The strange thing about love is that
even though we experienced it in a deeply personal and apparently instinctive way,
it has a history.
In other words,
people around the world haven’t always fallen in love the way they do now.
The point of rehearsing a few of the telling moments in love’s history
is to remind ourselves that
there are different ways of arranging relationships
depending on what a given society happens to believe in.
Love is a cultural invention,
and we are not at the end of its evolution.
We may, in fact, be still only at the early stages of the history of love.
We’re still learning what we need,
and how we might get more successful at love.
Mari, Syria, 1775BC
毛伊岛 叙利亚 公元前1775年
King Zimri-Lim of the ancient city of Mari
on the banks of the Euphrates marries Shibtu,
the princess of the neighboring Kingdom of Yamhad.
Far from being the outcome of love,
this marriage, like that of many between powerful people in the ancient world,
is purely transactional.
Mari occupies a critical position in the trade routes
between Syria and Mesopotamia.
And marrying Shibtu will allow Zimri-Lim
to expand his wealth and power.
Zimri-Lim’s attitude to marriage continues with his children.
He marries off eight of his daughters to rulers of neighboring cities,
forcing each of his new son-in-laws
to sign a document pledging themselves to him.
The people of Mari are in effect saying that
what gives a marriage meaning isn’t how much the couple happened to love one another
but whether it’s beneficial in terms of trade connections and war.
This is so alien to us.
It’s worth reflecting on just how much we nowadays
refuse to entertain, at least in public,
any practical considerations when marrying.
Feelings are meant to be our only lodestars.
And yet for thousands of years
until only a minute ago on the historical clock,
it was unambiguously meant to be only about land, power, and money.
The notion that you should love your spouse
would’ve seemed plain laughable.
This may have created a collective trauma
we’re still in flight from.
Blaye, France, 1147AD.
布拉伊 法国 公元1147年
Jaufré Rudel, the Prince of Blaye, set sail for Tripoli
in modern-day northern Lebanon.
He has off to see the Countess of Tripoli
with whom he has fallen deeply in love.
Rudel is one of the earliest known
troubadours or skilled court poets
who rise to prominence in southern France in the 12th century
and write poetry on one subject exclusively: love.
Rudel has written many poems in honor of the countess.
and wants to write some more in her presence.
But Rudel’s idea of love is very particular.
and at that time dramatically new.
It’s love that’s utterly divorce from practical considerations
that doesn’t involve children, money, dynasties
无关孩子 金钱 王朝
or even any kind of reciprocation.
The troubadour poets never tried to have sex with the objects of their love,
their focuses exclusively on what we would call the infatuation
or more colloquially the crush side of love.
Rudel has fallen in love with the countess without ever having set eyes on her.
Pining away for his lady from hundreds of miles away,
he composes and sets to music,
many songs expressing grief and joy.
Unfortunately he falls ill on route to his lady
and has to be stretched into Tripoli
where the countess hears about him and visit him in his chamber.
Rudel recovers momentarily before dying
finally, at peace, very chastely in her arms
The troubadours took love very seriously
only they didn’t see it is linked to marriage.
Romantic love was something you fell for someone
you were never going to do household chores with.
And that may be the secret of its intensity.
This kind of love was spared too much contact with daily life.
Rudel could imagine how lovely the Countess of Tripoli was
without ever having to dispute with her about the right place to hang a tapestry
would get frustrated if she didn’t particularly want to do
a special embarrassing thing for him in bed.
And love could remain pristine.
The troubadours show us a historical moment
when the idea of love was not tied to the notion of moving in together
or to the intertwining of two practical economic and social lives.
Using the same toilet, sharing utility bills
and trying to go on camping holidays with your partner’s friends.
Versailles, France, 14th of September’s 1745
凡尔赛宫 法国 1745年9月14日
At six o’clock in the evening,
in a move engineered and planful wigs,
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, a 23 year old beauty from Paris,
Rouged powder and wearing a black off-the-shoulder dress,
enters the Cabinet conseils,
approaches King Louie the 15th and curtsy three times.
This simple gesture makes it official.
Jeanne-Antoinette is the King’s maitresse déclaré
or chief mistress,
and from now on she will be known as madame de pompadour
and reside at court with the King.
The king has by this point been married for 20 years
but marriage doesn’t mean fidelity.
