Chapter 33 A Story of Love
Image used by kind permission of Eduard Shruster
Please note that for a while this first section is repeated from Chapter 32 to help with those starting with this chapter.
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 1 – 1941 – Riga Train Station
My father was the youngest of five. Bettie was the eldest, she stood with a straight back, would look anyone in the eye when they spoke, and had an inner strength about her. Then there was Rue, acting responsibly was his guiding principle, no doubt a reaction to his father’s failure to do so. He would eventually become a successful businessman and world class long distance desert runner. Battiya was the middle child. She had eyes full of sadness, but still, there was a fortitude in her weakness. After her came her two brothers, Eliezer, the artist, and then my father, Boris. Boris and Battiya were opposites in their approach to life and personalities, but they were very close.
Moshe was from the same hometown as Boris and his siblings. He was one of the few people who’d beaten my father in a fight. Boris was always quick to remind me that they were “just kids then, and anyway, Moshe was older and had cheated by using a stone to bash me into submission”. When it comes to childhood fights it’s hard to forget the ones we lose. Moshe and Battiya had known each other since their early childhood often sitting next to each other in their classes in Rēzekne. As they grew up they lost contact but in their early twenties, in a social club for young Jewish people in Riga, they reconnected and later, fell in love.
By 1941 World War 2 had engulfed much of the world. Riga was just about to become one of the latest flash points between Germany and Russia. The encroaching threat of death posed by the Nazis focused the minds, and hearts, of all those who lay in its path. This wasn’t the best of times to get married, but for Moshe and Battiya, the perilous nature of their existence tilted the balance, so, with just her sister, Bettie, and a couple of friends they made their vows and became husband and wife.
Barely a week after the ceremony the Soviet authorities ordered them to relocate to Siberia. The German army was just days away from occupying the city, and the future was terrifying for all the Jews who remained. Siberia was known an ice filled version of Hell, but to anyone trapped in Riga it was a Godsend.
With just one hour’s notice to get to the station, Moshe and Battiya packed whatever essentials they could. What becomes essential when you’re only allowed to take one small case each? If you had to make that choice right now, what would you choose?
For their wedding, Bettie had given them a set of 3 small matching cases. Grabbing them, Battiya packed warm clothes into one, while Moshe crammed money, valuables, paperwork, and a couple of tools for work into the other. After one last check Moshe picked up his case, then went to pick up Battiya’s.
“No,” she said, “It’s ok, I’ll carry mine,” she picked it up “and anyway, it’s light, see?”
“Yes, I know, you’re a lot stronger than you look” Moshe said smiling.
They hurriedly left their tiny apartment then made their way to the station.
As the last train out of Riga prepared for the journey ahead, they stood side by side in the queue on the platform. Battiya half knelt to double check her case.
“Oh no” she said looking up at Moshe. She opened the case wider so he could see that it was filled with scarves and handkerchiefs. Somehow the cases had got mixed up.
“I thought you’d put the ones we were taking together?” She said.
“I just grabbed the case nearest the door in the bedroom and put it in the hallway”
“No I told you, the one I packed was on the bed!”
“I didn’t see it, I thought you said it was in the bedroom. I just grabbed the one nearest the door”
There was a moment while they were tempted to continue blaming each other, then Battiya looked down at the case and cried.
“Please Moshe, run back and fetch it”
“I can’t. We’ll miss the train and they said there won’t be another after this one”
She looked at him in disbelief. “Of course there’ll be another. We are going to die without our winter clothes. You have to get them.”
Moshe crouched beside her, he wanted to console her but his anger was getting the better of him. “We’ll be ok, it won’t be that cold for months. I’ll make sure we get some winter clothes before then.”
She could hear the reassurance she yearned to hear in the words he said, but she couldn’t feel it in their tone. They both went quiet, looked away from each other and literally bit their lips.
“I can’t believe this” she said
“Don’t worry, I’ll deal with it somehow”
Under her breath Battiya said “Don’t worry he says”
Moshe was just about to approach one of the guards to ask if he had time to get the other case when the same guard pointed at them, “Hey, you two, yes you, quickly, it’s time, get on”. They stood up and walked towards a carriage, the guard barked at them to hurry up. Moshe helped Battiya up the steps first, a man inside reached down to help her, then he passed the cases up. As Moshe grabbed the step rail the man pulled him up too. Slightly out of breath Moshe smiled, put his hand on the man’s shoulder, then thanked him. Moshe looked at Battiya, there was something unnerving about this act of gallantry.
Above the sound of the train preparing to set off came the screeching sound of a plane approaching at speed. Those still queueing on the platform ran for cover. Moshe and Battiya were still in the doorway. They were not paralysed by fear but instead entered a different dimension of time. Everything moved at a tenth of normal speed. Moshe pulled Battiya towards him and turned her as if they were dancing, he wanted his back to face the platform hoping this might offer her some protection.
A rally of bullets ricocheted nearby as the pilot tried his best to disable the train. A couple of Red Army guards on the platform shot back, while the train driver released as much steam as possible in a futile attempt to create a cover. The pilot flew off into the distance, there was a moment of relief, until he turned around and approached once more.
* * *
The ideology of Love Part 1 – There’s more to love than eye meets I.
“What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons” – Don Draper – Mad Men
‘Love is All You Need’ – The Beatles
Ok, that’s enough cynicism for now, but don’t worry, there’ll be plenty more later.
The problem with a subject as far-reaching and deep as ‘Love’, is no matter how much I write I won’t be able to do it justice. So, please forgive me if I don’t cover areas you think should be included, hopefully though, I will give the subject an outline, even if it’s with very broad strokes. Throughout these sections on love I’ll be referring to ‘Idealistic Love’. This is mainly based on the writings of Aristotle and Eric Fromm. In contrast, I’ll be using the term ‘Romantic Love’ to loosely refer to various contemporary notions about love that are extremely widespread in most Western cultures.
My life, and probably yours too, has been profoundly entwined with many aspects of love, even if, at times, it was the lack of it. Chuck Spezzano, the author of numerous books on this subject, states that nearly everything we do can be traced back to a desire to be loved, even acts of hate. Given love is so pervasive, it feels as if it’s solely borne of instinct, but it’s not.
Ideologies of love not only affect the circumstance in which we experience love, but they change the nature of how we experience it too. Different generations, cultures and countries all vary in their approach to love, especially when it comes to who’s considered desirable, how people become involved with each other, and the prescribed paths that relationships ought to follow. However, it goes a lot deeper than that.
If, for instance, we consider sex as being one of the many ways that love is expressed and experienced, then how open a society is to it, will have a profound effect on its citizens. The Japanese have penis festivals in which people of all ages dress up in penis costumes, and suck and lick penis shaped ice lollies and sweets. For the Japanese, there is far less guilt, shame and taboos associated with sex, however, paradoxically they’re also a far less sexually active society than many others around the world. Maybe it’s a case of forbidden fruit accentuating sexual desire in those more inhibited but sexually active countries.
In many Western, so called, liberal cultures an erect penis is taboo and at the time of writing this in 2021 it was still against the rules for an aroused penis to be shown on television in the UK. That might partly be because less than well-endowed men don’t want women to see what they’re missing, but it may also link in to our society’s unbalanced focus on male sexual needs ahead of women’s. In contrast, the overt focus on women’s breasts in most Western societies not only echoes this disparity, but also connects sex to our more child-like feelings of being at one with another human. Women’s breasts have been a powerful multilevel symbol in most cultures throughout history, but then so too have male phallic symbols. So, why have things become so unbalanced? Ideologies around sex and love connect to the heart of our society’s deepest issues, as they do our own individual ones too.
At one end of the spectrum some cultures see sex as being solely for procreation, at the other, sexual experiences are the be all and end all. For some, good sex will bring about a more harmonious relationship, for others a good relationship will allow for better sex. And of course, many think it’s a bit of both. In some Chinese cultures in the past matchmakers would examine people’s facial features to work out what size their genitals were. They would then match couples based on that, figuring that good sex would create good relationships. Given this method is not a popular feature on most dating websites nowadays suggests it’s probably a load of bollocks.
Beyond basic human nature and cultural influences there are people’s more individual motivations, often tied up with their own personal history and psychological dynamics. So, it’s no wonder the range of sexual persuasions tends to be far broader than most of us could possibly imagine.
When it comes to assessing whether some ideologies are better than others, a lot comes down to the values of the assessor. For many people, what matters is whether those doctrines make people happy, but even happiness means different things to different people. For others, happiness might not be an important factor at all. They may, for example, make their judgement based on the effect relationships have on others, such as children or the wider circles of society. Alternatively, others might go for a Utilitarian approach, where a balance of the most pleasure is set against the least suffering. Then there may be some who see the survival of their ‘group’ identity as the main principle. So, not only do we have different ideologies, there are countless ways of judging them. Perhaps this is why people tend to feel so ill at ease when it comes to dealing with this ‘challenging’ subject.
* * *
I was having a cuppa with a friend of mine, Joe, a few weeks ago. We were talking about how most of the very famous rock legends probably had sex with girls who were technically underage. Then Joe said.
“Elvis was supposed to be a bit of a paedophile, wasn’t he?”
There was silence for a second. “Really?” I said “I’ve never heard that before.”
Joe nodded his head as if he’d just scored a point “Well didn’t he go out with a 14-year-old girl when he was 24?”
I laughed. “That doesn’t make him a paedophile. First, she wasn’t prepubescent and secondly Priscilla has always maintained they didn’t have sex until she was 21. And even if they did, then that would have been statutory rape, depending on that State’s laws. But” I paused in anger at such an accusation, then added, “that’s still not the same as paedophilia.”
“Yeah, but they shared a bed from when she was 14, do you really believe they didn’t get up to stuff” Again Joe had a victorious look on his face.
“Back then and even now loads of US States don’t specify an age limit for marriage and apparently, more children under 14 are being married nowadays than back in Elvis’ day.”
Joe’s mouth turned down at the corners a little “Really, I’m surprised to hear that”
There’s a bit of a change in the mood so I say “Yeah, there’s a drive to stop it, but it’s an uphill battle.”
He’s still looking serious “Do you not think 14 is a bit young to be getting married?”
I say “Personally I don’t think people should be allowed to get married until they’re 21 at the very least.”
Joe laughs “Why do you say that?”
I laugh too. “Because they’re idiots, we all were, even at 21, maybe 32 would be a safer age.”
Then we both look at each other and nodding our heads say in unison “No, still too young.”
While we’ve been talking, I’ve looked up Google about this issue on my phone. I start reading “Younger brides tend to lose out in terms of their education, physical and mental health, as well as being more likely to live in poverty and become victims of sexual, physical and mental abuse.” I took a big breath and looked up at Joe. “So yeah, I agree with you. But I’m not accepting that Elvis was a paedophile.”
I call out to my smart speaker “Alexa, play “Baby let’s play house by Elvis Presley”.
* * *
Hopefully you’re getting the gist of what I’m on about in terms of ideologies affecting our approach to love. One of the ones I find particularly good at illustrating this is the notion of soulmates. I’ll come back to this idea in more detail later, but if you consider how the belief that only one person will be right for you, and how that belief will affect your relationships. Especially in terms of becoming intolerant of anyone who doesn’t seem to fit perfectly, or conversely, not being able to move on from someone you lost who you thought was your soulmate. It’s easy to see how much influence such a belief can have on your destiny.
Given the complexity of the subject as well as all the philosophical opinions accumulated over the last 4 millennia, you’d think our societies would have made the subject of love part of the school curriculum by now. Sure, there’s sex education, but paradoxically, ideologies of love are far more contentious than sexual ones.
On some levels this lack of ‘training’ could be part of an ideology of love too, after all people don’t normally hesitate when it comes to laying down social rules. Yet, outside of most of the romantic illusions coming out of Hollywood, most people keep very quiet on the subject, unless they’re religious, in which case they have their own set of, often contrived, rules too. My point is no one has come up with a clearly defined and realistic approach to love. Some may say they have, but they haven’t. Even for those who manage to strike lucky, and there will be some, there may be times when they feel like the ideology they believe in doesn’t quite ring true.
If love is as dark as I portray it, you might wonder why people search it out in the first place. The answer lies in the alternatives. Without love and connection there’s isolation and loneliness, and even without those negative motivations we’re programmed to connect, even if it’s just to mate, let alone be intimate. And of course, normally those who don’t realise how serious and dangerous love is, do find out eventually, only by then, it’s too late. It’s then they realise all those happy ever afters might, on balance, not be true after all.
