In this post, I want to talk about “attraction”. I want to do an in-depth analysis, as I think a good understanding about “attraction” is very important to understand “true love”.
But before I do this, I want to talk about the reason I am writing this blog again, because it is relevant to this subject. I am writing this blog because I believe that emphasizing Love and Reason should be the basic principles for everyone will greatly change the world we are living in. In fact, I think it will lead to a true “civilized society” (as I think there is nowhere in the world such a “civilized society” actually exists.)
Let me explain further. With the title “About Emma”, people might think the emphasis of this blog is on “love” (“intimate love”). I don’t think they are completely wrong, but they are not entirely right either. In my prior posts, I sometimes used a pure utilitarian approach (or at least can be viewed this way), indicating that “love” (“intimate love”) is the key for changing the world. I want to explain further about what I actually meant (or at least define my thoughts more clearly).
First, without “true love”, there would not be a truly “civilized society”. And, in order to have “true love”, the basic principles of Love and Reason must be fully implemented by the society (I will explain these points further in the following). This is why I think “love” is important. But does this mean that the goal of the society is for people to find “love”? Not necessarily (at least not for this purpose).
The reason I think “Emma” is so ground breaking is because it emphasized women’s Right to Choose. Looking into history, I think it is reasonable to say that the entire history of the “civilized society” is the history of denying women’s rights and ability to choose (as I think about it, the entire social structure is more about forcing people to do things or not to do things. But efforts on depriving women’s choices, especially on the matter of “love”, are most deeply rooted) . I want to point out that Emma seems to have “everything”. But in the matter of “love”, the only thing she can actually do is to refuse “love” (I meant what she can control even though she could face “catastrophic” consequences. Now as I think about it, this subject might actually exist in all of Jane Austen’s novels, although in Emma, it is most obvious.)
I want to emphasize how important this is. As I said, without “true love”, there would not be a truly “civilized society”. And, in order to have “true love”, the basic principles of Love and Reason must be fully implemented by the society (meaning a truly “civilized society” must already exists). So, it seems we are in a dreadful circle, and there is no way out.
But oddly enough, I think the way out is for women to have the actual option of saying “no” to “love” when one thinks it is not “true love”. Here, I want to say I have not concluded whether it is possible for “true love” to exist in this world. We can start with looking at “true love” from two points of views, one is objective view, and one is subjective view. “True love” from objective view would be more difficult than subjective view, although pure “subjective view” might contradict my definition of “true love”.
I want to point out that if there could be “true love” between certain individuals, it does not contradict my thoughts about the relationship between “true love” and true “civilized society”, because I think in order for “true love” to lead to true “civilized society”, Love and Reason as the basically principles must be the norm of the society, not just among a few (I am still doubtful whether it is completely possible, but I don’t think it is a very important subject, at least not for now. I am saying this because my ultimate goal is to try to lead to process of establishing a true “civilized society”, not just about “true love”. So, whether “true love” exists now is not as important. I might be able to get the conclusion as I continue my thoughts.)
Now, I want to talk about “attraction”. I think understanding the misconceptions related to “attraction” is very important in understanding “true love”. In fact, I think it is the key to understand “love”. As I as think about it, in peeling the myth about “love”, “attraction” is probably the concept that is second in line with complications.
I also want to look at things related to “attraction” and “love”. First, this means I am not just going to look at “attraction”, I am also going to look at “repulsion”. Second, I am going to look at “attraction” using analogies in physical forces, in order to eliminate misconceptions about “love”. Third, I will look at the relationship between “attraction” and “attachment”, to fully understand the dynamics of “love”.
I will start with analyzing “attraction” first. This is not an easy task, because we basically cannot know what exactly cause one person to be attracted to another. But I don’t think it is a completely impossible task, as we can see clues of what might be the cause, and understand the culture influences on people. As my goal is mostly to point out misconceptions about “love” that are caused by culture influences, this analysis should be very helpful.
As I said, I cannot know other people’s feelings. So, I will use my own experience in my analysis. To start, my first question is, what causes “attraction”? I guess the answer could be “something good”. But what is “something good”? Something good on their own, or because they are good for you? I think the simplest answer is “all of the above”.
But the problem is, here is when simple answers will not be helpful, because “something good on their own” might not be “good for you” when we talk about “love”. This is why I think analyzing “attraction” will be very helpful to my ultimate goal. Ok, I will explain further here now. As I said, I cannot rule out that it is possible for two people to have “true love” between them if they are following the basic principles of Love and Reason. But it would be very difficult because as we can see from Emma, even Mr. Knightly was quite confused about a lot of things.
