In the final chapter of psychedelic guru Carlos Castenada’s fourth book, he is confronted with a cliff, beyond which spans an abyss. His Yaqui Indian teacher, Don Juan Matus, instructs him to leap off the edge, with no assurance of survival or outcome.
Embarking on a committed relationship with someone you barely know is a lot like Carlos Castenada’s leap. You have no idea where it’s going, no idea what will happen and no idea if you’ll survive. It requires a degree of faith.
But Faith erodes. You start with a mountain, but eventually the geological forces of human behavior will wear it down to a pathetic little nubbin. One failed marriage and a dozen bad relationships had left me numb to the idea of “love.” Good sex and companionship were about all I hoped to find (if even that).
Faith is not a commodity amongst the young. When you are in your 20s you’re full of delusions about relationships, which will shortly be crushed by reality. In your 30s, you are full of illusions, which gradually evaporate as the years grind on. By the time you’re 40, all you’re left with is hope.
Hope, however, was good enough for me. I could lean on it while I peered over that abyss and decided to leap. In fact, I had asked Sunshine to be my girlfriend without even peeking over the edge. And even had I looked over that precipice, my intention would’ve been the same.
Don’t ever forget that both parties are jumping together. There’s no way for one to go without the other. If you commit to somebody who doesn’t commit to you, both of you are eventually going to be miserable.
The problem with all of these delightful metaphors is that none of them contain any dose of actual reality. If I were to literally jump off a cliff, I’d be smashed to pieces on some really nasty craggy rocks below (and anyone who’s been through a nasty divorce or breakup can make that metaphorical connection themselves).
But what does being “in a relationship” really mean? It’s not just a Facebook status or some feminine hygiene products in the bottom drawer of your bathroom. It’s a shared contract between two people.
The problem is that most couples don’t really discuss the details of that contract before leaping. In every relationship I’ve ever been in, there has been a serious discrepancy between what each individual believes the “rules” are. Some of them, like fidelity, can be reasonably assumed, but there are so many shades of grey in the other areas that you can be sure somebody is going to break a rule they didn’t even know existed.
Sunshine and I never actually set down any definitive rules for the relationship. I never considered that there needed to be any. I hadn’t really thought this whole thing through. But once again, there’s that leap. The leap is romantic, and romance is always accompanied by tragedy.
Romeo and Juliet had to die young. Can you imagine a balding, sweaty, Romeo in his wife-beater, pounding on the door and screaming at Juliet (now in mom jeans with obligatory arm flab) to get out of the bathroom so he can use the toilet?
That’s the nature of romance. It’s fleeting. Nobody wants to imagine the flower of love sitting on a toilet and reading a magazine whilst taking a deuce.
But love is an essential part of the human experience. If it is genuine, you must succumb to it, even if it ends in tragedy.
In Carlos Castenada’s fifth book, he described his experience of leaping into the abyss as a complete transcendence of the self, where awareness and consequence were erased and only existence remained. I’d like to think of love as that same experience, where the self gets diffused a little, and you stop thinking about everything in terms of its direct effect on you, the individual, and start thinking of somebody else instead.
So Sunshine and I held hands, and leapt into the abyss. Doesn’t that sound romantic?
Nobody really thought about all those branches on the way down…
C’est la vie.
Contact R. Chase at YourVoice@voice-tribune.com.