This is our truth, tell us yours
(In which Carter revists an old post that offered sage advice to a young man looking for love on a swingers website, and then went off on one for no discernible reason).
Yes, I know it sounds odd, but someone really did place a thread on a swingers website advertising that he was looking for love, romance and the relationship of a lifetime, not merely the shag of the year. Like committing incest in a moving lift that’s wrong on so many levels. However, let’s leave aside the faux outrage of swingers who do not want their site corroded by those who lack that essential element for the perfect swinging couple, a partner who wants to swing.
In my experience looking for love, as in romance, is an impossibility – you find it by not looking, just by being lovable and capable of loving. It may be an impossible dream for some of us, and a nightmare for others who believe in it too much, but like the Holy Grail, its pursuit can be all consuming and almost certainly fruitless.
To paraphrase Eric Fromm love today is a relatively rare phenomenon about which we have a great deal of sentimentality and a great deal of illusions, many of them springing from the mistaken belief that it is something one falls in – and always comes up smelling of roses. We cannot fall in love, really – we have to be in love. And if you believe that loving, as opposed to being in love, is the highest state of being you can aspire to (and I do) that means that the ability to love becomes one of the most important things in life.
The biggest obstacle to being in love is the idea that all our needs will be satisfied if only we can fall in love with the right person; it rarely works out that way, and it mistakes romantic love for being the totality of love, which is rather akin to mistaking masturbation for the whole experience of sex.
On a swingers site it’s even harder to ‘fall’ in love if you can’t separate the erotic from the human; the list of people I love, and genuinely love, is separate from the list of people I have sex with, and entirely separate from the erotic love that those relationships might inspire – although, like a Venn diagram, the lists might intersect, the sets are not necessarily congruent.
Incidentally, when discussing this in a pub one night a drunken student stared at me and said ‘According to Bob Marley there’s only one love.’ Of course, Marley did say that, but his elevation to the level of intellectual guru escapes me when most of his songs have all the intellectual depth of Pass the Dutchie and, like ‘One Love (People Get Ready)’ owe huge, barely acknowledged debts to other musicians, like Curtis Mayfield.
Whenever the legend of Marley is floated in my presence I want to explain to the idiots responsible for the lionizing of one of black music’s less attractive and talented representatives the vicious homophobia of Marley’s entourage beautifully described by Nick Kent in his memoirs. It’s a bitter contrast to the faux hippiness of One Love, but then Marley’s stock in trade was hippy crossover reggae refined by commercial imperatives, epitomized by the black Stairway to Heaven, the dreadful proto power ballad that is No Woman, No Cry, a song so bad even the vacuum of talent that was the Fugees imagined they could improve it.
Yes, I know, it’s easy to have a rant at No Woman, No Cry but the idea of a love for the whole world espoused in One Love provided they’re not gay is so vile it deserves a rant. Especially as the message of Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready is much more clearly captured in Springsteen’s ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ than by anything Marley ever managed.
Jemima, as the resident philosopher, is much better qualified to explain the different types of love that even ancient Greeks could recognise than Bob Marley. However, I’ll stick to the belief that you’ll find it much harder to find the person or persons you want to love unless you’re prepared to love everyone.
So good luck, but if you are looking for an emerald in a mountain of coal (no day’s wasted if you get the chance to quote Del Amitri) you might miss the utility of the mountain of coal, and still not find the emerald. Or to put it another way, by looking for one rather special, saccharine flavoured version of love, promoted by a whole industry of exploiters, you might miss the whole experience of love; erotic, familial, personal and charitable.