On friendship and love

The meaning of Spartan life

There will come a time when someone you truly love will simply not be in your life like they once were. They will remain in your life but only at a distance. All humans will experience this at some point and come to know or reject the idiom, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

This happens for a number of reasons, like work demands or any of life’s other unexpected events, but if this person currently in absentia loves you back, then distance should not sever the relationship.

In the moment however the pains of longing and love distort reality and make you selfish. You begin to think of everything from your own locus of experience and inadvertently detract from your beloved’s current experience by making the whole thing exclusively about you and your own feelings.

I speak of love because friendship is a form of love. Intimacy is a part of friendship, and both intimacy and love do not necessarily require a physical component. While physical intimacy is often a part of love and friendship, the question of how to deal with temporary separation from a person you love remains nonetheless.

Nature is one interpretation of the Tao, or the Way, in Taoism. A harsh philosophy, Taoism espouses total submission to the world around us. For example if a family member passes away, it is not good or bad, it simply is. We are to accept it without question, consideration or action.

In the “Tao Te Ching,” Laozi tells us, “The sage keeps to the deed that consists in taking no action…Do that which consists in taking no action, and order will prevail.” In its context of Taoist thought, order and personal harmony stem from not acting against nature, because nature rules over us all and we are foolish to try and contrive it.

I outline such rudimentary Taoist thinking because it appears the best way for one to approach the absence of a beloved friend or lover. If you truly love someone, you need to overcome the bondage of egoism and accept that your situation is as it is and should be according to often uncontrollable elements. If your beloved truly loves you, they will not abandon you.

But, of course, one must define love, a task that approaches impossibility given the sociocultural weight the term carries from culture to culture and individual to individual. Personally I’ve always chosen to combat the internal strife associated with love by celebrating the other person.

In his essay, “On Friendship,” Michel de Montaigne wrote, “If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I.” Acceptance of your beloved for who they are and what they’re doing and are going through provides some solace to absence. Essentially love will not disappear if it is mutual.

Perhaps I’ve entered a discussion of faith versus proof. I don’t know. What I do know is that I currently have a beloved friend who is currently not in my life like she once was. I also believe we both love each other beyond measure; egoism is immature and impatience is self-defeating.

If faith is not enough, I just remind myself she is she, and I am I.

Jacob Martin is a weekly opinion columnist for the Observer. “We love the things we love for what they are.”—Robert Frost