But my point is, it does not matter that much for my purpose, because my purpose is to establish a true “civilized society”. As we can see, even though Emma and Mr. Knightly are our role models in practicing the principles of Love and Reason, their views are still very problematic in various things. My point is a “civilized society” can only be established when everyone follows the principles of Love and Reason (to be honest, I am still very skeptical whether it is possible for a few individuals to follow the basic rules of Love and Reason, and find “true love”, I think it depends on what degree we are talking about), because everyone’s point of view will be limited by their own experience, one might not be able to fully comprehend what is reasonable from just their point of view. What I think is important is for everyone to have the ability (will and able) to think for themselves first using the principles of Love and Reason to exam what changes need to be made, the starting point is the relationship between men and woman, because (as I said before) I think in this matter, it is possible to find consensus if people are truly interested in finding “true love”.
The reason I think people should insist on finding “true love” is, when something is not true, then it will lead to things that are unreasonable. This is especially true in the matter of “love”, because “love” that is based on “attraction” is a basic manifestation of “free will”. Here, the definition of “free will” is it is related to thoughts that are not directly in response to external conditions or strict rules. Now, as I think about it, I think I can define “free will” as what would lead to correct conclusions based on the principles of Love and Reason.
I think “attraction”, like “free will”, is not entirely unpredictable, because it is based on the balance between the principles of reacting to “something good on their own” and “something good for you”. Now, I want to analyze this dynamics further. As I said, the problems in the world start with systematic attempts to eliminate women’s choices. So, free women from all these attempts, and letting women to truly being able to exercise their “free will” is of ultimate importance.
Here, I want to share my thoughts about instincts and sub-consciousness. I think they are being mystified incorrectly. I suspect that at least many of the things we call instincts or sub-consciousness are also our own thoughts, and because our brain can only be aware of one thing at each particular time, we might not be aware of many thinking processes. If this is true, then we should treat our instincts and sub-consciousness the same way as our other thoughts, and evaluate them accordingly.
Ok, what I am saying here is, “attraction” is basically the result of evaluation based on “merits”. I use quotation mark with terms such as “something good on their own”, “something good for you” and “merits” because what deem to be “something good on their own”, “something good for you” and “merits” might not actually be true. And, this is one of the problems that would make finding “true love” difficult.
Another problem is the dynamics of “something good on their own” and “something good for you”. As a general rule, we want to judge things based on their own merits. So, if “attraction” is based on “merits”, then we would be attracted to someone based on “something good on their own”. But here, it gets tricky. What good will “attraction” do, if one could not be attracted to someone who is “good for you”? Of course, one can ask the question whether “good on their own” had to be different from “good for you”. Well, it does not have to be, but it often could be. There are various examples I can offer, the most obvious one is, the attraction is one side.
Is it possible for attraction to be completely one-sided? I guess it is not completely impossible. But if it is, then it might call for the question of “good on their own” and “good for you”. But it will also relate to what “good for you” means. As there are quite complicated subjects, I will write about them in details.
First, I want to ask the question about whether there could be “attraction” based on a complete “objective” judgment. Interestingly, it seems that people who make this type of judgment might mostly be “idealist”. Let me explain. If we assume that “objective judgement” is based on who a person is, then, we assume that the interaction, or “mutual attraction” factor will not be taken into account (this assumption may be questionable. I might talk about later. But for now, we will assume this assumption is correct.)
But could we actually know who a person is? How could we actually know? I said people who are idealist might more likely take “objective” approach because “idealist” (as I assume the definition is, for people who believes in ideal first, although people can also be divided based on what ideas they believe and how they came to these believes) generally are driven by ideas. For example, people who admire beauty might be attracted by people of great beauty regardless of whether there is any mutual attraction between them.
I have stated my problems with the division between “idealist” and “realist”. But this is how the “conventional wisdom” dictates. So, I am using this definition as it is. But here, one can see there are problems that can be revealed here. What I meant is, people taking the “objective” approach often end up mistaken people for what they represent, not who they are (because often ideology is linked with symbolism, and symbolism often mislead.)
Another problem with the “objective” approach is, “love” becomes a competition and there are more losers than winners, and no one (or at least not majority of people)can be truly happy, and “true love” is basically impossible. I have talked about this problem in my previous posts. Here, I just want to summarize it. As “merits” or “virtues” often are quantified, people who are deemed to possess these “merits” or “virtues” often are quantified, people who are deemed to possess these “merits” (or at least to a greater degree) are few, so not everyone could have the “fortune” to be “worthy” of these people.