Even without social conditioning, from the moment we’re born we have preverbal expectations about the love between ourselves and our parents. More so possibly, when it’s absent. Later our feelings and thoughts about love become extremely complicated, especially as we become more independent from our parents. At that point many of us go out into the world, with scarcely any education about love, left to fend for ourselves, and through trial and error we must try to find our way.
At 17 I was full of ideas about love but I soon realised there was a mismatch between what I’d come to believe and ‘reality’. This led me to ask, if these beliefs are so unrealistic why are they perpetuated so widely, and are there any others which are better? I looked in books, and philosophical and religious texts, but most of what I came across didn’t ring true to me whatsoever. Even years later I felt just as lost, but by then I had accepted the complexity of the situation. After all, humans vary so much that trying to apply a one size fits all doctrine is never going to work.
The first stage of determining an ideology’s veracity involves testing it against our more irrational, primeval and dreamy sides. Whether it’s anarchy or no sex before marriage, human nature is going to be a, if not THE, major factor when it comes to determining an ideology’s success. For those of us with any experience of human nature, the odds, and our expectations are going to be very low.
Ironically, many traditional and religiously based approaches to love are fixated on these irrational parts of us too. They probably know what we do, so, predictably, their aim is primarily set on forcing people to avoid being tempted by their desires, especially for sex and romantic connection.
While they have a point, the consequences of such dogmatic approaches tend to result in firstly, some people avoiding the restrictions, and secondly, some of those who do follow the rules, finding they are unable to connect with their prospective partner in any depth. Connection for some people requires the glue of passion, without it, it’s merely a lip service, and without that bond, their passionless relationships may lead to depression or the motivation to seek out what is missing elsewhere.
It’s not surprising these opposing approaches exist, after all human nature is contradictory. On many levels, we are animalistic, reacting to molecules we can neither see nor smell, and driven by hormones aimed to do what all lifeforms do, pass on our genes. At the same time, though, we have other desires to consider. We may want someone we can share our life with, who we not only like being with, but with whom we share similar aspirations and values.
At one end of the argument there’s the belief that suppressing our natural inclinations causes more harm than not doing so, while at the other, is the conviction that clamping down on these feelings prevents even greater suffering.
* * *
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 2 – Visit to Riga
When Battiya was about three her brother, Eliezer, was born. Soon after his arrival her father, Shmuel (Samuel), my grandfather, told her they were going to go to Riga to visit her aunt. She hadn’t been to a city before, so felt very honoured to be joining her father on such an important undertaking. The train journey from Rēzekne to Riga took around 12 hours, so by the time they got there it was already evening. Her aunt, who was very pleased to see them both, made some supper then put Battiya to bed.
The following morning, Battiya came down to breakfast, but only her aunt was sitting at the table. Battiya asked where her father was. Her aunt told her he’d had to go back home urgently and would return in a few days, but as the weeks passed Battiya realised she’d been abandoned there.
It would be 5 years before she would see her immediate family again and when she did, she politely accepted her parent’s reasons, that they couldn’t afford to look after her, but in her heart, it was beyond her as to how they could have done such a thing to a child. This betrayal cracked her to the core.
Maybe it was a coincidence that Moshe (Moses) was the name of the man Battiya chose to marry as it was also her father’s middle name too.
* * *
Ideologies of Love Part 2 – A Serious Affair
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to
Though the sword hidden among his
pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
From On Love – The Prophet
I’m going to spend a bit of time looking at some of the idealistic and pragmatic ideologies of love, especially those, as I mentioned earlier, set out by Aristotle and Eric Fromm. However, just like most other ideologies about human behaviour things start to go awry as soon as humans get involved, no matter how well considered these theories are. There’s an old joke that goes, there are 3 wedding rings, the engagement ring, the wedding ring and the suffering. That wouldn’t be funny if it didn’t strike a chord of truth.
Most people accept that the Nazis caused WW2 which killed close to 85 million people, Communism was responsible for over 100 million deaths, and Capitalism at least 100 million. Meanwhile, religions are said to have killed over 195 million people throughout recorded history. All those numbers are debatable but they should provide some perspective when we ask ourselves how many people have died because of ideologies of love?
If we consider the collateral damage caused by depression due to rejection, abuse, forced marriages, not being with the right person, or parents who are unhappily together or apart, the numbers will be very high indeed. Then, of course, we can add the victims of direct killings and injuries caused by things like jealousy, humiliation, and betrayal. When it comes to ideologies of love, it’s a far more serious affair than we were first led to believe.
It’s no accident that the word mad is linked to romantic desire. Antony and Cleopatra, and Romeo and Juliet, are held up as the epitome of romantic love, but given their tragic endings you’d think people would see this as a warning not something to aspire to. The ancient Greeks saw romantic love as something to avoid, in fact they feared it. When it comes to romantic love there’s an implication that it involves extreme behaviour, and sure enough people have committed the most horrific crimes in the name of love. Vengeance and murder being some of the more popular. Killing someone out of love is not an example of ‘loving too much’ but instead of love going wrong when combined with absolutism and extremism are the guiding values, rather than conciliation and accommodation.
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 3 – Riga Station 1941
In the seconds the plane approached Battiya felt Moshe’s arms tightly wrap around her, his chest against her back, shielding her as best he could. Somewhere in this grip there was a re-assurance of love. Had this been her last moment, then it would have been the one she would have chosen.
As the plane flew away the first time, they checked each other for wounds, there weren’t any. Then as it approached again, they moved in to the carriage, Battiya curled in a ball in front of the only available seats, and Moshe positioned himself over her, pulling their cases over both their heads for protection.
“See, it’s not so useless after all?” he joked.
She laughed, shook in fear and cried as they waited for the plane to do its worst. As it approached again the ground and carriage shook violently, then there was silence.
* * *
Ideologies of Love Part 3 – Just one word – Love
For the ancient Greeks romantic/erotic obsession was one of several clearly defined forms of love. For us though, here in 21st Century Western cultures, the word ‘love’ has so vague a meaning that most of us can’t define it, let alone categorise its many different forms. However, the reason we use just one word is a story in itself.
For the Greeks and Romans there were 6 main categories of love. There was Eros, the Greek god of love and fertility who they perceived as a dangerous, irrational influence centred around sexual passion and desire. For those who entered Eros’ realm, no one could come out unscathed by his deeply wounding arrows.
In contrast to Eros was Pragma. This involved the deep understanding that could develop between long-term married couples, but required, as we shall come to see, selfless love. Pragma was principally focused on making a relationship work long term, which involved compromise, patience, tolerance, and having realistic beliefs about one’s partner. It also required supporting each other’s needs, and was chiefly motivated around providing stability and a secure environment for children to grow up in. Although the Greeks were very interested in the other forms of love such as brotherly love, true friendships and the love between parents and children, the other ones I want to focus on here are ‘Agape’,’ Ludud’ and ‘Philautia’.
Agape could be described as a love for all human beings, no matter what their connection to us is. It relates in part to our idea of charity, (in its purest sense), and is very much the backbone of ideologies such as socialism, and religions such as Christianity, Buddhism and Confucianism. Primarily it’s unconditional love given without expectation of reward. However, as we will see later, being altruistic still offers rewards of sorts, including acting as an antidote to our more selfish desires to be loved.
While the types of love we’ve looked at so far have a gravity about them ‘Ludud’ could be said to be the love of the lightness of being. It’s a playful love, that may, for instance, involve having fun with friends, courtly rituals, flirting, and dancing. Although it’s a love of very little substance its purpose is to help us get through the tedium of life.
The last of the three is self-love, ‘Philautia’, and comes in two forms, a negative and positive one. Selfish desires to gain personal pleasures, riches and status, that make us incapable of loving others, defines the negative version and in a way, it is the true opposite of ‘Agape’. In contrast, while it may be difficult to imagine that loving oneself could ever be a positive thing, by learning to understand and care for ourselves we not become more equipped to help others, but we can empathise with them more deeply. An example of this can be found in the tale about St. Martin, a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity after encountering a half-naked beggar. St. Martin cut his cloak in half and shared one half with the beggar, who appeared to him later in a dream and revealed himself to be Christ. The point being that he identified both the beggar and himself as having equal need.
So, if over 2500 years ago humans already recognised and separated love into different categories, why do we only use one word for it now?
Before trying to answer this it’s important to recognise that when we talk about past cultural norms, we keep in mind that they were not as clearly defined as historians portray them to be now. There were large swathes of people in Europe who lived very separate lives to the higher echelons. For those without property, there was rarely any need for arranged marriages, so for them, marriage, love and sex did not necessarily follow the same rules as the middle and aristocratic classes. To think for one second that people back then didn’t kiss passionately, marry for love, fall in and out of love, and have extremely diverse types of relationships would be highly inaccurate. Anyone who’s read Chaucer would know he had quite a bit to say on the subject. Likewise, it didn’t take the distribution of ancient Chinese, Indian, Greek, or Roman images of sexual positions for people to find their own way around each other’s bodies. Just as it is for us, there are common consensuses about love, as well as other more peripheral ones too. The same could be said about most periods throughout history. Therefore, when we speak about cultural norms it’s important we remember they are not the only ones that existed at any given time.
The reason I mention this is I came across a lot of misinformation as I researched this subject, most of it seemingly directed by current political agendas. This included the belief that Europeans lived awful lives until foreigners showed them what they were missing out on. Somehow, according to one writer, Europeans didn’t even know how to kiss passionately until Arab invaders from Spain gave them the kiss of life. The fact that passionate kissing had been written about in Europe for thousands of years previously must have slipped that writer’s mind. My point is, don’t believe everything you read, unless, of course, I wrote it.
So, let’s have a brief look at how Western cultures came to amalgamate all those different types of love into one word. Our story, and it is a story, possibly begins with a thousand tales around 1000 years ago. The Arabian Nights, promoted the idea of love combining the passion of Eros with the fusion of the lovers’ souls, and even if it wasn’t the first to do this, these notions possibly travelled from Spain to other European royal courts, where it affected attitudes about ‘Courtly Love’.
During this period Eros was present in the passion a man directed towards the object of his desire, but Agape was also added to the proceedings, manifesting themselves most evidently within the rituals of gallantry, chivalry, and heroic deeds. The object of the man’s attention would normally be a member of the aristocracy, however, one of the most surprising rules was that she was never to be his wife or a possible future one. Back then, marriage within courtly circles was primarily concerned with allegiances, property and power, so mixing up love and marriage was not viewed as a good combination.
For those involved in these Courtly rituals the relationships were supposed to remain chaste. Whether the ‘object’ of desire was of a higher social rank or was only to be revered
from a distance, the intended result was a yearning that heightened the passion and eroticism of the situation. Maybe it was the thrill of the chase, or was it the thrill of the chaste? Nowadays, unrequited love is still a major factor within our romantic narratives. Why suffer settling for someone you can have when you can suffer far more by yearning for someone you can’t. For many people the sweet pain of romance is what it’s all about, no matter how much they say otherwise.
During the 17th Century marriages within the middle and upper classes started to evolve from being principally pragmatic relationships focused on bringing up the next generation, to ones in which both the husband and wife not only introduced companionship (a form of philia) but Eros too. Sex was no longer simply an act of procreation but also a place in which couples could share in the pleasures of each other’s flesh and heart. On the surface this may seem a happy turn of events, but men still kept much of their erotic life away from the marital home, so let’s not get too weepy eyed just yet.
Between 1800 and 1850 The Romantic movement was at its peak. During this time the importance of Eros, Philautia and Ludus were incorporated into romantic pursuits. Three central themes dominated the depiction true love. The protagonist would fall ‘madly’ in love, the love should be unrequited, and as a consequence it would lead to a tragic end. Nothing new you might say, after all Shakespeare had written Romeo and Juliet centuries earlier, but still Goethe, Shelley, and Keats all based much of their work on these narratives.
Whilst these writers had approached these themes as a warning, this explosion of tragic Romantic art and writing resulted in thousands of people playing out these roles, and subsequently committing suicide. What’s more, even today, we are still peddling the same storylines as the embodiment of true love, often with similar results. When I came across Dire Strait’s ‘Rome and Juliet’ in 1982 I was captivated by the elusive connection portrayed in it, as were millions of others who heard it, and even now it touches parts of me only too willing to become a love struck Romeo.
