There is no Cupid
"A man of self-esteem, a man in love with himself and with life, feels an intense need to find human beings he can admire - and a spiritual equal he can love." - Ayn Rand
Most people will try to tell you it's an emotion from the gods, a magical, mysterious force in our lives that propels us in myriad different directions and makes fools of us once we're in its grasp. No one can explain it, or understand it, people will say. You just feel it, it simply overtakes you, there is no reason behind it. You certainly don't look too closely at who love decides to pair you up with...love, like justice, is blind. To understand it would ruin the fun. We're not even supposed to question why it fails or "dies" as some people say, as if it were a living being we have to nurture and protect.
The ancient Greeks and Romans had a god for this kind of thing, a chubby little winged child named Cupid or Eros, who would let fly his quiver of arrows and render all those he hit hopelessly in love. We have adopted this idea gladly, it seems, choosing to believe that love is nothing more than a heavenly arrow through the heart, aimed at us by the unknown, shot for no particular reason, piercing also the heart of a perfect stranger who won't mean anything to us in a few years.
Other ancient legends, such as the Welsh Tristram and Iseult, feature love potions that, when consumed by two people, bond them together in undying love for life. And to a lesser degree most of our fairy tales work on the premise that if a prince and princess are beautiful, they will naturally love each other forever. That's the reason for the title of this web site...fairy tales always end with the royal couple riding off into the sunset with the words "And they lived happily ever after..." but no one has ever said how that's supposed to happen, or why.
I maintain that love is caused by something, is maintained by something, and its end, if it comes, is the result of something. It is based on a rational, reasonable response to the values of another person, values that you cherish in yourself.
We hear a lot about values. Political candidates talk about "family values", religious people talk about Christian values and the lack of them in our society... but does anyone really know what the word means, in real terms?
Think about the meaning of the word. Value. A value is something good. What do you find good in your life, what is it that you hold sacred or dear, what makes life worth living for you? Morality is how you achieve these things, the methods by which you go about achieving your values.
How do you feel about money, for example? Do you think being wealthy is a good thing? Money may be a value to you. But how do you go about getting it? Do you rob banks or do you take a job and earn your money? Do you accept government handouts or do you support yourself, proudly, through your own effort? Would you stoop in the street to pick up a twenty or would you rather earn that twenty by using your skills and talents in life?
Money, and how you feel about it, is only one value in life. There are many, many others. Do you believe that human beings are good, glorious and creative beings, or do you believe, as most religions do, that mankind is a scourge on the planet and that each man ought to spend his life in repentance for the sin of being human? Do you believe sex between happy adults is disgusting, immoral, and shameful or do you see it as one of the most joyous expressions of love and delight we humans have? Do you believe a person ought to think for himself and determine his own philosophy in life by the rational exercise of his greatest asset, his mind, or do you believe that man ought to be guided by the mystical, the otherworldly, the supernatural? Do you believe that men ought to be completely free to live their lives and make their own success, as in laissez-faire capitalism, or do you believe that everyone should be equally poor and spiritless, chained to each other for the sake of each other, as in communism and socialism?
Politics, you say. What does that have to do with love?
Forget the Cosmo compatibility quizzes that ask you whether you and your partner agree on what color condoms to use, the questions you ought to ask your potential mate are the ones outlined above. Find out what principles are important to you, on a fundamental level, and make sure the person you love believes the same things, or at least thinks enough to debate the issues with you rationally.
It is more than politics, of course. What is your sense of life? Do you enjoy life, do you hang on to optimism and determination even in light of difficulties? Do you admire those with talent or beauty or skill, even if you don't possess those things yourself? Do you admire people who work hard, who use their creativity, who have ambition in life? When you think of the sixties, do you admire the drugged out hippies wallowing in mud or do you admire the men who built rockets to the moon? If you love life, love man as a superlative creature, and want good, honest, valuable things in your life as the result of hard work, determination, and the willingness to think, then your sense of life will insist that you find those same qualities in a marriage partner. And if you follow your greatest passion in life, if you pursue this occupation with all your energy, more than likely it will lead you to the kind of person you can admire, respect, and perhaps eventually love. It will allow you to recognize that person when you see him, to know that these are the values you know a person will have to possess in order for you to be happy.
Believing that love isn't caused by anything, that it is magical and mystical and can land on anyone indiscriminately like an arrow from Cupid's bow is insulting to the people you love. It says "I am with you because of random chance, because of some benevolence on the part of God. I could have easily been fated to someone else, it doesn't matter who."
It says "I don't care if we are diametrically opposed in our politics, our beliefs, our values, I don't care if we'll fight like cats and dogs because we disagree on everything that's important, I don't care if you are the kind of person whose actions and attitudes are offensive to me...I love you."
This attitude is practically enshrined in our culture. One of the worst examples I've heard lately is a song by the Backstreet Boys, called "As Long as You Love Me", the sappy lyrics of which declare "I don't care who you are/ where you've been/don't care you what you did/ As long as you love me." This is supposed to endear them to young girls, this idea of unconditional love...based on completely ignoring every single important thing about them.
Would you really want the love of someone who believes that their feelings for you are utterly beyond their control, that love was dropped on them whether they wanted it or not, and that it can be just as easily removed on the same magical whim that put it in the first place?
No wonder people live their lives in fear of commitment, marriage, lifelong love. Nobody knows what the hell it is or whether they can count on it all. The most we are taught, as children, is that love is a nice thing but entirely subjective, that it means different things to different people, and that to expect to be in love forever is childish and unrealistic. Given that, as children, we often see the tired and loveless marriages of our parents, their extra marital affairs, and their divorces, it's little wonder we grow up skeptical and far too cautious about love.
It doesn't have to be that way. Marriage can be the best romantic adventure of your life, it can provide the ultimate in friendship, companionship, creative partnership, and sex; all it requires is that you respect it for what it is, and that you carefully choose the person with whom you enter into it.
If you marry only the person whom you most admire, who challenges your mind, soothes your soul, excites your body, and warms your heart, lifelong commitment becomes a joy, not a hindrance, and something you'll be more than happy to do.