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September 02, 2023


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The Tale of Genji was written in the early 11th century and is perhaps the first novel. Romantic love is its theme. It was written in Japan, a country completely closed off from the West.

Breer's claim that "we have to be educated to experience romantic love" is absurd. There's no doubt a material/biological component to our capacity for romantic love (which is strongest during the chemical changes beginning with puberty and tends to decline thereafter), but love is hardly a learned skill.

what is Love like?

"Like This...

If anyone asks you
how the perfect satisfaction
of all our sexual wanting
will look, lift your face
and say,

Like this.

When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the night sky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,

Like this.

If anyone wants to know what “spirit” is,
or what “God’s fragrance” means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.

Like this.

When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.

Like this.

If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don’t try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.

Like this. Like this.

When someone asks what it means
to “die for love,” point

If someone asks how tall I am, frown
and measure with your fingers the space
between the creases on your forehead.

This tall.

The soul sometimes leaves the body, then returns.
When someone doesn’t believe that,
walk back into my house.

Like this.

When lovers moan,
they’re telling our story.

Like this.

I am a sky where spirits live.
Stare into this deepening blue,
while the breeze says a secret.

Like this.

When someone asks what there is to do,
light the candle in his hand.

Like this.

How did Joseph’s scent come to Jacob?


How did Jacob’s sight return?


A little wind cleans the eyes.

Like this.

When Shams comes back from Tabriz,
he’ll put just his head around the edge
of the door to surprise us

Like this."

From ‘The Essential Rumi’, Translations
by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

"A moment of happiness,

you and I sitting on the verandah,

apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.

We feel the flowing water of life here,

you and I, with the garden’s beauty

and the birds singing.

The stars will be watching us,

and we will show them

what it is to be a thin crescent moon.

You and I unselfed, will be together,

indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.

The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar

as we laugh together, you and I.

In one form upon this earth,

and in another form in a timeless sweet land."

Kulliyat-e Shams, 2114

"The springtime of Lovers has come,

that this dust bowl may become a garden;

the proclamation of heaven has come,

that the bird of the soul may rise in flight.

The sea becomes full of pearls,

the salt marsh becomes sweet as kauthar,

the stone becomes a ruby from the mine,

the body becomes wholly soul.

The intellectual is always showing off,

the lover is always getting lost.

The intellectual runs away.

afraid of drowning;

the whole business of love

is to drown in the sea.

Intellectuals plan their repose;

lovers are ashamed to rest.

The lover is always alone.

even surrounded by people;

like water and oil, he remains apart.

The man who goes to the trouble

of giving advice to a lover

get nothing. He’s mocked by passion.

Love is like musk. It attracts attention.

Love is a tree, and the lovers are its shade."

Kulliyat-e Shams, 21

I can understand there being a difference between certain cultures regarding the experience of love, after all, all that manifests in our brains is immediately interpreted. A particular upbringing, cultural training and education could well interpret the chemical signals that to us signify romantic love, in another culture people could very well interpret the chemical rush differently. And yes, it would be interesting to hear some Eastern takes on love.

As the brain is a predictive and interpretive organ, any impression that the brain generates emanates from its pre-experienced knowledge and information. Many cultures experience emotions for example quite differently, even their facial expressions display emotions contrary to other cultures.

The whole jumble of prospective thoughts and emotions inherent in the brain dictate how we think, form opinions and react, whether our past training guides us toward a belief in free will or no free will is all down to our own specific conditioning. The nearest we come to anything like free will (which can confuse us into thinking we have free will) is to expose ourselves to other, perhaps more appropriate information which our brains then have access to.

The author cited in the post writes:
"It comes as something of a shock, therefore, to learn that the non-Western world of Asians, Indians, Africans, Polynesians, and Eskimos knows little of romantic love. "

It is only a shock to see the ignorance of the author to the ancient love writings of the rest of the world.

But isn't this sort of ignorance and presumption a tired western cultural artifact that thankfully dies as other cultures gain voice and standing?

Interesting Paul Breer interview -- heated debate -- re Zen enlightenment.


Someone else calls Breer absurd! But I admit he makes some interesting points that are worth consideration.

There are cultural differences, as with everything, and culture is learned. Valentine's Day is banned in some parts, and how many westerners enter into arranged marriage?

Not every society turns coupling into such a game. As I recall, even MCS downplayed marriage as a karmic relationship and corrected against the concept of "soulmate."

Or there's greater family involvement, making it more a team sport than individual!

Hi B
I’ve found reading these on-going Breer articles interesting. I suggest some of Breer’s focus is tied up with challenging notions/affects of separation, along with the general belief that there is such a thing as separated/individuated souls as well as ‘free will’, (i.e. he sees it as problematic) e.g:
“As free agents we are not only separate from everyone else physically; we are separate spiritually, separate as souls, separate as centers of will and moral responsibility.”
“Our Western belief that individual souls remain separate throughout eternity, in heaven as well as on earth, creates a sense of personal isolation unknown elsewhere in the world.”
“This isolation heightens the appeal of returning to a less differentiated state through a surrender of the agent/self to passion.” 
While Breer’s point about isolation creating this need for romantic love is thought provoking, his talk about separation (both on earth and in heaven - give us a break!) reminds me that this is the central issue to sort out spiritually, mentally and physically. In the environmental sphere, I’ve often argued that while addressing the issues of economic growth/resource allocation/biodiversity/inequality etc is important, for me the fundamental block preventing major change (like saving the planet), is this belief in separation. Simply put - if an understanding of connection and co-reliance is there (in an ecospheric sense), then action to maintain and look after that relationship will ensue.
In response to Breer’s point that “For the un-Westernised Easterner, all autonomy is ultimately illusory. The world is One and all seemingly separate objects and selves participate in that Oneness.” I’d say this is a widely held belief in the East but something less enacted.
Also ‘soul separation’ is not just something we can trace back to Western Philosophers - it’s clearly part of Eastern culture too e.g. Bhakti traditions in India such as Sant Mat.
Thank you Sant Mat64 for the link on Paul Greer talking about Zen - some good stuff there. I liked reading how his views about Buddhism and enlightenment changed over time, as well as his reference to Freud’s notion of ‘individuation’, he’s not just into sociology that’s for sure.
Best wishes

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