This week’s question: Is it better to have love and lost than to have never loved at all?
Perhaps “love” isn’t the right word. In any case, the closing of an intimate relationship is something many of us have faced and put behind us. But, for many of us, the memories still linger. Past girlfriends, past boyfriends, his hair, her eyes — whether or not these memories sit well with you is a complicated matter, but the way you guys broke up is likely a big hint. Was it concluded in a friendly manner with mutual understanding (and break-up sex to follow)? Or was it one ending in hurtful noise and belligerence, or perhaps coldness, indifference and deception? In painful break-ups, the real crime is done not against the lovers themselves, but against the cherished moments held between them. Good memories can become tainted and corrupted. This is serious, for where else do we look to find the value of our lives but the priceless memories life has left us?
Of course, not all our memories are priceless. There are those that are spectacular and life-changing, but there are also those that are simply “alright” and “meh.” And some memories are so unimportant as to never even be formed. Which among these is truly important? Which ones, on our death-beds, will float to consciousness first?
The link between what you can remember of your life and how you see yourself as a person is profound. It means as we live our lives, with each choice we make, we choose who we will become. This is especially true in relationships, a fact I think is much overlooked by some. Relationships take time. Like plants, they can grow and flourish with proper nourishment. But this means takes lots of energy, and lots of sacrifice on your part. Is it worth the person you may become? Maybe we should start asking ourselves if relationships are valuable for their own sake, or if what really matters is who your relationship is with.
Your time is sacred. Don’t allow it to be consumed in frivolity, idleness and stagnation. If you’re in a relationship, see to it that your time’s not wasted. Because it’s only better to have loved and lost if your love has made the two people you’ll become more beautiful.
Of course I think it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I also think it is better to have eaten a delicious B.L.T. once and then never again because, as an atheist, my perspective is that all we are is our genetic foundation and the sum of our experiences here on earth. Because there is nothing else coming, we had better make the most of what time we have. Something as important as falling in love cannot be passed up just because of potential, or even assured, heartache.
Most people, at some point, begin a relationship that is doomed to fail from day one. One person is moving across the country, one person is years older and graduating sooner or two people meet on a study abroad semester. I would even venture a guess that most relationships are not begun by two people who are planning to stay with each other for the rest of their lives.
I get so disappointed by people who look at the atheistic perspective and claim that not believing in god(s) makes you less empathetic, turns you into a nihilist or means that you don’t understand real love. An atheist in love has to make it up as he or she goes along; God hands the believer a script, one has only to act the part. Taking the “holy” out of matrimony changes one’s perspective on a relationship. Dan Savage, author of an advice column called “Savage Love” highlights the insanity of most people’s perspective on this very topic in his book, The Commitment. He points out that if a marriage lasts seventy happy years and then ends in divorce, the marriage “failed.” The only “successful” marriages are those that end in death, which is the grimmest and least romantic concept I can imagine.
If two people are married and in love for one, five, ten or fifty years and then get divorced, that is a successful marriage in my eyes. If I am in a relationship that makes both of us happy but only lasts a month, that is a resounding success. So love, and lose and love again. To run from love because of the emotional consequences is beyond foolish, it is cowardly.
Connor Oakes is a fourth-year political science major.