Analyzing “attraction” seems to be very important and useful because it at least highlighted the problem of conventional division between mind and matter. The problems in the “real world” are no these kinds of problems, but dynamic problems in different mix of mind and matter. But this kind of problem (the “real world” problem) has rarely been recognized, let alone addressed.
Now, I want to look at the “subject test”, and look at how the “good for you” standard applies in evaluating “attraction”. I want to first point out, this so called “subjective test” is not truly a “subjective test” because when people making the judgment, they are still using standards that are objective, although in their evaluation, people will take into account of factors that related to them. For example, compatibility will be taken into consideration. But this “good for you” test also has its problems. For example, there have been questions about whether one can be “attracted” (or be “in love”) with a person who treats oneself very well, but otherwise is a terrible person. If people use this test, then the answer would be yes. But should it be? My answer is, in the matter of “attraction”, both “good on their own” test and “good for you” test should apply.
But I don’t think this is what is happening with people. What I meant is, as a “social norm”, “attraction” (or “love”, by the way, “love should be more than “attraction”, but I think in general, “attraction” is basically treated as equivalent of “love”, this is another problem with the concept of “love”) is either based on “good own their own” test, or “good for you” test, not the combination of both. I think this problem is directly related to the problems with social structure.
I have written about this problem in my previous posts. Basically, the problem is, “attraction” (and “love”) is treated as “one side” phenomenon (or at least the phenomenon on either side is fundamentally different, or has certain characteristics that are fundamentally different). In fact, it seems to me that what we call “attraction” (or “love”) is a complicated process operating with “good own their own” test and “good for you” test by different people at different time, but not at the same time with same person.
For example, in a common (or “traditional”) scenario a person (mostly a man) will be “attracted” by the beauty of another (mostly a woman) based on “good on their own” test. But if they are to establish a relationship, mostly the other person (mostly a woman) would often adopt “good for you” test (evaluate the affections and ability to “support” or “protect” etc.)
However, if the relationship is to develop further, often the “attraction” might be transformed. For example, in an established relationship, a man is often in the role of accepting affections. So, it seems that at least in many relationship, the dynamics of attraction (or we could say “attraction in the real world”) is basically reversed later on.
There are more and more evidences indicating this is truly a “men’s world”. So, the test based on “good on their own” as regarding to beauty can only serve as a “smoking screen”. In reality, “good on their own” test often serve as test about “power” rather than “merit”, and “attraction” often serve as part of “power worship” mechanism. At the same time, “good for you” test often serves as a yard stick for testing people’s wiliness to submit to the “power”.
I think this analysis indicated that systematic analysis is useful to understand the subject “love” and “attraction”. I want to point out that for each individual, the dynamics for “attraction” might be different. But overall, the problem with “attraction” as I indicated is quite real. Basically, there are quite some conflicting ideas and practices related to “attraction” and “love”. This is why these areas are full of problems for most people.
Ultimately, I think the key problem is about control. For two people who are going to share their lives together, this seems to be a very difficult question. But I don’t think it should be if the world is operating based on the basic principles of Love and Reason.
If people can understand each other very well (which means they look at the world based the same principles and similarly situated), then they will most likely reach the same decisions simultaneously. Then the question of control will not be a problem for them. This is why “Emma” is a very important book. Again, I want to emphasize the importance for Mr. Knightly to conclude that he should move into Emma’s house. This is correct decision under the circumstance, and he is “good” (following the principles of Love and Reason) enough to reach this conclusion (meaning he is not forced to make the decision, but makes the decision based on Love and Reason). If we look further, this is basically the model to build a true civilized society.
It took me long time to write this post because (among other reasons) I am hesitating in writing this post because I feel this subject is very complicated. There are too many things to analyze, almost makes the task impossible. In the end, I decided I will simplify this subject, and hopefully, I will write more on this subject later.
I want to emphasize that “attraction” should be treated as a process, not a flash of the moment decision. It might seem odd that when I talk about “attraction”, I treated it as if it is an conscious decision. But based on my personal experience, I do think my thoughts have influence on who I am attracted to, as it seems who I am attracted to (or more accurately speaking, what types of persons I am attracted to) are changing over time, and coordinates to my thoughts at the time.
As I said, I don’t want to put too much emphasis on “initial attraction” (or “first impression”). However, a strong “first impression” often can highlight the “essence” of a person (based on my experience). But this information is rarely enough for understanding a person, and less so for establishing a relationship.
I will explain further. I think basically what a “first impression” convey is a person’s thoughts, meaning what a person inspired to be (based on my experience). So, if a person’s thoughts are somewhat different from others, the “first impression” might be able to reflect this fact. But, how a person behaves or even makes decisions are determined more than a person’s inspirations. There are many factors that could come into play. For example, the environment, how things are done in this person’s environment might have more effects on this person. Therefore, understanding a person takes more than “first impression”. It should be a very simple truth, but how much efforts have been made to lead people away from this truth is astonishing (for the reasons I have talked about many times.)