What both the Greeks and The Romantics tried to point out was that being led by Eros often results in madness, destruction and unhappiness, yet still we take no heed. Add to this our obsession with finding a soulmate, which is paradoxical given our society has detached itself so much from religion, and it’s no wonder that love and mental ill-health go together like a horse and marriage.
Here we are, armed with one word, very little education about love, a pout, a narcissistic selfie and an expectation that we can find everything we need in just one person. What could possibly go wrong?
* * *
“Mummy, what’ll happen when I get married, will I live happily ever after?”
“Oh little one, well, there will be some good times, at least I hope so. But…” she sighs “there might be lots of arguments, jealousy, rubbish sex, depression, drinking and infidelity”
“Really, mummy, are you joking mummy?”
“Well for some people it’s a lot better. Or so I’ve been told. Here’s a tissue, come on cuddle up to mummy. Aww, darling, come on now, there’s no need to cry, well not yet. You know what sweetheart I’m sure you’re going to live happily ever after.”
“Fuck that I’m joining a monastery”
“Oh well, at least you’ll get more sex there.”
* * *
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 4 – Enemies of the People
A few months before Battiya and Moshe were ordered to evacuate from Riga, around 15,500 ‘Enemies of The Soviet State’, including 2400 children, were forcibly deported from Latvia to Siberia. These deportees were predominantly made up of the families of people in leading positions in the government, economy and culture. The same railroad carts that had transported those families were now attached to the back of the passenger carriages of Moshe and Battiya’s train. This time they were filled with materials destined to be used for those on the front lines as well as a lot of desperate passengers who’d paid the guards bribes to allow them on unofficially.
* * *
Once everyone was on board it became clear that even if this wasn’t the last train out of Riga, everyone believed it was. All the seats were taken, the aisles were full of people and those unofficial passengers in the cattle trucks, they made very little effort to conceal their presence.
* * *
As the Germans approached, the divisions in Latvian society between the Jews and non-Jews became abundantly clear. Even though no one had any idea what the Germans’ had in store for them, the Nazi’s imminent conquest was seen as a liberation by most Latvians. As far as they were concerned the Nazis were going to push the Russians out and for the Latvians that couldn’t come soon enough. But, for the Jews, Gypsies, those with Jewish spouses, and communists, it was a different story.
* * *
The main Nazi plan, known as the Generalplan Ost, was to colonise the conquered territories of the Baltic states and deport two thirds of the native population to labour camps. As for the remaining third, they were either to be liquidated, used as slave labour, or if deemed sufficiently “Aryan”, Germanized. After this, hundreds of thousands of German settlers were to be moved into the area.
During a conference on 16 July 1941, Hitler clarified that the Baltic states were to be annexed to Germany at the earliest possible opportunity. With this in mind, some Nazi ideologists recommended integrating the Baltics as German provinces, titling Estonia as Peipusland and Latvia as Dünaland.
Had the non-Jewish Latvians known about this they might have been far less inclined to see the Nazis as their liberators. Instead, not only did they relish the Nazi’s occupation, they tried their very best to out-Nazi the Nazis, especially when it came to brutally persecuting and killing their Jewish countrymen and women.
Antisemitism wasn’t a unique characteristic of the Latvians, most of Europe had deeply held anti-Semitic views and had done so for centuries, however when it came to acting on those beliefs the Baltic states excelled, and even after the war, it didn’t end there.
1995 – Café in London
I went in to a café in a side road near West Kensington Station in London, where I ordered an English breakfast. I was by myself and didn’t speak to anyone except the waiter. I got out a book and became a part of the background.
There was a collection of people of different nationalities on another table near me who started to speak about Jews unfavourably. They openly made it clear that they thought that Jews were the dirty descendants of pigs, that they controlled the world, Wall Street, Hollywood, the Central Banks, the Media and Governments. There was no discussion about Israel, it was just plain anti-Semitism. At the time, I couldn’t believe the vitriol that was pouring from them, but a year or so later the Internet became a much bigger part of my life and such hatred became something I’d witness on an almost daily basis.
* * *
Ideologies of Love Part 4 – Broken Hearts
After all the millennia that humans have been evolving, one would hope that natural selection would have made us far better equipped to have happy life-long relationships. Unfortunately, evolution was only concerned with us breeding and surviving. As far as natural selection goes happiness is an irrelevance unless it affects our survival, and given hope springs eternal, it didn’t need to worry.
If sex tends to lie at the root of most of the crimes against ideologies of love, then we are victims of our own success. Even between couples who are bumping (and grinding) along quite nicely, sexual infidelity wreaks havoc at the most unexpected of times. If you reacted to that last sentence, thinking, ‘Well, there must have been something wrong for one of them to stray’ then maybe that indicates one of your own love related ideologies. You probably believe that when all is running well, neither party will go elsewhere. Unless, of course, one of them is psychologically damaged. But maybe that’s just it, maybe humans are generally emotionally broken. So, to be a good partner you’re going to have to be a good person, and for most people, it that’s even possible, it’s going to require a lot of work.
* * *
A friend of mine was having a drink with one of her friends. The friend had got a call a few years back from a woman informing her that her husband had been cheating on her. This was the catalyst that ended their marriage in divorce.
“You know,” she said, as she looked at the light glinting through her wine glass, “Sometimes I wish that woman hadn’t told me. I knew Pete might play around but as far as I was concerned, if no one knew about it, including me, I wouldn’t have cared.” She took a sip and swished the wine between her front teeth. “But once that woman called,” she paused for another sip, “the events that followed took on a life of their own. There was nothing I could do to stop it. Oh, God! It wasn’t as if I had been squeaky clean either, but at least I made sure he never found out. I regret that call far more than I do his infidelity.”
* * *
In therapy the issue of holding back before getting involved with someone came up a few times, especially during my 20’s (30’s and 40’s). There was one session where we ske about this and I might have misinterpreted what she said, that can happen a lot in therapy, but in my mind, she ‘seemed’ to be pushing for me to be more cautious. Of course, that was good advice, but I generally didn’t take it. “There’s a reason it’s called ‘Making Love’,” she said to me. “You can very easily create a strong bond even though you are totally unsuited to one another.” Maybe I wanted to bond with unsuitable people, even if the relationships were awful, the sex was good, well for a while, and the suffering was maybe exactly what my own internal doctor love ordered.
My therapist came from a different world, one where people formally dated, got engaged, married then had sex. Admittedly many people strayed from the approved path, both before and after marriage, but it was also an era where people stayed unhappily together forever and ever. So, as much as I could see the sense in waiting to get to know someone before jumping in to bed, where was the place in that ideology for someone like me who could, as Oscar Wilde so famously put it, ‘resist everything except temptation’.
Therapist: Do you think you’re split when it comes to relationships?
Simon: Kind of, even when I feel completely in love, I still have desires for others too.
Therapist: Do you think being tempted to stray has anything to do with your childhood?
Simon: Probably, but aren’t we all a bit split?
Therapist: Have you read Faust?
Therapist: Faust is a fictional character in a play by Goethe, one of the things he says might strike a chord with you.
Simon: Oh, what’s that?
Therapist: “Two souls, alas, are dwelling in my breast. And one is striving to forsake its brother.” Do you understand what he meant?
Simon: I think so, he feels like he has different parts of himself that are at odds with each other.
Therapist: Yes, that’s basically it. But why are people, why are you split?
* * *
I don’t think my therapist meant me to leave that session feeling as if I was broken, but I did. In a way, I was, but I’m not sure how much control I could ever have had. Therapy would help me a lot, but my hormone level lowering as I got older had a significant effect too. Was I broken, or was the ideology of love that says don’t have sex with other people, itself broken? As sensible as that ideology was, it felt a bit unrealistic to me.
* * *
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 5 – Journey to Siberia – 1941
At around the same time that Battiya and Moshe’s train passed Rēzekne, Moshe’s parents tried to flee. As they approached the border between Latvia and Russia they were attacked by a German patrol plane, so, were forced to return home. Their next-door neighbour was less than pleased to see them come back. As soon as the Germans were entrenched in the region though he was very quick to inform the Nazi’s that they were Jewish. As a punishment for not surrendering themselves earlier, when all the local Jews were supposed to have, Moshe’s father was tied to a horse and dragged through the streets until only his legs and spine remained attached to the rope.
Moshe’s mother was taken to the forest where she was murdered out of sight. The neighbour who informed on them took Moshe’s family house for himself, and stayed there until the end of the war. Soon after, he sold the property and emigrated to Australia. After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was never any serious attempt by the Latvian government to find the descendants of those people whose property and lives had been stolen. As far as they were concerned this was just blood under the bridge.
* * *
The carriages were unbearably hot in the day, then freezing at night, the atmosphere suffocating, there was a pungent, nauseating smell of too many bodies in a closed in area, that was overpowering. Occasionally there was some respite when the train stopped at stations. During those times the passengers could alight for a short while to collect food rations and buy items from the locals who gathered on the platform to sell their wares. Rations only consisted of 100 grams of bread, a ladle of oily porridge, some tea and a canister of water. Getting extra provisions was essential for everyone’s survival.
On the platforms, the passengers would chat a little. Those in the cargo wagons spoke of etched graffiti all along the lower parts of the inside of their trucks. The names, ages and dates of death of those who’d died a few weeks back, along with pleas to remember them, adorned the walls. There were even descriptions of farewell notes being scattered along the full length of the journey. What they didn’t know, but probably surmised anyway, was very few of these ever reached their intended recipients. It would be years before it became known that 8500 of the men from those ‘enemies of the State’ families had been separated when the journey started, with nearly all of them being executed soon after.
Even though Moshe and Battiya’s carriage was nowhere near as insanitary or overcrowded as the cargo trucks, it didn’t take long for people to start dying. The first person to do so was a man in his 50’s. There was no sign that anything was wrong with him. On the third day, someone shook him to tell him that they’d stopped for their daily rations, but he didn’t react. Once people realised what had happened a short struggle ensued between a couple of men wanting to relieve the dead man of his clothing and valuables. As the train was at a standstill and the Soviet guards were nearby, it didn’t take long for them to intervene. The body was taken away with only his coat removed.
After the train set off, one of the men who’d helped break up the scuffle, Valdis, said loudly that next time someone died who didn’t have any family with them, their personal belongings and clothes should be removed and shared with those most in need. The people in the carriage murmured their opinions on the matter for a few minutes, then it went quiet again.
* * *
The places where people settled in the carriages was partly defined by their allegiances and friendships and partly by a lack of options. Or, for those who didn’t have any friends, it was just a gamble based on an initial feeling. In the first few hours, everyone assessed each other to a point, working out where was best to settle. But, once they’d taken their positions, that was it, that’s where they stayed for the rest of the journey.
Apart from the hostility of the squabble over the dead man’s clothes there was very little friction within the carriage, but that was more indicative of the widespread guarded isolation than a leaning towards peace. Outside of people taking turns to stand near the windows to breathe in fresh air, or people queuing patiently for the makeshift toilet near one of the exits, there was very little connection between strangers.
If this had been full of British or other Europeans you would have expected there to be plenty of folks playing cards, checkers or chess, even if they had to do it with makeshift boards and pieces. And when darkness fell, there’d be a lot of chatting, some music, singing and the telling of stories and jokes. But in this Soviet world even families couldn’t trust each other, let alone strangers.
Although everyone was aware that on a journey to or from Hell, acts of kindness could bring a touch of heaven to their world. On this train, in these lands, there was no room for heaven.
* * *
As the weeks progressed more deaths occurred, it was predominantly the elderly, very young or those who’d fallen sick from a lack of nutrition who succumbed. Valdis’ wishes for a fair redistribution of wealth went unheeded. For the most part, there were very few people who died who were completely alone, but when they did, those nearby quietly stripped the body of its clothes and belongings, then when the train stopped, the close to naked dead body would be removed by the guards and thrown in a cart.
* * *
Although Moshe and Battiya had brought the wrong case they did have all their money. This meant they could buy extra food and items of clothing from the platform sellers. About 20 days into the journey there was a two day stop-over at Kuibyshev. Those who could afford it took rooms in the local residents’ houses for the night. This gave them the chance to clean up, get a good night’s sleep and eat some cooked food. Moshe and Battiya stayed in a house belonging to an old man.
When they woke up and prepared to return to the station they realised all their money had been taken whilst they slept. After desperately searching for it they could only determine it had been stolen by the old man or someone he knew. It was there before they went to sleep but now it was nowhere to be found. There was no point calling the police, for Jews, involving the police would have made things worse. Even confronting the old man might have ended with them being strung up, there was nothing they could.
