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Intangible Qualities

Type the name of a movie into Google, and you will get millions of results.

Type an abstract thought or feeling, something a bit more unusual, and your results start to thin out.

Try a real soul-searching question, like if love can’t sustain a relationship then what’s the point of it? — and you’ll get back the echo of your fingers typing.

I know that this is a stupid thing to do, but over the last couple of years, it’s something that I have done during dark moments, put some of these very direct questions to Google, questions that you might only ever utter in a drunken state to a friend, or write down in your diary, if you have one and do that kind of thing.

And to be honest, typing in these questions have been some of the only times I’ve ever felt my foot touch the bottom of the ocean floor with Google; a moment that reinforces that the internet doesn’t have the answer to everything, outside of circulating the same pieces of information, but in a thousand different ways!

Obviously, the reason that some of these questions bring back such little response is that there is no answer to them anyway: they are about intangible qualities that are highly personal, deeply subjective; that nobody is going to discuss much in a public forum.

So when I ask a question like this, there is not really much of an answer I can get. If I do find an article having a crack at this question, then they are mostly written by journalists and psychologists — maybe even people like myself — who are trying to boil it all down in nuts and bolts kind of way, so that it will appeal to a wide-ranging audience. Their more personal and subjective thoughts on the topic are likely to be thrown out in the editing stage, in that ridiculous quest for objectivity and a ‘balanced’ voice. That’s the unfortunate writing style of the internet; despite it’s confessional first person tone, it is largely shallow and non-committal.

Of course, love is something that you don’t want to trash by talking about it in public way. You learn by adulthood that opening up about your feelings leaves you very vulnerable to attack,  a reality much more disturbing now in the Age of Trolls. So you are most likely to save your finer feelings for a few close friends, a loved one, family member, a counselor. You might also be an emotional martyr and suffer in silence.

The reason I asked this particular question, and thought this particular thought, was that a psychologist had written an article on the factors behind a successful marriage, and her main point was that love was really the first thing to die in the arse after tying the knot — so it was not worth basing your marriage on. Things like shared goals, personal compatibility, mutual respect were much more important to a successful marriage. And although I believe in these other things that she was pointing out, it just made me think, what was the point of love then?


And not just as some bullshit evolutionary psychological explanation for pair-bonding, child-rearing, blah blah blah. That’s something I’m sick of hearing about; a boring explanation, and maybe the truth, but still very tedious. If you couldn’t base your relationship or marriage on love, then what is the point of it?

Love, to my mind, is not just an attachment, something that has grown out of some childhood template of your relationship with your parents. Love is something that includes all the important things: care, compassion, empathy, respect, the gentler qualities, as well as infatuation and attraction, desire and lust — the more exciting ones! Love wraps up all of these things and lodges them somewhere safely in your heart, and the person you see in front of you gets to embody all of these great things.

Love is definitely not a measurable thing like a movie, where you can collate a million facts around it; and so it doesn’t have much of a life on the internet, outside of being a commercial commodity on dating websites. So Google has a hard time answering these kind of specific questions, because nobody is really writing answers to them. If a creative person has these concerns, then they are often saving them for a poem or a novel, something special; not to throw it away in the faceless, mindless winds of the internet, where it gets trampled on, and nobody values it much, because it is an unpaid of piece of work, not appraised by peers, or elevated up by a creative industry like publishing.

So where do we look?

The answer to these kinds of questions we often find in great books, movies and poems. We laugh at how Charles Bukowski ended up dating too many women at once and broke down in tears to one of them; we remember that Hamlet went off the rails and wasn’t able to form a decent relationship because he had too much crap going on with his parents; we recall how Ralph Fiennes fought his way across the desert in The English Patient and killed men with his bare hands, just so he could get back to the woman he loved.

We also find that there are a few words lodged in our heart from a favourite poem, that we remember at just the right time; and it gives us the courage to tell someone that we love them above all others.

When we read something that is similar to our own life, or identify with the writer as a friend or mentor, then we begin to feel better about our own life, and we find a few of these answers we might be looking for.

Not all of them.

But some of them; and hopefully the good ones.


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