Saturday, December 7, 2013

love and the galliform spur

"I do not view the capacity for love as something that declines with time, nor as something in limited supply:  loving one person does not subtract from love for someone else.  However, we have high expectations for what all of our relationships with various people in our lives should be.  And love is particularly frought with these expectations.  The difficulties that arise in love are not due to love itself but to the expectations that we attach to it:  in order for our mothers to love us they must approve of our haircuts; for our lovers to love us we must send them flowers and have sex with them; for our friends to love us they must invite us to parties.  We think that love is "real" when it meets these expectations.  And when it doesn't we are fearful and anxious, and that is because we have made the error of mistaking our expectations of love for love itself.  The obvious escape from this predicament is to love unconditionally, to eschew our expectations.  But this, of course, is exceedingly difficult for us to do.  We can attempt to have fewer expectations, and to just be grateful that there are people in the world who love us.  But we want to "know" that we are loved, and the proof we require takes the form of more expectations, and so the cycle continues.  I can love you, and assure you that I have an infinite supply.  But that does not mean that your expectations will be met.  Love, in this regard, cannot be possessed; it does not belong to you (or to me for that matter); it is not contingent upon sex, geographical location, marriage, or the prospect of cohabitation.  To be fair, I realize that this is an idealized version of love: love as an abstract virtue, the bucket before we pile things into it, the mere concept divorced from concrete examples.  And I do not claim to be so high-minded as to be capable of this level of virtue.  What I can say more concretely is that I value love that is as wrought with expectation as anything else in our lives, but which defies those expectations and persists in spite of it."

personal correspondence of A. Khinchin, 1932
Margin Notes for The Asymptotic Laws of Probability Theory