Maybe the landlord felt guilty, but as they left he passed them a bucket of potatoes. That was it though, he gave nothing else, just a slight smile on his face as they walked off. Fortunately, they managed to sell a few of the potatoes in the market on the way back to the station, as well as keeping some to eat in secret on the train. Had any of their co-travellers seen they had food they would have been attacked or worse still killed. This also meant that there was no chance of anyone bartering what they had for anything with the others on the train.
Moshe and Battiya now had barely any money or belongings. For the next few weeks they became very weak, spending most of the time huddled together. At least that way they could save energy and keep warm.
* * *
Ideologies of Love Part 5 – Ideal Love
Before setting off on this journey, I wanted to make it clear that for many people the notions of love, ideal or otherwise that I’ll be referring to may not ring true or resonate in any way. If that’s the way you feel about them I hope, you’ll accept my apology. There are many types of love and just as many ways of living that are not touched on here. However, these were the kinds of love that I was interested in for most of my life, hence my focus on them.
I’ve mentioned ‘The Romantic Illusion’ previously. This might best be described as a belief that we will meet someone who we’ll connect with so strongly, that nothing, not even time or death, will ever separate us. It’s easy to dismiss this as wholly unrealistic, which it is, nevertheless, it’s still a powerful part of us that can easily engulf us, especially in the very early stages of a relationship.
Are you looking for a good match, do you want to be loved, are you doing everything you can to make yourself more lovable, so Ms or Mr Right will want you? If so, then stop right there. As far as Fromm’s Idealistic love goes. You’re going about it the wrong way.
It’s hard to avoid seeing ourselves in the context of the world we live in, and we live in a very commercial one, full of consumables and consumers. When we think about finding a long term partner we expend a lot of resources making ourselves ‘lovable’ and attractive, whether that be physically, sexually, socially, economically or personality wise. The emphasis is placed on us to position ourselves so that the right person can find and then unable to resist us, love us, or at least the image of us we’ve created.
One of the problems with focusing on making ourselves into a lovable product, apart from us not being our genuine selves, is just as with commercial products, standardisation comes in to play. Unless we’re a high end, one of a kind, exclusive artefact, it’s safer to make ourselves into an acceptable standard item. It’s not surprising then that so many people look alike. Similar clothing, hairstyles, and bodies are not just directed by fashion but by the zeitgeist of standardised loveables.
As with all production lines there’s a quality control and grading system that’ll categorise our level of attractiveness between luxury, run of the mill, bargain basement and wonky. This, as with most commercial systems, means people of a similar value can be traded against each other. Terms such as meat market, being in the market or on the shelf have been commonplace for decades. I’m not saying that this way of thinking is primarily a symptom of our consumer era, but I can’t help but think there’s a bit of a link.
The thing is, relationships are based on far more criteria than just appearances, so while determining someone’s core values might be possible to a degree by assessing their looks, it has its limitations. When Marilyn Munro got together with the playwright Arthur Miller it might have shocked some people but generally they accepted there were other values that came into play.
I was acutely aware of the significance of looks at 17. My body didn’t fit our society’s notion of normality, so I knew for some people I was never going to be of any interest no matter how successful, clever, sexy, funny or caring I was. But I was also aware that some people found me attractive. That still didn’t stop me from going for the ones who didn’t want me though. It was the era of the New Romantics, so I’ll place part of the blame at their stylish shoed feet, after all, “Don’t you want me baby” was the anthem of the day and that along with ABC’s The Lexicon of Love album, pretty much told me, heartbreak was the way to go. But then so had Elvis. I was a sacrificial lamb to the god of romantic love, I had no chance.
For most of us, we see love as a feeling, a feeling that may come and go with the wind. When we think of a lifelong commitment we wonder how that can ever be possible, especially when deep down we doubt our own feelings lasting, let alone anyone else’s about us. On top of that, what we believe makes us, or others, lovable is changeable too. Our bodies, personalities, careers, wealth, and health are all likely to change over time, so how could love remain constant? Furthermore, there are our deeper darker thoughts and feeling, which at times we feel completely at the mercy of. How can we trust others when we’re not sure if we can trust ourselves? We are surround by the beliefs of happy ever after, but it’s our doubts that truly guide us.
* * *
The notion that being attractive will improve our likelihood of experiencing ‘true love’ illustrates perfectly the difference between Idealistic and Western Romantic ideologies of love. Both Western Romantic cultures and those that place their faith in arranged marriages, share the same belief that all you need to do is bring the right ingredients together, and from then on everything will fall into place. In this way, the process of love is perceived as a response to a stimulus. In the Idealistic Love ideologies of Fromm, it’s the other way around. Sure, there must be good ingredients, but the main emphasis is on the process. Romantic love focuses on being loved, Idealistic love emphasises learning how to love. One is about an immediate arrival. The other is about recognising potential and building on it.
For most people giving love rather than receiving it is problematic, especially if they feel starved of love in the first place, for them there’s very little love to give. Once more these two ideologies go their different ways.
Being loved might be the aim of Romantic love, but if so much of who we are gets lost within the process of becoming attractive is it really us being loved? Romantic narratives say we’ll see each other in the look of love, as we gaze in to each other’s eyes we will see the depths of our souls. But in practice these initial connections are more likely borne of fantasy and whichever way the relationship goes will be more a matter of chance than spiritual connection.
Fromm’s Idealistic Love ideology takes a very different approach. As far as it is concerned finding ourselves and being strong enough to show others who we really are is one of its primary objectives. This doesn’t just mean we say ‘this is me, take it or leave it’. It’s part of a much larger process that involves a lot of self-development, especially by becoming less narcissistic and more caring towards all other humans.
* * *
In previous times, there was very little romance or care in long-term relationships. Even up to quite recently, such relationships were widely viewed as pragmatic arrangements that were for the sake of the children. They also kept people busily involved in meaningful pursuits, and possibly more importantly, helped society be more stable too, especially because most of the male population would be getting up to no good if they’d been left to their own devices. This in turn created an environment in which industry could capitalise on this ready-made constant work force. Whether it was under the guise of Capitalism or Communism -. The family unit provided workers, a support system for those workers and the next generation of workers. However, even though some stability was brought about because of this, it would take clam-like social rules to keep these families together. Forcing people to remain with each other when they shouldn’t, resulted in a lot of abuse, particularly towards women and children, but sometimes men too. There were, after all, a lot more murdered husbands back then. From the 1950’s onwards, the illusion of the family unit began to collapse, leading in turn to both new opportunities and a whole host of other problems.
Possibly the biggest change in our society that directly offered a better way forward for relationships was the fundamental change in women’s roles within Western societies. As far back as the Roman era women were viewed as the property of their fathers and then their husbands. It was probably around that time that the word ‘obey’ was introduced to the wedding vows. It took close to 2000 years for that to be renounced in some quarters. In 1922 the Episcopal Church voted to remove ‘obey’ word from the bride’s wedding vows, however, many other denominations of Christianity still continue to incorporate it today, and in most weddings, fathers still give their daughters away.
There may, of course, be plenty of women (and men) who like the feeling of being owned or bound to someone but in terms of a relationship based on equality, such dynamics are not helpful. If you’re going to attempt developing love between two people one cannot hold more power over the other. Obviously, all relationships involve power dynamics, so, to a point they’re unavoidable. However, if one person cannot be themselves out of fear of punishment then that is a very different matter.
* * *
I once went to a philosophy meeting about friendship. It was held in a room above the Rose and Crown, an old-fashioned pub that stood alone, surrounded by large blocks of flats in Colombo Street, London. In this room, with its swirly grey carpet and an old wooden bar in the corner, one of the speakers talked about some of Aristotle’s ideas about friendship, including his resistance to the possibility that men and women, especially husbands and wives, could have what he termed, ‘perfect friendships’.
Aristotle’s main argument was, when there is a role between two people such as a parent and child or boss and employee, certain restrictions act upon their relationship. For instance, could a husband or wife be entirely honest, in the same way they would be to a close friend, about feelings they might have for someone else? In most cases the answer would be no. For this reason, they can’t truly be themselves in each other’s company, so for Aristotle that meant their relationship had limits to it.
When I mentioned this to one of the very few couples I know who I believe have had a close to perfect marriage, they looked dismayed. George, who’d been a police officer, shook his head and said “Margaret’s my best friend, I could tell her anything”, then Margaret, who was a woman of very few words said “That Aristotle doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Perhaps there was some truth in what she said. When Aristotle considered these matters men and women were not equal at all. Maybe, for George and Margaret there had been equality between them from the outset. But for most people this is a far more recent phenomenon.
* * *
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 6 – Ishim
In present day Europe, there’s a route called the E22. One end of it starts in the United Kingdom, it then passes through the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Latvia and Russia, where it terminates at the city of Ishim in Siberia. This too was the end of the line for Battiya and Moshe. They were over 2000 miles from Riga, and after 4 weeks of travelling, were undernourished, weak, sick, and despondent, but at least they were still alive. Hand in hand, barely able to walk they waited on the platform, while a couple of guards allocated everyone somewhere to stay.
* * *
Ishim was an administrative centre in Western Siberia. The middle of it had a few grand buildings situated near the river. There was a station, a market, and an industrial area to the North East, but apart from that the main roads and dirt tracks that radiated from the centre had very few buildings along them. There was a surreal wretchedness about this place.
The sudden influx of several hundred ‘essential foreign workers’ was met with mixed reactions. In terms of the Soviet system these were ‘fellow comrades’ who the locals were ordered to take in and would receive rent from for their trouble. However, they were ‘comrades’ who didn’t speak their language, so, they certainly couldn’t be trusted, but then people didn’t trust their own family members, so this wasn’t anything new. The upshot of all of this though, was they were not welcomed in to the local community.
* * *
The word Ishim, whether it’s related to the town’s name or not, also refers to a class of angels in Judaism that were said to be closest to the affairs of men. The angels themselves were composed of fire and ice in equal measure. Their primary raison d’être was to extol the virtues of God, give advice to and pray for humans. But the only bit of heaven in Ishim would be between those who trusted each other, and they were few and far between.
* * *
Some of the newcomers ended up in provisional barracks, while others, including Battiya and Moshe were offered rooms in small log cabins. It was luck of the draw as to whether they were allocated a good proprietor. Fortunately for Battiya and Moshe theirs was a kind hearted middle aged man who welcomed them, and especially their rent. He was a widower so maybe the promise of a bit of company and help around the house made him a little more amenable. In return for a share of the yields he also let them have a patch of the garden where they could grow food, and to help them get started he gave them some seeds.
The house had no upper floors and just one small communal area with a couple of bedrooms off it. There was no bathroom or toilet, just an outhouse for anyone brave enough to use it in the winter. The smaller of the two bedrooms became Moshe and Battiya’s new home.
* * *
For the enemy of the State families it had been a very different story. They’d been ‘settled’ in towns not so far away, but when they arrived, they were left in a field for several days. During that time, severe storms left them soaked, cold and unwell. Those who survived were offered shelter on condition that they signed trumped up confessions and accepted a 20-year conviction to remain in Siberia.
At first they were housed in long wooden overcrowded barracks which were insanitary, freezing cold, and disease ridden. So, when farms and factories were offered as alternative places for the children to stay, their mothers agreed to them going there even though it meant they would be separated from each other.
Essentially these children became slaves. For some, walking cattle 60 miles to the slaughter houses was one of the easier posts. Still, none of the meat was ever intended to come back to those who lived in this region. Unofficially though, it did. For the workers, nice food only ever appeared in dreams and nearly everything that was nutritious was either sent to the front lines, the cities or the local more equal, equals in charge.
* * *
For Moshe and Battiya there was no respite. Only one day after moving in they were told to come to the factory where they had to start working immediately. Whilst they were not confined to a Gulag, they were forced to work for most of their waking hours, and fed and paid very little in return. For all intents and purposes they were slaves.
It’s true that the place they got to sleep in wasn’t as bad as the Gulag barracks, but they were extremely undernourished, forced to work for 14 hours a day, with no days off and on top of that, they were inadequately clothed for the -40 degree temperatures. So, it was no surprise that for many of the workers their bodies started to falter.
Outside of working at the factory Moshe got requests from people to do jobs in exchange for food and clothing. The United States had donated lots of tools to help Russia in its war effort, so the factory and consequently Moshe acquired quite a few of them. As most of what he did revolved around working with metals his expertise became sought after. From waking to sleeping he worked.
