February 15, 2019

Food for Thought

I’ve never written about love because the word is practically meaningless. I can say I love baguettes, my dog, my daughter, my parents, my friends, and my wife. In all these instances, the word “love” means different things. Even within each instance, it can represent different emotions. At the end of a phone call, a couple would say “I love you” to each other simply to mean “See you later.” If they say it during sex, it would probably mean something else. When any word is used and abused in too many different ways, it turns into a grammatical device, like “to”, “get”, and “the”

But in the context of Valentine’s Day, “love” refers to something a bit more specific: “romantic” love. Here, we might be able to have a meaningful discussion especially if we focused on “love” that eventually leads to offspring. However, the best I can do is to define what I mean by “love.” A universal definition is not possible, not even practical.

In your childhood, you develop a mental model of who you are and what others are. It’s almost as though you have a virtual replica of the world in your head that you can manipulate in order to figure out how to survive. It’s like how an architect would use a 3D computer program to visualize what it would be like to walk through the house s/he is designing. The part that represents you in this virtual world is your ego. Throughout your life, you try to match your ego to your ideal and, at the same time, resolve the differences with the feedback you receive from the reality. If this mental model deviates too far away from the reality, you become psychotic. This is basically the rule of the game of life.

But this game is just too hard to play on your own. Certain aspects of your idealized ego are impossible to achieve. So, you strike a deal with another person to create a composite ego where the other person can provide the feedback you need to get closer to the ideal ego. In a way, it’s a shortcut. This is why breaking up is hard. This symbolic self in your head must die if the other person is no longer available to supply the feedback necessary to sustain it.

Happy Valentine’s Day to those of us with composite egos.