Now, I want to talk about another aspect related to “attraction”, which is “repulsion”. In my opinion, the role of “repulsion” played in relationship has been overlooked quite often. It seems to me that what is responsible for breaking up a relationship is not often loss of “attraction”, but the growth of “repulsion” based on more knowledge obtained after getting to know a person more. Sometimes, it is difficult to know what could cause “repulsion”. It is possible that “repulsion” can grow when a person feels that the relationship is not as “ideal” as one would hope for, and put the blame on the other.
Here, I want to talk about Mr. Knightley’s comment to Emma about their not being “perfect” made them perfect for each other. Generally speaking, Mr. Knightley is viewed by most people as a model of “perfection” and a “prudent” person (at least this is the impression I got by reading comments about the novel and related adaptations of it.) But as I said in my earlier posts, I don’t think he is very perfect person. In fact, I think the fact he is very critical about Emma indicating he is not the type of person that is over careful about what he does. What I mean is, Mr. Knightley did not “give up” on Emma simply because she is not “perfect”. But later, he found out that her “imperfection” is the result of trying to improve herself, and by her own attempts, she actually highlighted the “imperfection” of himself. This means Mr. Knightley is “upended” by Emma, but he is asking her to treat him the same as he treated her, not giving up on him. I think this a good a lesson for people in a relationship.
But often people will find “real flaws” of the other, which will lead to the deterioration of the relationship. Different people may have different views on what is “real flaws”, and they might not consciously realize what is the problem. This will contribute to the problems with relationships.
But I think the most significant problem with relationship is the confusion caused by the “power structure”. As the society is operating based on people who have controls will be “calling the shots”, in their personal lives, people will also tend to do the same. So, it is reasonable to say that trying to “seize control” (or be the person who is “wearing the pants” etc.) often is the main cause of the problems in relationship (as I think about it, the problems surrounding Ash in the story of “Possession” are basically this kind of problem.)
Now, I want to talk about “attraction” from the angle of physical force. I want to look at it this way, because it will illustrate that the dilemma of “different kinds of love” does not actually exist. If we look at “attraction” as if it is a physical force, then we will realize that although (or even though) one can be attracted by other people even when one is “in love”, ultimately there cannot be a dilemma of “different kinds of love” because one can only be in one place even if there are two kinds of “attraction”.
In my opinion, it is possible for one to feel attraction to others even if one is deeply “in love”. I think it all depends on the circumstances. But what kind of attraction is the question. Or, what kind of actions it will lead to is another question. If we say that attraction can be a gradual process, then one might be able to feel attraction to someone (other than the one that one loves) if they spend enough time to understand each other. What I mean is, friendship can be the result of “attraction”, and friendship may result in “attraction” (or more attraction”).
But then what is the difference between friendship and “love”? I think the most significant difference between friendship and “love” is attachment. I don’t deny that friendship could lead to attachment as well. But attachment in friendship is quite different from the attachment in “love”, because (at least theoretically) when people are “in love”, they are basically not individuals, but a unit.
So, “true love” is when two people who can echo each other in thoughts and actions. This is not done by one person control the other, but by both of them think alike, and both of them are similarly situated (since men and women are rarely similarly situated, “true love” is very difficult). Here, I want to clarify what the phrase “similarly situated” means. The “situations” I am referring to are not the type of situations that can be changed relatively easily, meaning they are somethings innate. For example, people generally accepted that men and women cannot understand each other very easily. This is mostly because the same thing often means different things for men and women. For example, aging often have different means for men and women. For example, in many professions, a “mature” men often represent “authority”, but the same often are not true for women. Meanwhile, this example is not necessarily true in all situations. There are times that aging means something similar to men and women. But generally speaking, “aging” often something quite different for men and women when we are talking about relationship. This is why women often care more about “commitment” than men. But this does not mean all women are the same, people may think things differently (for example, I often think quite differently from other people because of my unique situation and thoughts, often my naïveness).
I also want to emphasize I don’t think two people ought to be complete alike in order to have “true love”. I think it will be quite boring if they too much alike. This basically goes back to the subject of “understanding”, that they have the abilities to understand each other and can agree with each other in essence. In summary, “true love” is the strong attachment based on attraction due to great understanding.
“Attachment” is a subject that should be discussed further. And, there are a lot more to be said about “attraction”. But I will stop here and hopefully write the next post soon.
November 21, 2018