One of the food hall managers asked him to patch up some of the pans. Moshe was a bit wary of him, he felt and looked like a boulder that might fall upon you, but still, Moshe felt he couldn’t refuse him. The manager had ties to the higher echelons of the local Communist Party, so that meant doing what he wanted. After Moshe completed the job he expected the man to pay him in kind with some food. Instead, nothing was offered at all. Moshe stood there waiting, but the man just looked him up and down.
“What are you waiting for?” he said.
“I thought we had a deal” Moshe said.
The man shook his head, pushed his lips together in to an upside-down smile, then said “I don’t think so.”
Moshe wanted to clout him one, but he knew nothing good would come of that so he stayed silent. This was what happened when you came up against a more equal, equal.
The next day Moshe had to go in to work early. It was still dark and no one was on the street except him. As he passed the food hall he became overwhelmed with anger, picked up a rock and threw it at one of the windows. As it flew through the air he half hoped it would just bounce off, but instead the whole pane came crashing down. For a second he was frozen to the spot, then realising what he’d done he ran down an alley and made a detour so he wouldn’t be seen.
Later that day a police officer turned up at his work, he went in to one of the manager’s office then a short while later came out looking as if something was troubling him. Moshe tried his best not to look at him but as the officer passed, their eyes met for a second. Moshe bowed his head.
When Moshe got home that night he didn’t tell Battiya about the shop window. He knew it was going to come back on him and didn’t want her to be culpable in any way. This was a world where you were obliged to tell on your husband or wife if they did anything wrong.
As he walked in Battiya made him some tea.
“That food hall manager, he’s not going to pay you now” she said.
Moshe felt slightly faint “Why? What has he said?”
As she passed him his tea she loudly whispered “He’s not saying anything, well not to anyone in Ishim. He was rounded up and sent to the front line today.”
A feeling of relief travelled from Moshe’s head to his toes. “Do you know why they took him?”
“Why are you asking? You know, no one knows why. One thing I can tell you though is, he must have upset the wrong person.”
Moshe wrapped his hands around the metal cup, sipped his tea and said “You’re right, I won’t get paid then.”
Battiya sighed “Yes, I had a bad feeling about him.”
“So did I” Moshe said raising his eyebrows.
At that point their landlord walked in to the room from his bedroom
“Who did you have a bad feeling about?” he asked.
“The man who got arrested today, the one who owns the food hall” Battiya said
“Ah him, yes he has a lot of enemies.” The landlord checked himself. “Is there any more tea left in the pot?”
“Yes” Battiya said, then poured him a cup.
“Hey” the landlord was suddenly animated “Do you want to try some of my Samagon?”
They both nodded and smiled but deep down they knew that this homemade alcohol was dangerous, not just because it could poison you, but also it might lead to letting things slip.
He poured the Samagon in to a couple of mugs, and lifting his own cup toasted. “Let’s celebrate that the corrupt manager has been caught”
They only had one drink, thanked him then retired to their room, where not a word was spoken.
* * *
Ideologies of Love Part 6 – Ideal Love – The Foundations of a Good Relationship
For even as love crowns you so shall he
crucify you. Even as he is for your growth
so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and
caresses your tenderest branches that quiver
in the sun,
So, shall he descend to your roots and
shake them in their clinging to the earth.
From ‘On Love’ – The Prophet
A list of instructions on “How to have a good relationship’ would be welcomed by most of us, as if we could then follow them, as a computer would a program. But the directions laid out by Fromm are better thought of as a guide to creating an environment in which love can grow rather than them resembling a ‘how to’ manual. To make matters worse, the suggestions he makes require lots of preparation and training. So right from the start patience is one of several qualities worth developing, after all this is probably going to take years and there’ll be plenty of set-backs. It would be easy to throw in the towel straight away. However, I’d suggest reading on as a lot of what he proposes is worth thinking about.
One of the initial aims is to make ourselves more self-sufficient. By this, Fromm didn’t mean filling our time with distracting activities such as watching films, getting drunk, or becoming a workaholic. Instead, what he advocated was learning to be happy in our own company. This could include meditating, reading, listening to music or talks, or amongst many other things studying subjects we find interesting. All these things will help bring peace and structure to our lives. It’s possible that even after just a short time this new way of living may feel pleasurable, and in turn this will help us become even more self-sufficient.
Being with someone just because we can’t bear to be alone is borne of fear, not love. So, as we gain confidence about being alone we’ll start to spend more time with those we truly feel connected with rather than those we don’t.
Possibly one of the most fundamental principles of this system requires us to become less self-absorbed, more considerate, caring and altruistic. This especially alludes to not seeing people primarily as resources, but instead, people with their own needs and problems.
It’s very easy to perceive others’ behaviour as somehow relating to us. For example, if someone’s actions have an adverse effect on us, we may immediately jump to the conclusion that they either deliberately set out to hurt us or just didn’t consider us. For many, either reason is just as bad. A common reaction to this kind of situation is a desire to ‘teach them a lesson, teach them to be more considerate’. The risk this runs is the situation becomes far more explosive.
Alternatively, we can approach difficult situations with the aim of understanding what is really going on, and when we do, we may well find we played no part in their actions. Also, our focus on not being considered can be very self-destructive. After all, most of the world doesn’t consider us, so if being considered is a priority to us then we better prepare for constantly battling the world. If that’s the case, then very large quantities of patience are going to be required.
The same goes for our more intimate relationships, we can choose to take everything personally or we can seek out what’s really going on. If we take the latter path not only will we nurture a peaceful atmosphere but those we love will most likely be touched that we care enough to consider their feelings rather than just jumping the gun and making inaccurate presumptions. Unfortunately, in my case it generally was because I had actually pissed them off, and when I suggested that it was anything but me that might be the cause, well that didn’t help much either.
Equally, we may be just as prone to taking things out on others. Have you ever had a minor bad thing happen and immediately found you were blaming someone else, even though logically you knew it was completely your own fault? When we don’t check ourselves for such reactions, we can all too easily, and unfairly, take things out on those around us.
The same is true when we’re primed to believe people will let us down. If we think that way, then we’ll be far more likely to see others as unreliable, whether they are or not. Being aware of our own presumptions and expectations can help stop us jumping to the wrong conclusions. Still, this kind of awareness may take years of study and self-analysis to develop and no matter how hard we try to be objective we should always keep in mind that we only ever have a partial picture of what’s going on.
In many ways, this caring approach lies within the realm of Agape love, and requires truly loving others, recognising their essence as humans, and understanding them as best we can, even when they are being difficult. This doesn’t mean losing ourselves by falling in to them, but holding both ourselves and them in a light of love and care.
Self-Discipline and Commitment
If we’re serious about having love in our lives, then we must be prepared to put in the effort. Any attempts to change ourselves will have to be backed up by self-discipline, patience, and commitment.
Concentration will also be essential, not just in terms of learning and thinking, but also when it comes dealing with others. Being able to concentrate means we can focus more fully on our friends and loved ones. Again, this will be an important skill when it comes to loving someone, as we learn to listen more carefully, we’ll be able to hear what people are really telling us and pay attention to their needs.
Reassessing what characteristics in ourselves and others resonate with our own core beliefs will help us identify what values we’d like to develop as well as those negative ones we ought to work on. Even just thinking back through our past experiences we may remember people who touched us in a good way. The more we do this, the more we’ll be able to find ourselves, and the more we do that, the greater confidence we’ll have.
The consequence of becoming more focused on seeking the truth will be us having a conviction about what we believe is right. This doesn’t mean we can’t accept we’re wrong, quite the opposite, if we seek truth then we must welcome adjustments. However, instead of blindly following the herd and believing something just because everyone else does, we can root out the truth.
Faith in Others
The more genuine confidence we attain, the more faith we can have in others, including our loved ones. When we recognise in them their own passion for the truth, then we can let them make their own decisions, knowing that they are doing so with the best of intentions. This doesn’t mean there won’t be a risk of betrayal, there will be, but we must make leaps of faith when it comes to love. However, no matter how well we know someone there will always be the possibility of them letting us down. But, when we know we can be trusted, we’ll recognise this virtue in others too.
If we believe we can’t be honourable, then we’ll find it very hard to have faith in anyone else. What’s more, when others sense our trust in them it will inspire them to flourish, whereas if they sense our distrust then they will most likely stumble.
For those who don’t have faith in others there will be a temptation to take control through domination and power, but this kind of forcefulness is the result of fear. If we are to love then we must have courage, and accept the possibility of pain and disappointment. Apart from being anxious about the dangers we may face, just loving someone will mean we’re concerned with them too, and on top of that we’ll have to contend with living our life to the full as well.
When we say, ‘we’re scared of not being loved’, we ought to remember we are also scared of loving and all the risks it involves?
Did you get all of that? I will be writing more about it a bit later, but if you want more to read more about this in depth you may find Eric Fromm’s book ‘On Love’ of interest.
* * *
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 7 – Winter – Ishim 1941
During the autumn months, the landscape turned from green to brown. Many people lost their shoes in the thick muddy fields, so, to cope they bound their feet with cloth which soon became sodden and cold. For some, it would be years before they would ever wear shoes again and in the meantime, their feet would become permanently damaged.
Before the snow fell people collected as many nettles and shrubs for the soups they’d make through the winter months. The rations weren’t anywhere near close enough to providing the calories and nutrition required to keep people working, so pilfering and bartering became essential for survival.
In a land of nothing, something extra had to come from somewhere or someone, otherwise everything would have collapsed. So, it fell to the more equals, the local police, soldiers, and officials, to provide that extra little bit of something, and to turn a blind eye when it suited them. This put them in extraordinary positions of power and furnished them with quite a bit of wealth. For those who were chosen to be caught though, the punishments were severe. One mother took 2 cabbages and got 6 months in prison. No doubt her real ‘crime’ was her refusing the advances of a more equal, equal. Her children were then left to fend for themselves. There was no social services or good will, especially to the offspring of the criminal classes.
As the landscape turned to white this first winter was especially cold with temperatures dropping as low as -40 degrees. Moshe and Battiya’s extra shifts and work on the side meant they could ‘acquire’ good enough clothing to survive. But the lack of rest and nutrition saw Battiya’s immune system start to weaken, so much so, that one day her body gave up and she fell ill.
Their landlord recognised the symptoms immediately, he’d seen it before. The stiffness in her joints, the spinal abscesses, and the paralysis from the waist down. He beckoned Moshe to come out the bedroom and whispered “I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure It’s skeletal tuberculosis. We have to get her to the hospital”.
Moshe looked at him and asked, “How do you know?”
“Because” he paused and looked down at the ground, “Because my wife had it”
Moshe frowned slightly. “But you might be mistaken”
The landlord pulled his top lip in between his teeth, then nodded a little and said “Yes, I hope so”.
It was impossible to get her to the hospital there and then, the weather was vicious and there were no horses or carts available. Battiya’s condition worsened with every passing hour. By the morning she had fallen in to unconsciousness. None of the neighbours had a vehicle, so, Moshe ran to the factory where he asked if one of the drivers would help. “I can’t” came the reply, “Not without the manager’s consent.” So, when Moshe approached him he wasn’t surprised when he’d only agree to do so on the condition that Moshe would work for 30 extra hours through the following month. What he meant by that was Moshe would have to pay him the wages for those hours and do the extra work.
The Soviet health care system far exceeded that of the pre-civil war Russian Empire. However, the Second World War had already taken its toll, so, while Battiya was given medical attention soon after arriving at the hospital, the responsibility for feeding her fell on Moshe.
Moshe had to work 16 hours a day, not only to pay for Battiya’s ride to the hospital, but to make up for the shortfall in their wages. There was no sick pay so, no work meant no income. After leaving the factory he’d buy food, or procure it through barter jobs, then make his way to the hospital, after which he’d return home to sleep for a few hours. Then he’d repeat the whole process over again.
* * *
The main ‘cure’ for Tuberculosis back then was rest, a good diet and fresh air. This had been the principal approach since the 1880’s when research showed this had a positive effect.
One evening Moshe came to the hospital to find Battiya’s bed was empty.
A man’s voice called from behind him. “Mr Shruster, Mr Shruster?”
Moshe turned around. A doctor was standing a few feet behind him.
“Yes” Moshe said.
The Doctor looked at him. “I’m afraid I have some very bad news”.
* * *
Ideologies of Love Part 7- 10 Things that may help Love to develop
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred
fire, that you may become sacred bread for
God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you
that you may know the secrets of your
heart, and in that knowledge become a
fragment of Life’s heart.
