There is a certain duality in the nature of my love for you. One that I haven’t been able to reconcile in these 8 or so years that I’ve known you. At any given time and circumstance, my conviction in one side of this duality has been so strong that I have, depending on the time and circumstance, deemed one an axiom in my mind, and the other nonsense. There are times when I have felt as sure as one can feel about something that I love you, with all of my heart, and there have been times when I have felt sure about the exact opposite, and perhaps something even more grave, that not only is there no love in my heart for you, but that I am incapable of love entirely. I have found myself asking the question “What is love?” over and over, day after day, in both situations, trying to make sense of my thoughts, feelings and actions under the influence of either one of these convictions. I can’t say that I have found any meaningful answer yet, for finding an answer would mean finding a resolution to this internal strife, which I have not found yet either, despite years of reflection and introspection, and I have started to believe that I will never find it, certainly not in my lifetime. I have started to believe (as I have mentioned once or twice in previous letters) it is beyond the faculties of reason to make sense of or understand the true nature of love.
I keep coming back to the analogy of a fish inside a glass bowl. Through the glass it can see the world. It can perceive the events happening on the outside, and is affected by it. But because of the shape of the glass, its view of the world is distorted. Its perception of the world that is inside the bowl is much more accurate. It also has the ability to explore the world inside by moving around in the bowl. It understands the world inside. Sees it for what it is. It feels comfortable and confident inside the bowl. But the world outside, infinitely vast in every direction, of which the bowl is only an insignificantly small part, it can neither see clearly nor understand nor explore. Greater still is the tragedy that it does not realize that its view of the outside world is distorted, for that is the way it has seen the outside world for most of the time it has existed. One might argue, that if the fish is taken out of the bowl, it would be able to see the world more clearly. Granted that in the moments it is outside the bowl, it will see the world for how it really is, but how is it to know that this is the “true” image of the world, and the one that it has seen from inside the bowl isn’t? The few moments spent outside water are marked by restlessness and suffocation, and a complete loss of control of its ability over itself. How, then, can the image of the world perceived under such distress be trusted to the be real one, when it is impossible for the fish to be in its right mind at the time? Perhaps even its vision is partially lost or distorted, because its eyes are only capable of seeing underwater. And so, the fish can never see, understand or explore the outside world for what it truly is.
Our faculties of reason are perhaps confined to a similar bowl to the one in which the fish resides, inside which we are comfortable and confident about our assumptions, decisions and conclusions. It is the inside of this bowl that we see through our eyes and call the real world that we can touch, feel, and walk about. It is inside this bowl that the entirety of our existence seems to be confined. But we are aware at all times of the world beyond, glimpses of which we see when we close our eyes, and behold our thoughts, and acknowledge our existence, separated from what our eyes see, ears hear, tongues taste, noses smell or hands touch. We also see glimpses of this world, when we look into another person’s eyes. We are aware of their existence. That they are more than a mass of skin, bones and muscles moving about the space of reality, more than a heart beating rhythmically and circulating blood through a network of arteries and veins, more than the lungs expanding and contracting repeatedly, sucking air in and thrusting it out, more than the movements of their mouths creating vibrations in the air. We acknowledge their existence. It is this world, which is outside the world we live in, that we somehow know exists, that we try to perceive and make sense of, using words and images and sounds and smells and textures which we have learned or experienced in the real world i.e. the world inside the bowl.
We have a distorted image of the world outside the bowl, the realm of the unconscious. It is neither accessible nor comprehensible through reason. After all, what is reason, but a set of rules defined according to the world inside the bowl? It’s difficult to say what it would feel like to be removed from the bowl and be given an opportunity to see the world of the unconscious for what it really is. But if I had to guess, I imagine it would entail distress and discomfort similar to that of a fish taken out of water. I imagine it would be characterized by a complete loss of control over one’s physical body, for it neither belongs to that world, nor is that world suitable for it. I imagine that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for one to accept what one sees in such a state as the true nature of the world. Perhaps we are able to escape to this world temporarily in our dreams, while we are asleep, just as a fish sometimes jumps out of water and is able to experience the world outside, albeit only momentarily. Perhaps enlightenment is nothing else but to be able to perceive this other world for what it really is. To be able to see it clearly, and realize that the world we see through our eyes, the entire physical universe, is but a small part of a much bigger world, where everything we consider abstract is real. It is to this realm that love belongs, for even though every now and then I do come across what looks like a manifestation of love in the physical world, such as the one I described in the letter I wrote to you on while I was on the train going across Austria, I cannot claim that I have “seen” love for what it truly is.
