For most of human history,
relationships were relatively simple
for a banal yet immovable reason:
it was extremely hard to meet anyone acceptable –
and everyone knew it.
There were only a few people in the village,
travel was expensive and social occasions few and far between.
This had many drawbacks:
it encouraged people to accept offers from suitors they were unconvinced by,
it meant that characters who would have delighted each other died lonely and unfulfilled
because there were a few mountains or a river between them.
Our technologists have used their genius
to correct these historic obstacles and provide us with unending choice.
Meeting someone new is now a constant possibility.
But this breakthrough at the level of introduction
has obscured an ongoing challenge at the level of ultimate purpose:
we may have become easier to meet, but we are not any easier to love.
We remain – each one of us – highly challenging propositions for anyone to take on.
All of us are riddled with psychological quirks
that serve to render an ongoing relationship extremely problematic:
we are impatient, prone to making unjust accusations,
rife with self-pity, and unused to expressing our needs in a way they can be understood by others –
just to start the list…
That we can meet so many people has beautifully obscured our ugly sides,
breeding in us the charming yet misleading idea –
which engulfs us any time we hit difficulties –
that we are in trouble because we have not until now met ‘the right person.’
The reason why there is friction and longing has, we tell ourselves,
nothing to do with certain stubborn infelicities in our own natures
or paradoxes in the human condition as a whole,
it is only a matter of needing to hunt further for a more reasonable candidate
who will, at last, see things our way.
The promise of choice has drained us
of the patience and modesty necessary to grapple with the tensions
that are prone to come our way whomever we might be with.
We forget that almost everyone is a charming prospect
so long as we know nothing about them.
Part of what it takes to be ready for love
is to imagine the difficulties that we cannot, as yet, know too much about in detail;
the bad moods that will lurk behind the energetic smiles,
the difficult pasts that lie beneath the lustrous eyes,
the tangled psyches that reside beneath a stated love of camping and the outdoors.
Even though there’re hundreds of other people we might meet,
there are not – in truth – so many people we could really love.
Dating apps may have made it infinitely easier to connect
but they haven’t helped us in any way
to be more patient, imaginative, forgiving or empathetic,
变得更宽容 有耐心 想象力和同理心
that is, any more adept at the arts that make any one relationship viable.
Most of the issues we experience with a given candidate
will therefore show up, in comparable guises,
with almost anyone we might stumble upon.
The real work we should be doing
isn’t – once we have had a reasonable look around –
to keep trying to meet new people;
it’s to get to the root of
what makes it hard to live with any one person we could alight upon.
We will be ready for love
when we surrender some of our excited sense of possibility
and recognise that though we might have many choices,
we don’t – in reality – have so many options.
It may sound dark,
but this will, in its own way, be a liberating realisation
that can help us redirect our energies
away from the exhausting circuit of new encounters
towards a search for the kind of mutual emotional maturity
on which true love can one day be built.
For most of human history,