The now-famous counterculture mystic Alan Watts has a funny phrase he uses to describe the kind of insincere, plastic progress we see popping up everywhere in display homes, shopping center refurbishments, “reality” television and so on. He calls this process the “Los-Angelization” of the world, referring of course to the excessive and desire-oriented urbanization of the American city of Los Angeles.
I feel that we are guilty of this sort of cognition in almost all areas of our lives, but perhaps most noticeably in the sphere of our love. We tend to worship an immaculate image of love constructed by our entertainers: the idea that the perfect love is in a sense cosmically ordained, due to have a minor upset at the beginning due to, largely, misunderstanding between the parties, and then destined to exist in a state of perfect and unflinching harmony forever after.
This is infantile. I would liken this caricature of love, for which so many people leave decent partners in search of an alluring ghost, to a children’s pool. It is safe, shallow, and there’s little risk of being badly hurt. But, as an adult, there is simply no room to move or to grow here. One cannot engage in the beautiful strokes of the butterfly or enjoy a game of water polo in several inches of shallow and yellow water. No-one can stretch out here, and I believe it is this constricting feeling which we respond to more than the actuality of the person we are in a relationship with.
So, we end our liaisons with perfectly good people due to our own inability to overcome the childish imagined version of love we have trapped ourselves in. We blame the other for feeling stuck, held back, unable to grow or flourish; but it is my contention that the cause of this sensation is rather our own immaturity and our chosen inability to deal constructively with limitation and the winding and unfamiliar paths of adulthood: honesty, integrity, loyalty, and most importantly, unselfishness.
This, and its corollaries in friendship and our relationships with our work colleagues and family, is one of the last sphinxes of adolescence, and its riddle must be solved before one is permitted entry into the sanctuary and garden of maturity. Ultimately, this mindset presupposes that if love is not perfect, it must be a problem with the person with whom we are in love, and as such reinforces a concept of ourselves as necessarily perfect in some sense, completely lovable in our present state, no matter if that state is egoic, narcissistic, or illusory. The destruction of this illusion is the key that opens the lock of genuine relationship, and I hope we can all find the strength within us to forge that key from the substance of our own self-inquiry, honesty and bravery.