Siamese Soi, April Evening

 

It’s cooler than usual, almost pleasant this Bangkok evening. We wander through quiet side streets, headed nowhere in particular.

You ask if I’ve ever been in love.

I stay silent for a few, reminiscing, until it dawns on me that my answer must be no if I have to think so long about it.

I tell you that I’ve felt as if more than once, but the feeling never lasted long, so I hesitate to count those memories as the real deal.

You notice how quiet this street is, peaceful even. Almost inaudible is the hum of a highway somewhere in the distance, a sound barely eclipsed by families going about their lives in the homes we pass by. Children are laughing. No dogs are barking.

I ask if you’ve ever heard of M. Scott Peck. You tell me no.

He was an American psychiatrist, I begin, wrote a book called The Road Less Traveled. I remember he wrote about love beyond lust. Far beyond. He saw real love as that deep respect and caring that lasts long after the sparks have subsided, your partner as your very best friend, someone whose company you still crave after many years together. Of course, he ended up cheating on his wife, but I don’t consider his message diminished just because he failed to live it.

We turn right at an old furniture store. It’s still open at this hour, for social reasons if nothing else. The elderly gents out front pay us little attention, engrossed as they are in their card game. Just beyond is a street-side eatery with steel tables and plastic chairs. A plump woman cooks at a cart for customers unseen.

I share a story I heard recently, about an old man who was in a hurry to leave his medical appointment, telling the doctor he had to go visit his wife at the nursing home. Knowing that the old man’s wife had severe Alzheimer’s, the doctor asked gently if she still remembered her husband. The old man bowed his head and replied that she didn’t, then looked up at the doctor with a quiver in his chin and a gleam in his eye. “But I still remember her.”

The story hangs in the air for a minute as we walk on. I catch myself wishing that there were more parks in this city, those of the small and unassuming kind, waiting to be discovered on rambles such as this. A secret garden for every 7-Eleven. That would be nice.

I ask if you’ve ever heard of Errol Flynn, and you haven’t.

I tell you that he was a famous Hollywood actor in the 30’s and 40’s. I read his autobiography last year, a fascinating read. He was very much a womanizer — the term “in like Flynn” is part of his legacy — and he concluded after trying and failing several times to be monogamous that he simply wasn’t wired to be a one-woman man. His tales of sex and romance are the stuff of legend, enough to make a male reader wonder if monogamy really is the best policy. But then you learn that he drank himself to death a half century deep while lacking any real love in his life.

We cross over a canal as teens go by in twos and threes. Shacks line the waterway in both directions, dimly lit and speaking in creaks. The water shimmers green, a beautiful scene with an unpleasant scent. I imagine the people living here pay little attention to either.

I guess what I’m trying to get across to you is this. I’m pretty sure that the real, deep love Peck wrote about is one of the peak experiences of a human life. And I think it would be a damn shame to die having never known such a love first-hand.

But to answer your question… no, I don’t think I’ve ever really been in love. I’ve never stuck with one girl long enough to have a shot at it.

You notice that there’s no moon out tonight. But we can still see some stars.

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    15 Comments

    1. Beautiful post, really felt like I was right there on that walk. I have had similar reflections on love and experiences of thinking some relationships were love that in retrospect really could not have been. Can’t explain why those didn’t work any more than I can explain the combination of chemistry and contentment I have had with my husband for the last 15 years. Love is most definitely a mystery.

    2. Love is a mystery. It is indeed the most breathtaking experience between two souls. In my opinion, this soulmate relationship can also form between human and animal, but that is subject to everyone’s discretion. I can just tell you the loss of a 15 year long love is leaving me crushed right now.

      Love does not follow any rules. It will be right in front of your eyes or not, it is not our turn to decide. Any one who experiences it will be shaken and never be the same as before – for the better.

      Thank you.

    3. Wow. Really cool writing, I especially like the last sentence.
      To me it sounds like
      “this is a cold and dark place, but there is still hope and something to aim for” .
      Keep doing what you do ;)

    4. Wow, Niall. You’ve really outdone yourself with this post. Beautiful writing, fantastic imagery and thought provoking content.