You marry for reasons of State
and you have mistresses on the side,
no one gets upset, that’s just what happens.
Louie the 15th has several mistresses
including 14 year-old Mary Louise O’ Murphy
who is painted in a famous semi pornographic
painting by Francois Boucher.
At Versailles in the 18th century,
there was an acceptance of the imperfect fit between marriage and love.
It was understood that there would always be a tension between the two.
Marriage was for children, practicality and continuity.
Love was for excitement, drama and sex.
One should never try to blend of the two.
Rather than be underhand or deceitful like many people are today,
the King of France simply split love for marriage.
And without shame or guilt,
made his romantic attachments,
and organized and public part of his life with his wife.
Gretna Green, Scotland, 1st of January 1812
格雷特纳格林 苏格兰 1812年1月1日
A couple has just got married in a secret ceremony,
John Lambton, the first Earl of Durham,
who is portioned, has land and responsibilities.
and Harriet, the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Cholmondeley
who has no money and little social status but is very pretty,
are now man and wife.
Their families are furious and have tried desperately to stop the wedding.
But the couple are modern which means that
they believe that in marriage love should come first
and practical considerations second.
They’ve gone to Gretna Green, a village just inside Scotland
to escape English law.
And they are exemplars of a new philosophy of romanticism,
which privileges feeling over reason
and impulse over tradition.
Romanticism transforms love;
the old system of marrying for political or economic advantage,
slowly crumbles around the world.
The village of Gretna Green become synonymous with illicit marriages.
And John and Harriet are among
hundreds of English couples in the late 18th and 19th centuries who eloped there.
The public appetite for stories of romantic descent is such that
the local priest publishes some best-selling memoirs of his time there,
full of daring coach rides across the border
and the wrath of unconsulted fathers
who reached the runaway children just too late.
Gretna Green becomes an important place
because there’s a growing belief that
marriage should be the consequence of love.
And that if two people love each other, that alone is what matters.
Income, the standing of the wider family, career
收入 家庭地位 职业
and how the parent’s indoor might get on seems irrelevant.
And more than that they begin to be cast not as wise, serious matters
which really ought to be taken into account.
But as things that could only seem relevant to gouty father,
snobbish aunts and dried up conventional people
with no care for the happiness of a couple.
Mostly when we want to do something
we take advice if we can from people who’ve done it before.
Gretna Green stands for a remarkable shift
in thinking around relationships
which is still powerful today
The assumption that people who have already had marriages
are likely to be very poor advisors and guides to the young.
Love is understood to be an enthusiasm, not a skill.
London, England, 1813
英国 伦敦 1813年
Readers of Jane Austen’s latest novel are on the edge of their seats.
As Fitzwilliam Darcy stumbled his way through
proposal to Elizabeth Bennet.
His offer of marriage promises to fix all her problems,
not only he is handsome but he’s rich
and Elizabeth family with four unmarried daughters to support,
badly needs all the cash they can get.
But Elizabeth says no.
Darcy for all his gifts is also arrogant and a snob.
Pride and Prejudice may suggest
women marry for money,
but Elizabeth actions reveal
a new and subversive belief
rapidly gaining currency in English society,
that they should love the man they betroth themselves to.
It’s an idea Austin support strongly.
11 years earlier, she had herself rejected a proposal of marriage,
claiming “anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection”
In her greatest novel however, things turn out for the best.
Eventually after many twists and turns,
and despite her lack of standing and money,
Elizabeth and Darcy marry.
What continues to strike readers today
is that Jane Austen is deeply concerned about romance and about money.
To marry only for money is she argues a disaster
but equally she holds that to marry only for love is a terrible folly, too.
In Austin’s eyes,
a good marriage requires warmth and tenderness of heart
and a strong, practical worldly managerial competence.
And from this, Austin draws the conclusion
that few people are actually that well suited for marriage.
She’s unsurprised that many marriages are a little hollow or a little grim.
Austen’s novels to pick numerous unsatisfactory relationships
and only a few very happy ones.
In the early years of the 19th century
Jane Austen is defining the wise ideal of modern love,
she sees marriage as a hybrid enterprise.
In some respects, it’s like running a small business
or organizing a village fete.
If you don’t keep track of the practical details
and don’t have quite an efficient turn for administration
things are going to go badly wrong.