The closest I have come to “seeing” love is in your eyes, which has led me to remark once or twice that your eyes “are” love. But, of course, even that view is distorted by the shape of the bowl we’re inside. If I cannot even see it clearly, how can I understand it? I have long made peace with the fact that I cannot understand love. That is not what bothers me. What often bothers me is a more fundamental question : “Does love exist?” In certain times, I have felt sure that it does, and in others I have felt sure that it does not. I will not delve further in this direction, because doing so will lead to a stream of existential questions, many of which I have written about previously. But even if I do accept its existence (which for the most part I have), I am still bothered by whether I am capable of feeling it, and whether I feel any of it for you. My actions over the years would suggest that I do, but I often feel like an outsider even to myself when it comes to these acts of love. I feel like I’m observing someone commit these acts just as one does while watching a movie, and anticipating what the protagonist, the lover, might do next. Did I want to do them, or did I do them out of a sense of obligation, the same sense that an actor has to stick to the script, except in this case I’m also the one who’s writing the script. “Love in the 21st Century” — An autobiographical fantasy written and directed by Mike. Starring Mike and another poor soul who has no idea what she’s gotten herself into. Somewhat like “The Truman Show” (you should watch that movie, Jim Carrey’s in it).
Maybe I am confusing real life for a movie. Maybe that’s why I sing songs and make videos. Because it feels like a natural part of the process. Think about it. Who makes music videos in real life? Maybe that’s why so many of my actions are somewhat extreme, exaggerated, larger than life or dramatic. So is the pain, the anger, the jealousy, the frustration, the longing. It makes for a riveting story. But when I look inside myself, I often find nothing but emptiness and apathy. Sometimes I tell myself that I’ve created this emptiness intentionally, to shut out the pain and agony of separation, in the process also shutting out the love. But other times, I feel that the emptiness is real, that there is indeed no love, and all those exaggerated acts of love are an effort to hide this emptiness, not just from you, but also from myself. If it is, I’m clearly overcompensating. Screaming out to the world : “Look! I’m not loveless. I have feelings. I care for someone. Would a person who doesn’t feel love do this? Or this? Or this? Obviously not! Hence proved. Right?” Wrong. Like a clown, a psychopath. I’m trying to prove that I’m capable of love. To everyone else and myself. Filling the emptiness with romantics songs. I’ve been listening to the same song continuously for the last 16 hours. I went to sleep listening to it and continued listening after I awoke. And this is not the first such occasion. Nobody in their right might would do that. I’m crazy. A freak.
I write a letter to you almost every week. It begins with something ordinary, but soon escapes into abstract philosophical nonsense just like this one. Every now and then it ventures back into reality, only to make extreme claims or criticisms about the world or me or you. I’m sure you’ve noticed that my letters have become increasingly metaphysical. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because I’m still trying to make sense of the world, separate reality from make-believe, fact from fiction. I’ve realized how small and irrelevant a place the real world is, that on one hand you can be halfway across it and still feel close to someone, like they’re right next to you, while on the other, you can be in the same city, perhaps even right next to someone, and still feel distant, like you’re halfway across the world. Space is a mere illusion. Distance has little to do with space. Even if there is any correlation, it is the opposite of what we usually think it is. Similarly, experiences lasting less than a second can, and often do have a greater influence on our lives than those lasting years. Time is a mere illusion too. Memories have little to do with time. Again, even if there is any correlation, it is the opposite of what we usually think it is. What is reality but a continuum of space and time, and hence a mere illusion?
When all is said and done, and death is looking us in the face, it’s not going to matter how far we’ve travelled or how long we’ve lived. What’s really going to matter is how close or distant we’ve felt to the people we cared about, and how many fond memories, happy and sad, we’re going to take with ourselves. I’ve been spending a lot of time under influence (of various things), perhaps even a little too much for my own good, but it has allowed me to see clearly. I have long stopped sending you the letters I’ve written, for many of them are filled with spiteful words, that might hurt and offend you, and the ones that are not are filled with fanciful and absurd musings that might lead you to believe I’ve lost my mind. I’m not sure whether I’m writing, or whether I’m sitting next to myself and watching myself write, making edits and suggestions as my other self writes. And I’m also not sure whether I’m writing what I feel or whether I’m writing something else entirely, and then trying to convince myself that these are indeed my feelings. I have no way of knowing as long as I’m trapped inside this bowl.