Yesterday was my wife’s birthday. She often asks me, “Why do you love me?” It’s a question countless poets in history have tried to answer; it’s analogous to the meaning of life countless philosophers have tried to answer. These questions arise because what truly matters in our lives evade clarity, which induces anxiety. As soon as we have a clear answer, we realize it’s not true.
The best way I can think to describe the difference between “like” and “love” is to compare it to the difference between entertainment and art. What art has that entertainment lacks is its ability to make us feel uncomfortable. In that sense, we don’t just love art but also hate it, because it challenges us, makes us think, questions our assumptions, and forces us to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones.
The honeymoon stage of a relationship is pure entertainment. Love doesn’t begin until the entertainment is over. It’s only when you begin to hate her that you know you are in love.
But there are many people in your life you hate. Why do you decide to live with one?
Because she pushes you in the direction you find meaningful. Because you realize you cannot do it alone, that you need help. You are willing to accept that weakness in you and to commit yourself to your own cause with her. That’s what love is. You hate her because she knows your potential and wouldn’t let you off the hook. This also means that, if you do not desire to grow, you cannot love anyone or any art.
This is why you cannot answer the question, “Why do you love me?” Because it’s also the reason you hate her.
I’m most comfortable when I stay in the world of logic. If it weren’t for my wife, I would have stayed in that closet all my life. She constantly pushes me out of it. Even if her motive is self-serving (which often is), it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s ultimately good for me. That is the beauty of symbiosis; what is beneficial to you happens to be beneficial to the other also.
So, happy birthday to my wife, Roxanne, who brings much joy but also pain in my life.
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