Walking to the lecture hall, I tell C. how I worry that I’d end up finishing more Kdramas than books this year. I should read more books and watch less TV, don’t you think? C. says, don’t think of it as a lack or loss. You also learn through watching, don’t you?
This past weekend I watched how love is built, shared, and tested by a psychiatrist with genophobia and anxiety disorder, and a bestselling crime writer with OCD and schizophrenia, even as they deal with work pressures, family troubles, heartsick friends, faithless ex-lovers, and childhood traumas involving domestic violence, parental infidelity, arson, death threats, and murder. As the plot, which began as a light-hearted rom-com, took a dark turn, and for a long while refused to look back, I thought, “It’s Okay, That’s Love” is a misleading title for that show. Or is it.
The thing is that we’re all struggling, some with more success or more difficulty than others. What is it that gives strength even to the most miserable?
It would be nice to struggle through life with the certainty that the person I love also cares deeply about me. But can I love without caring? Can I care without understanding? Can I understand without listening? Can I listen well without first muting the voices in my own head, with their unfounded assumptions and shaky conclusions, their quick judgments, their anger, sadness, and fear? Can I mute them without humility? Can I be humble without recognizing that in loving it’s never just about who I am and what I think and how I feel and what I need and what I want? Can I recognize this without also accepting uncertainty, vulnerability, disappointment? Can I accept these without surmounting fear? Can I vanquish fear without trust? Can I trust without assurance? Is that what faith means?
My friends… The next time you are suffering, if this suffering was caused by the person you love most in the world, have recourse to right action and say the fourth mantra: “Dear one, I am suffering deeply. I need you to help me to get out of this suffering. I need you to explain this [the situation perceived to be hurtful] to me.” This is the language of true love.
– Thich Nhat Hanh, You Are Here
In one scene, Jae-yeol tells Soo-kwang: in a relationship, the more powerful one is neither the one who loves more, nor the one who cares less. The more powerful one is he who can love without needing anything in return. A person who can love without clinging is a person who is free. He can be kind and understanding and generous because he does not fear losing himself.
This morning, my sister, while brushing my hair, after cooking food for me to take home to my apartment: “You poop. Meme loves you even if you’re the poopiest poopyface.” I thought it was the sweetest thing anyone had said to me.
Last week, as we were walking to the lecture hall, I told C. how I’d outsource my emotional life to TV and focus my energies on cultivating my mind. I said, dispassion and intellection — these would be my telos! C. just chuckled.
In the still, quiet darkness, where she stands between his body and the wall, he flicks the lighter on to illuminate her eyes, and, smiling at the embers kindled there, whispers to her throat, One moment. It takes but a moment to fall in love again.