This week I was struck by the power of Death Cab for Cutie’s video for Black Sun.
We Northwesterners have been enveloped by the sounds of Death Cab for nearly two decades now, and while I don’t agree with some of their politics or lyrics, certain songs reach down deep. They also have a way of translating our local precipitation into wispy, whispering ruminations.
Black Sun has been said to be a commentary on the pain and ugliness of divorce. To me the video reads as one person knocking themselves out to try and please another who hardly notices. And it reminded me of a friend’s recent commentary on the challenges of trying to find the right person. After a few wash, rinse, repeat cycles, to borrow words from another friend, the act of trying again can become more trial and task than a voyage of discovery.
While going about the usual mundane tasks this week a light bulb went on somewhere in the front left compartment of my mind, just beyond the grocery list and reminder to fix some squeaky hinges. I already know this, but this time it stood out like neon lights on stilts against an inky central Washington sky: with the right person, you will be more of yourself, not less. You will not have to compromise who you are.
How many of us have been in relationships in which we had to tone down who we are, what we love, and what we stand for in order to please another? That’s not what a relationship, particularly a marriage, is supposed to be. Marriage should be the one place in which you can be completely naked with another human being without shame, utterly yourself with your whole soul on display. On this sacred ground darkness and light can both be exposed in the safety of the shelter formed by the continual intertwining of two imperfect human beings.
That’s not what the world tells us. It’s not what most relationships in our spheres of influence teach us. Our race, the human race, has come to accept far less than what we were originally designed for. Go back to the garden. Did the first man look at the first woman and say, “you’ll do?” No. He would have been captivated by how different from himself she was and yet how wonderfully she complemented his own character and interests. He would have seen her as a marvelous gift, an enigma begging to be explored, an alien entity whose personality invited him into all its tantalizing twists and turns. I’m sure she was at least as entranced by him.“Who is he?” she thought as her heart stood still in a timeless and ethereal moment.
But here, in this time, the human race has become largely self-absorbed. We go out into the world asking what other people can do for us rather than what we can do for them. Many suffer from the delusion that an initial sexual attraction is spark enough to sustain a potentially lifetime-long relationship. There has to be a multidimensional framework to hold that up. We’ve lost track of what constitutes successful relationships– common values, common goals, mutual interests, a commitment to becoming more like our Creator, Love Himself.
So we go on the prowl and find that it’s so easy to join the other contenders are splashing around in the shallow end of the dating pool. “No expectations!” they say. “Let’s just have fun and see what happens!” But there’s a tug at your heart as you wade around in the moral morass. You find yourself longer for something more. Something richer. Something deeper. It’s passionate. It’s primal. It’s like an unseen, magnetic force is drawing you to the deep end to experience something better than you’ve ever had planned. The garden is calling.
Unfortunately, there are those who will follow you to the deep end without having the actual fortitude to sustain a relationship at that level. Eventually they will panic and scramble back to the shallow end or drown. This can also happen when you’re a deep person hanging out in the shallow end. If both of you aren’t made of the same stuff, one or both ends of your union will start to sink. And sometimes it takes both people down. You find yourself alone, disillusioned, screaming at the universe, asking why you’ve been abandoned when you tried so hard and gave so much. Often the other person walks on like you weren’t even there in the first place.
So you try. And try again. And it seems like you keep finding the same people, or the same problems, or the same conditions. The quest for that one person can become an exercise in pain, an unnecessary drudgery, even torture. Like the man in this video, you might be practically killing yourself just to get one glance from the object of your affections. So you pull back. You start stuffing your hopes and dreams down into some forlorn hole in your metaphorical right pant leg. You start trying to be someone you’re not to get attention and please others. You begin to lose yourself. Internally it’s like you see yourself standing at 50,000 feet and are watching your soul tear lose from your body only to plunge down below the clouds.
The right person won’t make you feel this way. The right person isn’t going to walk past like you’re a ghost despite your best efforts. You shouldn’t have to tone down your personality, shave off parts of your intellect, and pretend to like things you detest to get the kind of relationship you want. The right man or woman will look upon you, warts and all, and love who you are and what you stand for. Being with them will encourage your strengths and build your uniqueness rather than tear that down. Your differences will complement one another and you will not lose the freedom to pursue your hopes and dreams. This is someone who will help you get there. This is someone with whom you will accomplish far more than you ever could have on your own. You will be more of who God intended you to be, not less.
Do you hear what I’m saying? If you’re an intelligent person, and your potential mate is threatened by that, should they be your potential mate? If you’re a fun-loving person who could care less what other people think of your flamboyant interests and adventures, why join forces with someone who belittles some of your friends or activities? If you feel that you should raise children a certain way and want them to have particular ethics, why risk their futures by connecting with someone who’s not standing on the same moral ground? Yes, you’re going to have some hobbies she doesn’t, and relationships are work. You’re never going to agree on everything. There will be times you have to agree to disagree. But don’t compromise on the foundation.
As the singles among us go out there and try and try again, my advice to them is to know who you are and what you want, and walk away if you have to compromise your core characteristics or values. But be open to surprises. Sometimes the right person defies the picture you had in your head and turns out to be something even better. Sometimes a friend becomes something more. Sometimes the best answers are hiding in plain sight. Most of all, remember who your Creator made you to be and know that those passions and missions buried in the deepest part of your soul are from Him. That’s no accident, and He’s likely put someone else on the same trajectory who burns with a similar fire.
Whatever your approach to the dating game, you probably already know that there are hordes of self-absorbed people out there who will gladly treat you as a commodity no matter how good you are to them. To much of this world, you’re disposable. They’ll use you, beat you up, put your heart through a blender, and drive off in a cloud of dust without a second thought. But the more you come to realize that you were created as a unique individual with a specific purpose, the more you will gravitate towards like souls. The truer you are to yourself, the more courageously you’ll move out into the deep end of the human pool. You will learn to swim and not sink.
When you go out into the masses armed with the truth about who you are, the more likely it is that someday soon you’ll feel an electrifying glimmer of recognition– is it him? Could that be her? And if, in the course of the exploratory exercise of friendship, you discover that the real you is growing and thriving, and being continually invited out into the open, perhaps you have finally found that rare treasure the Creator has been preparing for you for years. During all that time you felt dejected and alone, He was at work causing your paths to meet and preparing that ancient memory to stir.
And the man or woman who drives away in the black car after smashing your heart to pieces will become little more than an afterthought fading into a distant past life.
And I say also this. I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes. –C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet
©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.