Thursday, October 5, 2006

A rational assessment

A guy friend of mine said to me not long ago, "Even when I'm falling in love I'm still aware of the rational assessment I am making." Really? I'm sure I'm wrong but it seems to me that rational thought and love are polar opposites...unable to understand each other...mortal enemies even. Isn't love supposed to be an affaire de coeur? Isn't the rational mind supposed to be balancing the checkbook in the next room while the heart pursues its passion?

I picture my friend in a hip martini bar clutching a clipboard. He carefully approaches each possible "love recipient" with his Rational Assessment Rubric. On a scale of 1 to 10...Physically fit? 8. Clear skin and decent teeth? 7. Reasonably fashionable? 8. Correct eye color? 9.

Next, the home visit. Good floor plan? 8. Interesting decorative touches and finishes? 6. Acceptable lighting? 9. View? 9.

If the assessment is going well, a document inspection follows. Please provide bank and mutual fund statements for the past three years and any other relevant financial information that might help me make my decision. Hmmm, looks quite good. Yes! I'm in love!

After the initial test is passed, I wonder if the score is adjusted periodically. Uh oh, a little thickening at the waistline. Minus 2. Small inheritance from Aunt Edna. Plus 1. How low do the numbers have to fall before it becomes a rational imperative to fall out of love?

I may be mistaken but I thought love was supposed to be unconditional. I thought that to be loved was to be known and accepted, supported, trusted. I believed that it was as much about giving as receiving. Isn't love supposed to be a sanctuary...a safe haven? This "rational" love feels about as safe as the time I walked on a tightrope drunk in the dark over molten lava (CU-Boulder, 1982 Spring Break). It's something that I might be able to pull off for a minute or two...certainly not for a life time.

I wonder where my concept of love became so twisted. I think it may be traced back to my days spent in parochial school, memorizing Bible passages, learning that a function of the Holy Ghost is to remind us of what we've learned in case we should need it at some point. Maybe that's why I keep waking up with 1 Corinthians 13 on my mind. Love is patient, love is kind....Love does not brag and is not arrogant....does not seek its not provoked...does not take into account a wrong suffered. Love bears all things. Love believes all things. Love endures all things. Love never fails.

I imagine that many, if not most, relationships are based on mutual self-interest. I know that I've been a party to many such relationships myself. Indeed, a very rational assessment is made at the outset. Perhaps all along the way. Maybe every single day. And there's nothing wrong with that if it works for both participants. I think we should call these relationships what they are ... friendships, partnerships, pacts, contracts, arrangements. But I hope you'll agree with me--we should reserve the word love for something more sublime.

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