From ‘On Love’ – The Prophet
BY KAHLIL GIBRAN
So, with the preparation explained above, here is a list I’ve collated from the writings of Plato and Fromm, regarding some of the higher ideals that may help develop true love.
1 Accepting our initial feelings are not grounded in reality allows us to resist making commitments too early. For instance, by not rushing to get married, buying a property or having children together.
2 Letting go of the belief that love will come from ‘enjoying’ the experience of each other. I can love an ice cream but I’m not going to marry it, although one brand of salted caramel flavour was a contender. Separating these two things will help us focus on what love is truly about. In other words, we should avoid seeing those we love as a source of pleasure, a means to an end.
3 We must allow ourselves to be truly who we are and not hide behind a facade. Unless of course you’re a psychopathic killer, in which case none of this is going to help much. Likewise, we should avoid becoming a clone or seeking one out, but instead spend time working out what we value in others and ourselves. Even if our work is pushing us more and more to act as automatons, being able to be ourselves is an important factor within our relationships with others and ourselves. It’s better to be disliked for who we are than liked for who we are not.
4 Apart from dealing with the traumas and stress that life deals us, we should aim to be as happy as we can, to love ourselves in an unselfish way while helping our friends and loved ones to be themselves too. This may involve us connecting with our deeper creative parts, whether that be via the arts, cooking, decorating, fixing cars, you name it, there are probably many things that you like doing in life. This is part of being yourself, but also makes space for you to help others be themselves too.
5 Avoid approaching a relationship as a deal. Seeing one another on an equal basis is of the upmost importance. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should both share everything out equally. It’s about recognising and respecting each other’s strengths and weaknesses and, again, not seeing the other person as a means to an end.
6 We hear a lot about being independent, but maybe interdependency is a better way forward. An interdependent individual acknowledges the value of vulnerability, and being able to create emotional intimacy between themselves and their loved ones. They also hold dear a sense of their self and their loved one’s self, allowing each other to be themselves without any need to compromise who they are, or their values.
Once again this is more about creating an environment in which things can grow, whereas when you feel dependent you’re more likely have expectations and demands. Ultimately, being dependent will most likely lead to you not getting what you want, so instead, try to let go and give, but give without expectation.
7 If we focus on giving to others when it’s needed, we allow ourselves to feel a greater pleasure than when we take. So, in a selfish way, giving can make us feel happy and potent. On a slightly less selfish note, we can tap in to our more empathetic capabilities and by making others happy we can also feel happy too. Whether we choose to see giving as a selfish or altruistic undertaking, either way, it lies at the heart of love.
8 By trying to understand ourselves more, and yes that is no easy task, we can love others in two main ways. Firstly, we can recognise when our own destructive patterns come in to play, and secondly, we can try to understand our loved ones because we understand they are prone to being irrational, just as we are at times too. By stepping back, being less reactive and more considered in our dealings with others we can help bring about a more loving environment.
9 Respect. The word respect comes from the Latin to look back at. When we look at or see those we love we should strive to see them for who they really are. We must become knowledgeable of them to their core, but with a motivation of care, not power. We should know them as much as we can, inside out.
10 Having faith in our loved ones doesn’t just mean trusting them not to betray us. It also means trusting them to do what is best for themselves. Likewise, trusting ourselves to do what is best for us and them too. Our attempts to help them develop must not be for our sake, as in we mustn’t mould them to our taste, but help them be who they truly can be.
Many of us, including me, may well have tried to control our partners, to prevent them from going off with someone else, or getting involved in something that we believe might not be good for them. Without our trust in our loved ones we will most likely damage if not destroy love. In other words, there is no choice. One must have faith in others and ourselves, and accept if they or we act against the relationship, then so be it, we’ll have to cross that bridge and see what it means then.
I’m going to take you on another detour, don’t worry, we’ll be coming back.
Ideologies of Love Part 7 Continued – Betrayal
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain…
… Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore, trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burns your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.
‘On Pain’ – The Prophet
BY KAHLIL GIBRAN
There’s a story about a father teaching his child to be more courageous. He gets the child to jump from the first step on a staircase in to his arms. He does this again, this time the child jumps from the next step up, and then again, until the child is on the fourth step. At this point the father steps back so the child lands flat on their face. The child gets up, their nose is bleeding and they cry from the depths of their soul.
It’s very hard not to react to this story as an act of child abuse. That’s the way I felt about it when I first heard it. Even though the point of this act is to teach the child that those you trust and love can literally let you down, it’s almost unbearable to think of our children being treated this way. Still, this story has value. It isn’t just about treachery, it’s also about learning to deal with our falls, even horrific ones. And accepting that our children’s biggest lessons in life will most likely be painful ones.
There are many paths we can take when reacting to the blows life deals us. We can feel victimised, persecuted, and full of anger, or we can learn other ways to react, such as trying to accept that often these things have very little to do with us, or equally, we may have played a part in our own demise, and through that realisation we can improve ourselves.
In some ways, this story is similar to the Biblical fall of Adam and Eve. Surely God knew that they would eat from the tree of knowledge and therefore fall from Paradise? Was God being cruel for cruelty’s sake, or was God laying the ground for humans to realise that putting our trust in the earth beneath our feet is a mistake? Was God’s love in the old testament more like the conditional love of a father, which at times can be cruel, and was God’s love in the New Testament a testament to the unconditional love of the mother and holy mother? Both types of love have their negative and positive sides, but somehow, it is unconditional love that seems more divine.
I’ve mentioned before that the word Religion relates to a notion of ‘reconnecting’. This can, of course, be in relation to God, but can also include ourselves. When we understand that the betrayer is not just out there but in ourselves too, we get to know ourselves and therefore others far more intimately. By connecting to our own potential to betray we find a piece of truth about ourselves that in turn makes us feel more known and therefore less betrayed. The more we deny who we really are the more we betray ourselves, and others. Therefore, once we accept that betrayal is part of life and sometimes love, the more prepared we can be to heal the wounds we must bear.
There have been times when I have been betrayed. If I lived in a world where I thought betrayal must never be possible I think I’d have been broken by those experiences. But, there have also been occasions in relationships when I have betrayed others, and have felt the bitter taste of doing so. And then later, to see myself repeating the same mistakes, even after promising myself I wouldn’t do it again, was a further betrayal, but this time, of myself too. When we betray others, we betray ourselves, as they betray themselves when they do it to us.
When we experience betrayal, we may be tempted to exact our revenge, and ironically this vengeance may involve acts of betrayal. Maybe all betrayal is a vengeance of previous betrayals. But as we are often reminded, revenge may incur a heavy price upon us psychologically, which in a way is a further self-betrayal. If forgiveness will set us free, why do we so readily choose vengeance?
There are many costs to vengeance, one of them is we no longer see the person who hurt us as multidimensional. If we only see them as evil, then we can’t allow the part of them that we loved, if we ever loved them, to exist. In other words, we will have to deny an uncomfortable part of reality if we deny they are human. Likewise, if we are unable to admit that we may have been too trusting too quickly, do we not deny a part of our self, a part that had we been more conscious of, we may ha e been more careful? If so, then denying our own role in our self-betrayal is a further self-betrayal.
We may well view the father in this story as being cruel, yet deep down, for all the ways we try to make learning pleasurable for our children, we know that the greatest lessons they will learn in life are likely to be painful ones. If we do not prepare them for this, then that will be a betrayal in itself. What depth of love will they experience if they believe that the arms they leap in to will never let them down, what meaning would there be, what would the point of leaping be? The same goes for life, if we believed we would live forever, would love and life feel as precious as they do? We can see death as the ultimate betrayal, but we can also appreciate it as a gift that tells us not to waste our life.
* * *
Moshe and Battya’s Story Part 8 – Sacrifice and Betrayal
“Your wife is in surgery; we’re going to have to remove two of her ribs.”
There was only one question Moshe wanted to ask right then, and he did.
“Is she going to die?”
The doctor bowed his head slightly and frowned.
* * *
When the doctors removed two of Battiya’s ribs, both Moshe, and later Battiya, had a similar thought, was this some kind of payback for Adam sacrificing his rib to help create Eve? The sins of the parents get handed to their children, sometimes with added interest.
Carl Jung spoke of ‘quandaries’ that can be passed down through generations in families. For him I think he was referring to more philosophical questions than personal psychological ones, but even so the same can be applied. Just as we may seek to resolve issues in our own lives by continuously repeating difficult scenarios, ever hopeful that one day we will bring things to a more preferred conclusion, maybe there are some issues that get passed down through family lines. The idea that one generation seeks to escape the bondage of the previous one is nothing new. Whether it’s escaping poverty, abuse or abandonment, it’s precisely those things that cause the next generation to experience the same things too.
In my family, the women seemed to suffer far more than the men did, and probably because of them too. Boris’ father, Samuel, who’d been damaged by World War One, may have been predestined to be a gambler, womaniser and irresponsible father. Was this caused by genetics, his own parents, or something else, we’ll never know? Both Esther, and Battiya suffered as a direct result of Samuel’s behaviour, and who knows if the other children were affected adversely too. Boris certainly took on some of the same traits as Samuel, as I did as well. Were these betrayals caused by betrayals or was it already in our nature?
* * *
Ideologies of Love Part 8 – For Better or Forget it
There’s someone I know, they’re not a friend, but a relation (through marriage) of a friend. This person married a man a good bit older than herself. They both went to church and liked to appear as upstanding members of the community. But when in his late 80’s he fell ill all she could do was tell him that he was ruining her life, that she never had a moment to herself, that all he ever did was call to her for help, and she’d had enough. This was despite there being a live-in carer and plenty of other support.
He had been a good provider, and they were certainly not short of money, so, as he got progressively frailer they also paid for an extra night time carer. Now there was pretty much complete 24 hour help at hand, but still, as he became more and more scared he’d call out for her and she would shout at him to stop doing so. Then she started shouting at the carers for ‘not doing their job properly’. After a few weeks, she’d gone through most of the agency’s employees who she’d either sacked or who left because they couldn’t stand her rudeness any longer. Then one day he became very disorientated and kept whispering the word “help”.
His wife said “I’ve had enough of this, I’m going out to get some space”. Fortunately, the latest carer kept an eye on him and soon realised he was spiralling down very quickly, so, she called an ambulance. The paramedics arrived soon after and within minutes diagnosed an infection. He was rushed to hospital where after a few days of antibiotics he was ready to go home.
“I promise to be good this time, tell me how I can help” he pleaded to his wife.
“I just need to have a bit of time for myself, that’s all.” She said
He reached out his hand towards her and like a very sorry child anxiously said “I love you”
“I love you too” she coldly replied.
Of course, within hours she was telling him to stop calling for her.
The carer went up to my friend in the kitchen and said “She has no use for him anymore, now he is just a burden to her.”
From the other room, he shouted “I love you” and with a sigh his wife shouted back “Yes, and I love you too.”
For a short while after that, things looked like they’d settled down a bit. A new routine began to take shape which mainly involved his wife having as little to do with his care as possible. Even so, she made it known that the little she did do was more than bearable for any normal human being.
There were times in the day when the carer wasn’t necessary. This day the man’s wife was tending to the garden. She hadn’t left his walking frame nearby so he decided to make his own way to the toilet. As he was on a mezzanine floor he had a choice of either going up or down a few steps to get to the loo. He thought it would be safer to go up a flight given his balance was not good at all. Halfway up he fell backwards on to the wooden floor. It was sometime before his wife came in, by this time he was semi-conscious. She called for an ambulance and once again he was taken to hospital.
His wife didn’t want him back, she insisted that he mustn’t come home because she couldn’t bear him anymore, that she hated him and besides all the savings were getting used up so she wouldn’t be able to pay for any more carers. That turned out to be untrue, it’s just she didn’t want their money being wasted on him any longer.
When I looked at their wedding photo, they were an attractive middle aged couple, she was grinning a big toothy smile and he looked relieved. They’d signed the legal documents. The deal had been done. But a certificate of marriage is not a certificate of love.
* * *
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 9 – Love
During the first days after Battiya’s surgery, Moshe wondered if his life would be worth living if she was to die. His answer was no. Then as she started to regain consciousness, he watched her body convulsing in pain and felt awful for her. All he could do was gently stroke her face to calm her, wet her lips when they became dry, wipe the sweat away when the fevers came, and quietly speak so she’d know she wasn’t alone.
