The Myth of Love at First Sight
We have all been fed this myth. Boy meets girl. Boy gets enchanted by her immense physical beauty. They get married and live happily ever after.
Since we were impressionable children, Hollywood and the Korean drama industry have provided us with the booze for this myth and we have imbibed it without question.
As a result, our minds have become convinced that ‘love at first sight’ is indeed possible; Whether it is with people, places or even with God, we begin to believe that if something is good, beautiful and worth appreciating, it must at first contact, elicit some form of strong physical, emotional or mental reaction.
Real Beauty takes Time to be Appreciated
Every week, my family and I visit the Singapore Botanical Gardens for a walk. The 2 hour walk through the scenic gardens comprise of century old trees, serene lakes and a great multitude of stunning flowers.
Regrettably, on my first walk, none of the beauty touched me. I was so lost in my thoughts that I walked past very beautiful trees and flowers without so much as casting a glance at them.
Mindlessly, I pushed my son in his pram along the stoney paths as my mind rattled on about my preoccupations. Vanity was one of my chief preoccupations. I remember thinking “I sure hope my sunblock is working. I can only imagine what damage this sun exposure is going to do to my skin.”
When I got home, I reflected on the day’s events and became aware of this dysfunction in my ability to appreciate beauty. “There’s something wrong with my eyes.” I thought. “I just can’t seem to take this beauty in. I was at a Unesco heritage site. It should impress me but it did not.”
On the next visit, I began to make extra effort to appreciate the beauty. I stared long and hard at the flowers, waiting for their beauty to touch my heart. Nothing happened. In fact, the deliberate effort to remain beauty conscious made me exhausted.
Fortunately for me, beauty conscious or not, my husband insisted that we continued our weekly walks for the sake of health. Soon, I became familiar with the gardens. I was no longer lost in thought, nor was I overly eager to pay attention to every detail that entered my field of vision. I was relaxed. I began to notice a few beautiful things at each walk.
Nonetheless, everything else past through my mind like a movie rerun. I was not moved by the vast majority of things I saw but I was alright with that. (One cannot be expected to be impressed by everything at once. If that were possible, the amount of stimuli would be very unnerving for the adult mind indeed.)
This entire experience brought about a realisation that no matter how beautiful a place is, it takes time and repeated exposure for the beauty to really touch our hearts. This is especially true for adults who have, through the years, lost their childlike sense of wonder. Through repeated exposure, our appreciation for beauty is re-cultivated. A new sense of wonder creeps in somewhere between a sense of familiarity and comfort.
Short Interlude (skip to next session if you’re not the poetic type)
Just in case you are wondering what beauties caught my eye. Here are some of them. You will notice that these are seemingly unremarkable things. In fact, you would have probably walked past these things in your daily lives without noticing them:
1) A Green snake
I noticed a bright green snake coiling around a branch. It was about the length of an adult’s arm and very slim – maybe around the width of a bubble tea straw. I was fascinated by the elegant way it moved. So lithe, so silent, so beautiful.
2) The Big Tree
I lifted my eyes and looked upwards. I was greeted by a beautiful canopy of tiny leaves. I loved how the light filtered through the leaves. I enjoyed considering how the beauty had always been there. We just had to adjust our line of vision to access it.
3) The Bandaged Tree
There is a tree situated near the breakfast spot at the gardens (Bee’s Knees I believe it’s called). It’s trunk was ‘bandaged’ and it was held up in many directions by ropes with nails on the ground. “A recovering tree.” I thought. Perhaps it had collapsed earlier on and someone cared enough about it to help it recover. That’s a nice thought. Hope for humanity restored.
4) The Sun Hats
I love looking at the interesting sun hats worn by the throngs of tourists visiting the park. Indeed, even the people in the gardens are beautiful.
Real World Relationships
On a similar thread of thought, ‘love at first sight’ really is not an accurate formula for successful real world romantic relationships.
Much like the Botanical Gardens, a man/woman is immensely beautiful and mysterious. There is so much to learn and appreciate about a person that it is virtually impossible to appreciate everything at first encounter.
Everyday, we learn a thing or two about the person we love and grow more and more mesmerised by him/her. We have to be patient and allow this love to grow.
The Brokenness of Modern Love
Because our minds have been so misshapen by the myth of ‘love at first sight’, so much of our modern culture is now predicated on the need to impress others at first encounter.
Our concept of human beauty has become superficial and shallow – we want our women to look flawless and stunning. Countless women now flock to plastic surgeons to enhance their looks because they buy into the myth of love at first sight. They want to look pretty, impress their mate, get married and live happily ever after.
Sadly, unlike true beauty, such as that of the Singapore Botanical Gardens, which is multifaceted and almost inexhaustible, the beauty of these plastic ladies remain shallow.
In their pursuit of superficial beauty, many of these ladies have failed to cultivate inner beauty. When you get to know them better, you will realise that they often lack the moral scaffold and tenacity needed to sustain a long term relationships. Hence, these ladies may be able to capture the initial attention of a potential partner but may in time find it difficult to sustain a real relationship.
God – A Sensational Commodity
Many modern preachers of Christianity also favour a path of love at first sight. Through the use of hauntingly beautiful Christian pop music, ultra glamorous styling and carefully crafted sermons, they attempt to capture the hearts of believers at first sight. Once these believers are ‘captured’, they attempt to recreate the same spiritual high week after week to keep them.
In matters of God, I tend to favour the knowledge of God as a person who needs to be understood and appreciated slowly. There will definitely be periods of spiritual dryness followed by spiritual closeness (where we feel God’s love very intensely). It is in this slow and steady relationship with God that we learn more about him and are better able to do his will.
In conclusion, do not despair if like me, you find yourself ill-equip to appreciate life’s beauty. In time, if you persist, the beauty will find its way into your heart. Just relax, stay calm and keep going.
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