From an early age, I was told that I was in control of my destiny. It wasn’t explicitly said, but it could be easily understood from the subliminal messaging of rugged individualism — to work hard and get what you want.
While I finally understood that I couldn’t control everything in my life (and that no one could), I was determined to want nothing beyond myself. To be self-satisfied, self-sufficient. This way — I could never be hurt.
Of course, a fear of uncertainty rose with in me. I ran from anything I couldn’t control.
John Keats wrote about negative capability in an 1817 letter. He argued that it was an important skill for an artist to to accept “uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” I thought this was necessary beyond art. It was necessary for life. To be creative, to make a difference, you had to be vulnerable. You had to be willing to be hurt.
My contemporary art teacher shared the idea that art, unlike other fields of study, is impossible to define. As soon as we think we have a solid grasp on it, a revolutionary introduces something new. Whether that be Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” or Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece,” as soon as we think we know what art is, the rules are broken. Great art, my professor argues, makes you feel a certain way without appearing to make you feel that way. Its brilliance is in the very fact that we can’t understand it.
I got thinking: are relationships, is love, any different? This past summer, I picked up *******The Gifts of Imperfection by Brent Brown. I’ve claimed to many a people that this book eliminated my social anxiety. And that’s true to a certain extent. Of course, I am nearing the point of needing to read it again — the single-dose cure, alas, could not last forever.
Love is weird. Like great art, it’s ineffable. And for the logic-bounded people seeking control, there’s nothing scarier.
Leaning into Uncertainty
I’ve never cringed more than when I was first shown Fauvist paintings. I was incredibly uncomfortable. Humans looked like aliens, constructed from deep oranges and purples. I was scared. Why?
I couldn’t understand it. The painter had such a different perspective from me. I could only look at the painting and fear it. I didn’t get it. I wanted to get it.
Unable to capture it in language, unable to understand it, I hated it. I feared to not understand — to not be able to understand. I felt repulsed. I couldn’t control it.
Love is the same. I can’t control it, so I tend to run from it. I busy myself with things I feel that are in my control. One of the most fundamental human needs and so hard to capture.
A fellow student at my college argued that philosophers can not understand the most evident of truths. I think they may be right. Because while I can try to reason my way toward understanding love, I’ll never understand it. At the end of the day, I have no choice but to do as Brene Brown says: to accept myself — the prerequisite for love. Something I struggle with every single day.