After a week, she became more aware of her surroundings, but then when he wasn’t there it felt like she was in an ocean of loneliness. Consequently, when it came to him going home, they would both cry, not just because they were going to miss one another, but because they realised just how much love flowed between them. The day they married, they thought that would be the pinnacle of their love, but now they understood it grew greater with every moment.
In this frozen wasteland, where one wrong word might be your last, where the state and those around you do their best to strip away even the tiniest modicum of trust, their love and belief in each other grew stronger and stronger.
* * *
Ideologies of Love Part 9 – Deal or no Ideal
But if in your fear you would seek only
love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover
your nakedness and pass out of love’s
Into the seasonless world where you
shall laugh, but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.
From On Love – The Prophet
BY KAHLIL GIBRAN
Beyond the realms of Ideal Love there must be innumerable other approaches, including alternative versions of ideal love. I thought I’d end this section by looking at various other ideologies, both good and bad, again it won’t be very representative, but hopefully it will help people to think more about these issues.
For millennia marriages have been dealt with as transactions in which love had no bearing. These were fundamentally deals, and that was it. It’s no wonder then that people still think of a marriage as a deal. While deal based relationships might not reach the heady heights of romantic or ideal love, they may still be part of a happy life for many people, even if for some, it’s based on a lie. Of course, for others these relationships can be the cause of great physical and mental suffering. At that end of the scale we’re talking about the complete antithesis of ideal love, where to all intents and purposes one human is pouring evil on to another. Even if we see evil as a symptom of psychological dysfunction, it is still very hard to accept that so many of these relationships go unchallenged throughout the world. Up until relatively recently rape within marriage and domestic abuse in the West was met with a blind eye by much of the public and the authorities. In the early 90’s I called the police when I heard a neighbour screaming for her partner to stop hitting her. After the police had left, one of my other neighbours told me I should have kept my nose out.
Still on a negative note, don’t worry I’ll end on a high, many people become resigned to a pragmatic relationship in which they are mostly unhappy. While not on the same level as the more abusive ones, there is still a lot of discontent involved. There’s a song by Paula Cole called ‘Where Have All the Cowboys Gone’ in which the character’s romantic notions of love are juxtaposed against the mundane aspects of an unequal and unfair deal type relationship. She sings of doing the laundry if he pays the bills, of doing the dishes, while he goes to the bar. Meanwhile she’s left holding the baby wondering what happened to all those dreams she had of a perfect man.
From a psychoanalytic point of view one might ask whether to a degree people choose the difficult situations they find themselves in, and while it’s tempting to brush that aside, saying that for many there is no choice at all, deep down many of us have issues that pull us towards painful relationships. Untangling our self-destructive tendencies requires help and skills that are rarely available or will take too much time to resolve. Still, for some at least, they may find a way to escape and move forward to a better life.
Maybe because there’s so little questioning about relationships nowadays, certain narcissistic tendencies seem to have become aspirations of modern love. One of these is the notion of possession. There were times in my life when I found myself believing that if someone truly loved me, they’d want to be possessed by me. The fact that they weren’t, made me think they didn’t love me. So not only did I want to possess them, but their love for me was my primary concern.
The other day I read this on a friend’s Facebook wall.
“The most appealing thing to me is effort.
Somebody who really desires to converse with me,
See me, and make me a part of their day.”
In a strange twist one could argue that idealistic love does require a desire to converse and make someone else a part of one’s day, but the difference is, that wouldn’t be demanded by either party. It might be natural to have such desires, but there’s an expectation or a demand in those lines, and in that light, I hear it as a warning bell now.
There are other issues regarding possession that are worth touching on here because it’s far more central to a destructive ideology than it first appears. In my more lothario times, there was a paradox when it came to possession. During the early part of a relationship there would be a moment when a woman would make it clear she wanted me. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to it, but later, especially if I’d become involved with her I would see that moment as extremely meaningful. There was something in the instant of someone else wanting me that touched me to the core. Maybe it’s these moments of giving oneself that are partly why so many people are unfaithful or addicted to seduction.
I probably don’t need to point this out to you now, but wanting to be wanted, while very natural, has a somewhat narcissistic edge to it. The ironic thing about focusing on being wanted is, especially when people hardly know each other, the person they desire is just an illusion. Even so, for the participants it is still filled with very powerful emotions rooted in their own personal psychological issues, biological nature and romantic beliefs.
There was a line in a drama I was watching recently in which one of the participants said that after he ejaculated, he’d either want to get away as quickly as possible, or stay with that person forever. While the latter feeling might indicate potential for a relationship to grow (although it’s certainly no guarantee and could be based on all sorts of factors) there’s something very self-centred in gambling on there being a good outcome at the risk of hurting another human.
As I’ve already mentioned I was not averse to acting in this way. Had I known better would it have made any difference, there were plenty of times I got told I shouldn’t have gone that far with someone if I wasn’t sure. My answer to them was I never told them I wanted to be with them properly and they knew what they were getting themselves into. But maybe all of that was part of a dance.
The issue of possession cuts both ways when it comes to men and women and again has its foundations in biological, personal and social motivations, but from wherever it comes it is not in the service of love. Yet, romantic love tells us it is.
Nietzsche wrote of possession: “He asks himself if the woman, when she gives up everything for him, is not doing this for something like a phantom of himself: he wants to be well known first, fundamentally, even profoundly, in order to be able, in general, to be loved. He dares to allow himself to be revealed. – Only then does he feel that the loved one is fully in his possession, when she is no longer deceived about him, when she loves him just as much for his devilry and hidden insatiability as for his kindness, patience, and spirituality.”
Nietzsche’s lines above challenge Fromm’s ideas about true love. Not so much through their logic but their passion. I think to many of us, this passion is extremely seductive at times as it makes love seem exceptionally real, whereas Fromm’s Ideological love appears as almost passionless. But doesn’t this cut to the heart of the matter? If you want romantic love you can’t have peace, but how much distress, anxiety, agitation and conflict can you stand? For those who want peace, then perhaps a more pragmatic, non-possessive approach is needed.
Alongside possessiveness the issues of domination and submission also come into play. I once worked with a guy called Sam, we didn’t get on that well but still he told me a few things that I found interesting to do with domination. For him the dynamics of dominance was integral to a relationship’s success. While most of us hover between being a bit dominant and submissive in different situations and with different people, he thought that if both members of a couple were predominantly dominant or alternatively, submissive, then the relationship wouldn’t work.
To him it would be far better if a dominant and submissive linked up. In his opinion, it was essential that the dominant person must be someone who would be receptive to the submissive’s needs and that those needs would be clearly communicated too. His definition of a dominant was someone who liked making decisions whereas the submissive wouldn’t, but instead would prefer to work in a more supporting role. I’m not advocating this, but it shows yet again another ideology of love that many of us have probably never considered.
* * *
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 10 – Back to Life
For close to 3 months Moshe followed the same routine. Then one day the doctor said she should go home. That night they slowly walked back to the house. As she entered she started to cry and quietly said to Moshe “I thought I would never come back”. He drew her near, and said “There is a light here now, and that light is you”. She looked up at him and gently touched his lips.
* * *
Ideologies of Love Part 10 – No Sex Please, We’re Religious
I haven’t spent a lot of time on religious ideologies to do with love. One might be tempted to point out that many of the leading religions practice sexual abstinence, with an ethos that couples should get to know each other before making any commitments. In some ways, this sounds similar to the direction the Ideal Love ideology takes. The thing is, often religions go much further. One might love someone for who they are but when it comes to sex it might feel totally wrong. For some that would be an irrelevance, but there are many for who it would be a problem. Just because we fit together in lots of ways doesn’t mean we’ll do the same when it comes to sex.
This might explain why some religions not only mandate no sex before marriage, but barely any afterwards too. Sex might be allowed for procreation, but pleasures of the flesh are off limits. This may partly be because they don’t want to risk destroying the pragmatic relationship, which could well be the result if either party felt they were not sexually compatible. But who needs sexual compatibility when you can bypass the danger? It’s an astute way of keeping couples together, but at what price? Again, for them, such things may be of no significance, but then it’s probably no coincidence that so many men of the cloth are called father.
In contrast to this there are those who are completely fixated on excitement and sexual pleasure, especially in relation to the first stages of a relationship. For them the constant repetition of seduction and ending will most likely weigh heavily upon them in time and they’ll seek something deeper. However, seduction is seductive and no one is more perfect than a perfect stranger, so until they change themselves they’ll most likely keep getting pulled along by their own patterns, unable to move on. Filled with the excitement of a train passing at speed, but never able to get on it and see what awaits beyond.
When Detective Frank Drebin states to his co-worker in the Film ‘The Naked Gun 2 ½’ that he envies him having the same woman for 30 years. That having to have a different 20-year-old every night is somewhat of a hardship, audiences all around the world laughed uncontrollably, especially when they saw his co-worker in a state of apoplectic envy. We are, after all, only human and recognise that we are driven by many, many conflicting urges.
* * *
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 11 – Endings and Beginnings
Within a week the factory manager ordered Battiya back to work. It was a time of war; people were dying in their millions and she was of no significance to anyone but Moshe here. There have been philosophical discussions for millennia about the importance of the collective’s needs over those of the individual. During times of war, the emphasis generally tends to move more towards the collective, but for Battiya there was not even the tiniest gesture of care from her comrades in the factory. Likewise, her manager made no effort to make things easier for her.
When it came to exploiting workers, there was very little difference between the Capitalist West and the Soviet States. Even before the war Stalin aimed to turn the Soviet Union into a ceaseless productivity machine. From 1941 all holidays were cancelled due to the war and the working week was 7 days long with no time off. Any Unauthorized departures could mean sentences in the Gulag from five to eight years.
New Year’s Day was the only holiday allowed. For Moshe and Battiya there was no socialising. Invites to a New Year’s drinks party to listen to a gramophone represented a deadly threat as far as they were concerned. They once went to one but felt on edge the whole time. No one tried to befriend them there as everyone knew that making friends was dangerous. Even their landlord couldn’t be trusted, so, they were always very careful about what was discussed in front of him. They were cordial but kept a safe distance, as he did them.
The journey to and from work in the summer months was one of the few opportunities to walk hand in hand and chat quietly with each other, besides that nowhere felt safe. All walls might have ears pressed up against them, so at home or in the factory, every word was considered carefully before being uttered.
* * *
One day, late in 1944 news of the Russians pushing the Nazis out of Latvia brought a glimmer of hope that one day they might be able to leave this forsaken place.
Although World War Two would continue in Europe until September 1945, the Soviet Red Army secured the surrender of Nazi forces in Latvia during the first weeks of May. It had been more than 6 months since the Nazis were pushed out of Riga, however they, and their Latvian regiments, held out in various areas of the Baltic states until finally the Russians, and their Latvian fighters, forced their hand.
200,000 Nazi troops were then deported to Soviet prison camps along with 14,000 Latvian Soldiers who’d fought alongside them. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Latvians (both civilians and soldiers) fled to Sweden and Germany from where many ended up in exile in places such as Australia, North and South America and various other countries in Europe.
* * *
I frequently find that my awareness of time is dramatically altered by my direction of travel. Often the return leg of a journey is far quicker than the outgoing one. Maybe it’s because I just drive faster. If you’re a cop, I didn’t write that.
For Moshe and Battiya the return journey still took close to 30 days, but this time they were prepared. Their landlord, who was genuinely sad to see them go, helped them stock up with food for the journey and came to see them off from the station. As the train pulled away they waved goodbye to each other like holiday makers who were sad to go, but in their quietly excited hearts, they were happy to see the back of Ishim.
They realised the Riga they were returning to would not be the one they’d known, but they weren’t prepared for the devastation that confronted them. All the bridges had been destroyed, as had nearly every building. Some of their Latvian ‘work mates’ were greeted at the station by surviving relatives, but for Moshe and Battiya there was no one. They went to the place where her sister lived but there was no one there. At first they had no idea what had happened to their family members and friends, but rumours soon began to circulate that all the Jews had been taken away or massacred earlier in the war. Moshe and Battiya hoped in time that those who’d gone missing would walk up to them, give them a hug and tell of their adventures surviving. But in the meantime, there were practicalities such as getting food and finding somewhere to sleep, albeit amongst the ruins. Even here, in Riga, every moment of the day was taken up with trying to survive.