But at the same time
marriage is a profoundly complex emotional encounter.
And to thrive in it, one needs emotional maturity,
affection, playfulness and warmth.
Through her novels, Jane Austen is trying to
present the reader with an education,
in a truly classical way,
she believes we can do a few things well
if we leave our performance to nature, luck and chance.
天意 运气和巧合的话 那我们很少会把事情做好
Happy relationship depends on the maturity of both parties.
In Pride and Prejudice,
both Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy have to be improved.
He has to lose his pride and she has to shed her prejudice
if they’re to be capable of living well together.
Love is something we need to learn.
London, 24th of November 1859
It’s the day Charles Darwin publishes
There is a huge initial resistance
but eventually much of the world is convinced by his arguments.
Human beings are descended from the primates
and that means that we’ve inherited not just a skeletal structure
but also a lot of their drives and basic psychology.
Darwin’s detractors are aghast at the implied humiliation
but that’s consolation in Darwin too.
Because he suggests that our inability to live up to our ideals
is not wholly our own fault.
We are anytime half apes.
And for apes to aim for
faithful, lifelong, passionate, egalitarians relationships
忠诚 终身 激情和平等的感情关系
is to attempt to pull off something hugely difficult,
starting from a very unpromising base.
No wonder we often fail.
Without particularly intending to,
Darwin ushers in a strategic and
useful pessimism about relationships.
Rather than being for instance essentially monogamous,
he implies that human beings might by nature at least be predisposed to,
as many apes are polygamy opportunistic sex,
and the dumping of one mate for another
on the basis of nothing more than a breeding potential
signal by such an edifying and spiritual characteristics
is how big their breasts are.
Aquatic park, San Francisco, United States, August 1965
水上公园 旧金山 美国 1965年8月
Jefferson Poland, wearing a flower behind his ear,
strips off his swimming trunks and waves naked into the sea.
Poland is one of the world’s first hippies.
He wears his hair long and rejects the sophistication of modern life
for a romantic notion of getting back to a natural state of grace.
Behind him and three other protesters braving the icy cold ocean water
is a cheering crowd of beatniks and anarchists
who hold up signs and chant the phrase
“sex is clean, law is obscene”
in front of the hastily assembled group of reporters.
This event is one of many organized by groups
advocating free love in the 1960s in America.
They argue that society’s rules against nudity, same-sex relationships
and sex before marriage, or all forms of sexual repression.
Soon monogamy itself is being questioned.
And in an enlightened world, they argue
sexually liberated men and women should just give up on marriage
and along with it jealousy, adultery and divorce.
It’s a beautiful, deeply romantic idea of what love could be
and it eventually collapses into a disaster.
The country achieved a notorious distinction.
It is the nation with the highest rate of divorce in the developed world.
An astonishing 71 percent of couples will split up here.
A newspaper in the country asks why and the answer comes back clearly.
Initial expectations were not met.
Other countries are not far behind.
In the UK, the divorce rate is 42 percent; in the US, 53 percent.
In Hungary 67 percent and in Portugal 68 percent.
Part of the reason lies in the disappointment people feel
with what had apparently been promised to them by the freewheeling 1960s
and before that by 19th century romanticism.
The dream of love survives but it disappoints constantly.
At dinner tables around the world
otherwise intelligent people complain that they simply can’t understand
the strange and tricky subject of love.
The future hope for love lies in the notion of sacrifice.
That is in accepting that we won’t get everything we want
也就是说 在爱 情感关系和婚姻中
from love, relationships or marriage.
We’re trying to do something highly ambitious
in our modern ideals of relationships.
Unite sex, affection, the raising of a family,
我们想完美整合性 感情 家庭抚养
a career and adequate material security.
We will by necessity failed to get all of these.
The idea of sacrifice though, helps us if we considered
getting half of what we really want and need
might still be quite a lot, in comparison with what it would be like
if we avoided relationships altogether.
Clearly, solitary life can work out really well for a few people
but mostly, we hate living alone.
The question should not be
so much whether relationships live up to our ideal hopes of mutual happiness,
but whether they are better if only a little
than not having relationships at all.
The future of love needs us to get interested in ambivalence
that is in the capacity to keep on thinking
that something is quite good,
even while we’re painfully conscious of
its many and striking day-to-day imperfections.