good haiku are that they are internally sufficient and independent of context (thank you Wikipedia). Moreover, commonplace objects and observations should be used. In essence, the haiku represents some fundamental truth by contrasting simple objects with each other. There is so much beauty in the simplicity with which abstract concepts can be described. A good haiku is timeless. Take this one:

Ambivalence

How simply human it is

Relieve this burden

First of all it is internally sufficient, no information needs to be added. Second, it is independent of context. Psychologically it applies to all humans, throughout history and across cultures, and externalized, in terms of perception or communication, it goes for any social system as well. The juxtaposition between elements (ambivalence, human, burden) creates more depth than is apparent on the surface. We are all ambivalent once in a while, that is simply human. However, it is a burden because indecisiveness creates stress. The way I read this haiku is that although ambivalence is natural for people, it is possible to relieve the burden, which would make your life a lot simpler. A beautiful insight, and beyond that the representation of a timeless struggle with ambivalence. It is easy to associate Eastern philosophy with this haiku. A lack of action-orientation focused on the now leads to hesitation. Ambivalence is not Zen. Knowing Mr Montana personally adds more depth to the haiku to me, although an appreciation of the theme is all it requires to contemplate its meaning.

In terms of structure and syntax, the traditional haiku uses 5-7-5 Japanese phonetic units. For us, a phonetic unit is simply a syllable. It is surprising, we have 26 letters whereas the Japanese have 46 times 2, and yet we have more phonetic sounds. Think of the r and the l mix-ups in translations. But I digress; the point is that Japanese phonetic units are not always one syllable. The word shoujo for instance has two syllables (shou-jo), but three Japanese phonetic units as the long vowel counts double. The nasal n at the end of a word counts as a separate phonetic unit as well. Fortunately for us, English haiku exist in various forms. It is not a stringent requirement to follow the Japanese “on” system, although I did try to in my own haiku.

On a final note, mastering the structure and syntax to the point it becomes a routine is necessary to truly write a haiku. The idea is not to think about a theme and come up with real life objects to contrast for a desired effect. I did, it took me about 40 minutes. The idea is that the haiku comes to you naturally. Like a samurai’s sword becomes a part of his being, the haiku should not be a tool, but the expression and extension of your soul. I’ll leave that to the masters. If you became inspired give it a shot, do share, and please let me know how you interpret mine.