* * *
Latvia’s population decreased by around 25% during the War. Hundreds of thousands of Latvians were killed fighting for both the Nazis and Russians, there were those who ‘emigrated’, and thousands were sent to the Gulag or deported as part of the Soviet policy of forced population transfer. Over the next few decades, hundreds of thousands of Russians were moved to Latvia, so, by 1991, when the country gained its independence, just 62% of the population were ‘ethnically’ Latvian. These actions were repeated throughout most of the USSR and would eventually come to be recognised by many countries as acts of genocide.
Close to a hundred thousand Latvian Jews were murdered by the German Nazis and Latvians during the war. Afterwards, a few hundred who’d escaped came out of the forests or homes of brave sympathetic Latvians where they’d been hiding. About 1,000 more returned from the Nazi camps, and several thousand who’d escaped to the Soviet Union also came back. Around 97% of Latvia’s Jews were murdered during the war.
* * *
After a few weeks of ‘camping’ out, Moshe was approached by a soldier. The soldier stood over him. As Moshe looked up his heart was filled with dread.
“Are you Moshe Shruster?” he asked.
Moshe stood up and nodded.
“I hear you’re good with building things. Is that right?”
“I’m ok” Moshe said tilting his head from side to side very slightly as if he were calculating something.
The soldier looked up at the building they were standing near.
“If you can fix this roof and make the place water tight you can have one of the apartments in it, anyone you want.”
“Where will I get the materials from?” Moshe asked
The soldier looked to his left, paused a second, then to his right. He looked up at Moshe.
“This is all the materials there are”
“Ah” Moshe said.
The soldier put his hand on Moshe’s shoulder.
“Have we got a deal?” he said.
Moshe nodded in agreement.
“Yes, we have a deal.”
* * *
Moshe still had some of the American tools he’d got from working in Siberia. So, bit by bit he made the ladders and scaffolding. He didn’t ask for any help. It was better for him to work alone, although Battiya did what she could. He was also aware that the factory he was told to work in would want him working there very soon, so the window of opportunity was getting smaller by the day. Sure enough, just before he started on the last section he got called to the factory, as did Battiya. With no one to keep guard, not only was their temporary home at risk, but so too was all the repairs he’d done. He asked for a bit of time off, but his boss couldn’t spare him.
When they came back that night their shelter was gone, as were his ladders. Fortunately, he still had his tools, money and food. They stayed with him always.
That night, they angled a board against the wall and lay on the ground. As they tried to get to sleep, wondering if someone might slit their throats, Moshe said under his breath. “There’s nothing sacred, nothing pure here”.
Battiya paused for a moment then kissed him gently.
“Ok”, he said, “There’s a little bit of sacred, and a tiny bit of pure.”
She tapped her finger on his nose and laughingly said, “What are you saying Moshe, are you saying I’m not pure?”
He looked at her and laughed too.
A voice from nearby called out as if it was calling a pet “Hello little rats, what are you laughing at?”
Battiya froze, Moshe grabbed his knife and sat up, his back against the wall.
Then again the voice taunted. “I’m coming to do what Hitler should have done, here little ratties”
There was a thud then the ground vibrated a little.
In the darkness Moshe could still make out Battiya’s face. She was petrified. He positioned himself so if the board was moved he could lunge at the attacker with the knife. Outside of a kind of oomph and the sound of something being dragged across some debris, there was just silence. After a few minutes, Moshe poked his head out to take a look, there was nothing to see. He stood up and walked to where he thought the voice was coming from, but again, there was nobody, not even a trace of evidence to suggest that someone had been there.
* * *
The next day Moshe made another ladder, but from then on he hid whatever he left behind. After work he’d rush back, the nights were still getting longer so he worked on the roof until he had to stop. Battiya sharpened his tools, and prepared and sawed the wood. It took a further 3 weeks, but finally the roof was water tight. From then on they slept in the building and barricaded themselves in until he’d got the doors and windows in. This Frankenstein’s monster of a building was ready, not just for them, but for other people too.
The soldier kept his word and provided them with the correct documentation. Over the next 26 years Moshe and Battiya lived in this apartment. The building served its purpose, it sheltered them, kept them warm and saw their two sons come in to being, but the hatred that visited them that night was never far away. Besides the constant threat of falling foul of the Soviet system, there was the extra danger of being Jewish in a society that had done its best to rid itself of nearly every Jew who lived there. And all around, there were still plenty of people who wanted the job finished.
Even though Moshe became highly respected in his field, their two sons, Yakov and Eddie would grow up being constantly bullied for being Jewish. They too kept their heads down, studied hard and didn’t cause any problems. But for some, their very existence was an abomination. Some attacks would be overt but most of the time everything was done in secret, that was the Soviet way. Things only went your way if someone in the background agreed to it.
So, twice a year, fearing that one day something awful would happen to them, Moshe applied to emigrate to Israel. For eleven years, his application was refused, then in July 1971 permission was granted. They were given 21 days to leave, if they hadn’t left by then they’d have to reapply. The emigration department looked at Moshe’s finances and thought he’d have no chance of raising the money for the flights, but there was also another secret world and after 11 years of applying to the Israeli embassy for a visa, they let him connect to it. Moshe made it clear to them that he didn’t have the funds to pay for the flights but they said the Israeli Government would lend him the money. This time Moshe and Battiya felt it was going to happen, that somehow they’d escape.
When Yakov, their son, said he wanted to stay in Riga with his girlfriend, Battiya insisted that there was no way she’d split the family up. She would never be a party to doing what her father had done to her. Either they all went together, or they all stayed. Yakov asked his girlfriend if she’d move to Israel too, she said yes, but her parents wouldn’t allow it. To him this girl was the love of his life and he didn’t want to leave her.
Moshe couldn’t believe that Battiya wouldn’t let Yakov stay by himself. He didn’t argue, but he couldn’t speak to her.
Yakov knew that as much as he loved his girlfriend, he couldn’t be the one to make his family stay, so he agreed to go to Israel too. For them it was an escape but for him it was a prison sentence, without her he didn’t feel whole.
The day of departure came. They had to get a very long train ride to Moscow first and from there catch a plane to Vienna. When they got to the airport the guards took Moshe into an office where they interrogated him about the money for the flights. They wanted to know if he had got it from dealing in the black market. Moshe and Battiya had been warned by their Israeli contact that this might happen and were given a number to call if it did.
Battiya asked if she could make a phone call, but her request was refused. Yakov asked if he could go to the lavatory. The guard said ok and pointed to where it was. As Yakov walked to the toilet block he looked for a phone, but there were none. There were a few guards standing nearby chatting and smoking, they looked at him, then continued talking. When he got back he made it clear to his mother he hadn’t been able to make the call.
What they didn’t see, is one of those guards near the toilet block saw what was happening and somehow sent a signal to somebody that things were going awry. Within 10 minutes another guard entered the office where Moshe was being interrogated and whispered something to the guard in charge. He then looked at the other guards and nodded to them. Moshe was free to go. As the saying goes, money talks, even if it’s just in nods and whispers, and, as the guards soon worked out, interrogating people could certainly get money chatting freely, straight in to their pockets.
On July 8th 1971, Moshe, Battiya and their two sons touched down in Tel-A-Viv airport. I asked Eddie, their youngest son and my cousin, what his first thoughts were when they arrived in Israel. He said it was like going from a black and white world in to a multi-coloured one.
* * *
It took a long time before they got used to not feeling as if someone was watching their every move. Within 9 years they were starting to find their feet financially as well as socially. Yakov met a woman and settled down with her. One day he found out that his girlfriend from Latvia had also made her way to Israel, but, by then, it was too late.
Eddie, like his father, became a kind of metal worker too, for him though it was as a sculptor and artist. By 1980 he was beginning to have exhibitions and started dating another artist, Miri, who would later become his wife. Life was finally coming together for the family.
One day Battiya told Moshe she didn’t feel well and within a few months, aged just 60, she died of colon cancer. Just before she died she and Moshe were in their living room looking out at their children in the garden.
“There are so many things I wish had been different” She said
Moshe positioned himself behind her and slowly wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
“I wish I could have been a better husband” Moshe whispered
“You weren’t so bad” She paused for a second then added, “We were the lucky ones. And look how happy they are now” she nodded towards their sons chatting in the garden, “They’re free.” She reached up to Moshe’s hand on her shoulder, and gently took hold of it. Their fingers interlinked. She looked up at him and smiled.
* * *
Someone once told me that when we lose our partner, God wants to remind us that we must keep room in our heart to love God too. While I can understand that this is partly to help people find a reason to go on, it does feel to me that most religions and ideologies require we prioritise them first. God didn’t ask Abraham to kill his son for fun, he wanted us to know in what order our allegiances should be.
* * *
At my father’s, funeral Moshe spoke. I had tried to say something, something I’d spent a long time working out beforehand, but when I opened my mouth to speak I burst out crying and couldn’t stop. So, he kindly took over. He spoke of his love for Boris, how Boris would come to them when they lived in Riga after the war with suitcases full of contraband, and how, now, all these years later, he wanted to say sorry to Boris for banging that stone against his head.
Moshe died in 2011 a year after Boris. In 2008 his son, Yakov, took me on a long journey and at no point during it did he let me know he only had a few months to live. For Moshe, there was a penalty to living a long life, it was watching those he loved die before him. When it came to his own dying moments, it wasn’t God he wanted to greet first but Battiya, Yakov, his own parents and other loved ones.
I’ve often seen it written that God is Love, but maybe to most people, Love is God?
* * *
Moshe and Battiya’s Story Part 12 – Epilogue
I asked my cousin Eddie to help me with this story about his parents Moshe and Battiya. He must have had a lot of patience because every time I showed him my initial drafts he’d tell me that what I’d written barely scratched the surface of how awful it was to live under Soviet rule. As far as he was concerned the way I portrayed Soviet citizens was far too sweet. In his experience, the system made them very dangerous.
You’d think that people might have learned from history, that they’d recognise that we’re heading towards a world where one wrong word might be our last. But dogma, whether it’s anti-racism, green agendas, and all the other isms that are now prioritised above freedom. This isn’t the future it’s now. Even these words, they could be my last.
* * *
My father couldn’t find it in him to forgive the Latvians, which is not surprising. His family were persecuted both before, during and after the war by the non-Jewish Latvian population. When I told Eddie that I thought a lot of Latvians nowadays were not anti-Semitic he got quite annoyed with me. He pointed out that there have been far right anti-Jewish marches in recent years in Latvia, and just because I once visited the country didn’t mean I had the insight or right to let modern day Latvians off the hook. But there was something inside me that wanted to push towards a middle ground. To say, ok, there may well be a lot of Latvians with anti-Semitic views, but there might also be quite a lot who don’t feel that way.
Then I spent a bit of time looking online and there it was, the division. The ‘Zionists’ this and the ‘Zionists’ that, and I realised that it’s not just Latvians, it’s the whole Western world that’s building up its reserves of hatred again. It’s the Jews, the Muslims, the far right, people of colour, the far left, the police, the politicians, the elites, the white middle class men, the stupid masses, the deplorables, it’s everyone that isn’t us, it’s them, it’s the others. There’s no middle ground for people to meet on, there’s no sense of proportion, you’re either totally with us or you’re against us. If you hold even the slightest of non-sanctioned views you are an enemy of the people.
* * *
Ideologies of Love Part 12 – Moshe and Battiya
Maybe for Moshe and Battiya, having grown up together, they clearly knew each other well. Still, the Moshe and Battiya that they would come to know throughout their married life would be very different to their childhood images of each other. In fact, for all the time they spent together, they would still face some very hard times.
For most people, even very connected couples, there may well be temptations, loneliness, hatred, anger, detachment, and, well I think you get the picture. As much as they loved each other, this was no fairy tale and there were plenty of times when Battiya would have left Moshe had she had her family around her, and maybe he felt the same way occasionally too, but they stayed together and knew something of love.
* * *
Given our lack of education about love, and our own problematic psychologies and innate nature, it’s a miracle that any successful marriages ever come about, but they do. For most people, romantic love might bring them together but how they cope with the reality of being with someone, especially when the romantic image falls, will be the make or break of their relationship. Beyond that point there will be many other hurdles that, if the couple are caring people, will bring something of Ideal Love to their world without ever having read a word of Fromm or Aristotle.
So here we are, back at the beginning. We know that taking time, not being rash, being caring, responsible and unselfish are all very sensible ways to behave, but the immediate joys of temptation are so powerful that they can barely be resisted. Elvis sang of wise men not rushing in, but he couldn’t help falling in love. What he didn’t tell us was those wise men only got so wise after quite a few lessons, many of which were filled with pain.