      As for your question in the video, I have no idea how you know when your in love. I feel the same as you, if I was in love, would it have been so fleeting?

      I hope someday to be able to give you an answer.

    5. Beautiful Niall..
      In my experience it’s like an orgasm; you know it when you have it! Not a very satisfactory answer really. But it definitely doesn’t go away, ever. The “in love” part might, but a deep enduring wish for that person’s greatest happiness remains.

    6. I think that love is much more than what two people share while they’re in a relationship, and that when we say that we are “in love” it’s usually an illusion, something which is really far away from what love really is.

      Take a look at this series of videos by Anthony De Mello on love…I think he nails it spot on.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkbRHqqVYEU

    7. Ah, now you’re on a subject close to my heart. Where to begin…? To be completely honest, and at the risk of sounding a bit crazy, I must tell you I learned about true love from a teacher who taught me in my dreams. The love I feel for him directed my life course. He told me once, that we are actually one, and the goal of life is to realize that so completely that there isn’t a trace of a thought of separation between us. I’m not certain I’m there completely, but he is always with me. It is because of him, and the love between us, that I am able to truly love anyone. My first impression, as a child, of the human capacity for love was that it was lacking. The love we encounter most often is selfish, whereas true love has no thought of self, only of the beloved. I should warn you, love this pure and strong can be hazardous to one’s health if it isn’t reciprocated. Because I have my teacher’s love, though, I am free to love without fear of losing love. Now, to the subject of physical love…very interesting when you throw true love into the mix. It can make physical love into a cosmic experience…time stops, even you disappear. I’ve only experienced this intensity with someone who knew all my secrets. He told me once that dozens of people have told him he is their best friend. He says that, to him, a best friend is someone you would die for. As with love, most people’s concept of friendship is self centered. I know that people feel he is their friend because he shows an interest in them, but would they die for him? I doubt it. An indication of true love, though, is the ability to live and die for the beloved. —Well, I’m going to be late for work if I don’t get moving. May you find true love.
      Darlene

    8. Maybe love is fleeting, why do we see this as a bad thing? People change, circumstances change, love changes.

      Maybe the people, who stay with one person and love them all their life, don´t change, so it works.

      Maybe for people, who are still looking for who they are, looking for their place in the world, love is fleeting, because if the other person doesn´t change with us and evolve in the same directions as our values, then it´s natural to part ways.

      And love is a two player game (or more, if you wish :)). But all involved have to give something in – maybe if the other person stops putting in as much as we do, then love starts eroding.

      But you won´t know whether the person you have fallen in love with now is going to be the same in 1, 5 or 20 years, so why worry about it – better to enjoy the moment of love you have now.

      Hm, a lot of maybe´s here :)

      Love is subjective – each person has his own idea of what it is or should be. If you are lucky, to find a person, who shares those ideas, then you´re in a good place :)

    9. For those looking to hear about pickup (cf. video), I think those little stories aren’t half bad, ha ha! :D

      Seriously though Niall, congratulations, judging by what you said in your video, I think you were in love! The hard bit is not to be in love, but to actually love. I still have to find this out for myself too. I’m so shallow, I’m not sure I’ll ever know!

    10. I had to read the post twice and want the video to get in the mood for such deep subject.
      I can see you’re kinda uncomfortable talking about it, or is my imagination and self reflections? It might be :)

      How can you tell? To me, it’s easy. You feel high. And that’s because you are.
      They call it “having chemistry” because that’s what it is. You feel happy for no other reason that being able to think about the other person; you feel ecstatic all the time, you have difficulty breathing and sleeping, yet you feel incredibly good.

      Falling in love is a chemical process, hopefully mutual, where the body generates drugs to keep you interested long enough to procreate (Again, you need to read “Sperm Wars: Infidelity, Sexual Conflict, and Other Bedroom Battles”).

