“Our stories, Wade’s and mine, describe the lives of boys and men for thousands of years, boys who were beaten by their fathers, whose capacity for love and trust was crippled almost at birth and whose best hope, if any, for connection with other human beings lay in detachment…as if life were over. It’s how we keep from destroying in turn our own children and terrorizing the women who have the misfortune to love us; how we absent ourselves from the tradition of male violence; how we decline the seduction of revenge.” (From the film, “Affliction,” 1997.)
It’s definitely the right word.
Those of us who come from this “tradition” will go overboard to please others, overboard to care for others, to do for others. But we do this not out of love. We do this out of our best imitation of love, for we’ve never felt the real thing.
But then again, we have. Romantics to the end, we clutch desperately to a hazy, old, laughed-at image of a warm, limitless love that still sits soothingly within us, offering color to our hearts. Yet it is an image that is not based on any memory we can call to mind so we doubt it.
Nonetheless, we feel it deeply like the sensuality of two lovers sitting naked beside each other on a bed. Smiling, but not touching, yet feeling the magical magnetic pull. We know – somehow firsthand – that a mysterious force I sometimes refer to as Breath is always close to us. We just don’t know how to get “back” to it. Yet.
So we imitate love for now, hoping that going through the motions will somehow spark within us the capacity for real love. But it’s not love, and in our hearts we can feel that our actions are not genuine – we know we’re wearing a mask, holding back the emptiness, the sadness, the anger and the loneliness.
In the end, it’s just another form of detachment: if people see our actions as loving, then maybe they won’t look at us too closely.
Because if they did…
And could we handle that?