      Now, just as any other addiction, or disease, I believe love can be felt in different degrees. I agree with Lukas above, in that fleeting love is not necessarily an unwanted experience.
      Most of us had that “summer love”, that we remember dearly.
      I compare love with a disease: We can get the light flu which lasts 24 hours and has minor symptoms, we can have a more serious flu that lasts a couple of days, and there’s the week-long flu that catches us with low defenses. And there’s H1N1, and the sort.

      What I mean is, love will hit us in the degree we’re available to (hence the “defenses” comparison). And just because we didn’t get the “I don’t want to live without her/him” (Which is a true, real, unbelievably strong feeling) feeling, doesn’t mean we weren’t in love.

      Society will tell you that’s the only true love, but you know how good society’s advice is, right?

      Be open, be available, be vulnerable, and it will find you. Like everything else, can be found in the strangest places, if you’re willing to look in the right place.

      Cheers man!

    11. Niall…another interesting post.

      Errol Flynn was the ladies man in his era and an excellent actor. I never tire of his movies; Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Gentleman Jim, Objective Burma, They Died With Their Boots On…all excellent movies.

      Anyhow…love finds you when you least expect it and when you aren’t looking.

      One piece of advice about finding love in Thailand…until you truly know the basics of the language and the culture, keep your relationships from getting too serious. I think knowing the language is huge and knowing the culture is equally important.

      Many foreigners fall in lust or love and when they’re in deep, they realize there are many aspects of the relationship they don’t understand or know how to deal with.

      I’ve been with the same Thai woman for 14 years. There have definitely been misunderstands, arguments, disagreements, etc., but it took me 2 years to marry her. She was a kid when I met her (21/22) and I was an immature 35-year-old. Both of us have changed, mostly for the better.

    12. i always believed in love and had always been looking for the man of my life. When I met my husband (20 years ago;-), I had a sudden flash of us in each other’s arms… I knew instantly he was the one. I couldn’t stop thinking about him… I loved right away his past, present, and future… I remember I was feeling so at ease, so ‘myself’. And to this day, one of my greatest joy is to see him when i wake up in the morning.

      so I say to everyone… keep believing ;-)

      *a book that I believe helps deep understanding of the great experience of “falling in love”, and the various possible transformation that love can take over the years as it evolves (including the secrets of keeping it alive) is : “Innamoramento e amore” by Francesco Alberoni (translated : “falling in Love”)

    13. The sensation of falling in love is something that I, like many others, have been trying (and failing) to put a definition on for most of my adult life.

      It has been said of me often that I fall in love too easily, too deeply, too permanently. I am convinced that these accusations are all too true, but what I have felt each time it has happened has never been like ANY other time. My reasons for falling in love are as varied and diverse as I could imagine, at least when I am consciously aware of any one particular reason. But in all cases, for me, it all could be condensed to one particular shift in perspective.

      The moment of falling in love and the effect of it is the moment that another soul is responsible for changing perception of reality, for the better, so completely that you simply cannot imagine how life in the reality you just ‘fell out of’ was ever possible. The change can be subtle or extreme, I have experienced both, but I experience it usually as the happy discovery of beauty of such intensity that I believed this universe was incapable of producing it.

      As such your perception must shift to accommodate the now obvious reality of it and your whole being is changed because of it. It is for this reason that I believe it is different each time we experience it, because we have fundamentally changed as people since we last experienced it.

      I read above that love is fleeting but that’s not the way I experience it. I am still fundamentally in love with every person I have ever fallen in love with and that will never change. It will never change because I still remember who I was back then and within that memory Love is Eternal :) I feel differently day-to-day about it now, of course, but it is not because love has fled, it is because I am no longer exactly the person I was then.

      I feel myself starting to ramble too far into the metaphysical emotion of it all now, so I’ll end this in the hope that it at least triggers a memory of a younger version of yourself that this present version of you can look back logically at and remember fondly. Because if, like me, you are in love now, you’re not going to be able to look at it very clearly at all, so don’t – just relax and enjoy it :)