Recently I watched the movie Her. Rewatched it, actually, with Joaquin Phoenix being the highlight of a searingly haunting story of a frustrated young man who, post-break-up, falls in love with a virtual assistant (not unlike Siri, but one whose “consciousness” seems to evolve over time). The movie is set in the near future, and it is really not all that hard to believe, given just how much technology has managed to worm its way into our lives already. If Alexa can belt a tune at your whim, maybe you can get Alexandra to fall in love with you.
The central conflict in Her lies not so much in the premise that Joaquin’s love interest is a computer programme. Rather, it lies in how he has no one to cuddle or make love with, when he returns home from work.
Joaquin Phoenix in a scene from ‘Her’Warner Bros.
What does it truly mean when you say you are making love to someone?
Drawing a corollary with the movie, how much emphasis should we lay on physical touch in a romantic relationship (with a real person, of course)? Is that the most important facet of love? What if two people are told that they cannot even hold hands, but that they are allowed to love each other? Would they give that love up, even if their individual infatuations preceding this ridiculously diktat, were blisteringly intense? Is that the reason most long-distance relationships do not work?
What does it truly mean when you say you are making love to someone? What if your partner has someone else on their mind when they go through the motions of lovemaking? Is it still love? The really weird thing is: we will never know. Yet we go on, believing the person we love loves us with the same intensity, if not more. Till death do us part and all that.
Can you have a person like you can have an ice cream? When you are kissing that person, is it safe to say you are having them? Oh look, Kookie has finished her Cookies and Cream but no matter how much you have kissed her later, she is still there!
Could there really be two kinds of love?
Is love all about having someone or is it something more?Pixabay
It is our fervent need to have people, which leads us to make love to them over and over again, or perhaps hold their hand and steal a kiss every once in a while. Forge a human connect, so to speak, even if the mental bond we share with them is almost non-existent.
Could there really be two kinds of love? One that is animalistic and the one soulmates speak of with stars in their eyes? I feel it is the latter that truly endures. When Kookie thanks you incessantly for bringing her that flavour of ice cream she craved for so long, it touches an emotional chord that you will remember with far more clarity than those passionate kisses exchanged in the car, say, ten years later, when Kookie goes by her maiden name, Kokila, and is married to Rajeshbhai, who never kisses her on the lips.
We are all hardwired to continually seek desire. An orgasm will take care of sexual desire sufficiently well, or in some cases, only just. It is not only Cleopatra who was in search of a man that could satisfy her. Nobody satisfies anyone, except ephemerally. Nor does Cookies and Cream, for that matter. But, ah! The calories the sweet decadence brings...and it is sex that is touted as sinful!
Human beings can never truly be had by someone…there is literally nothing you share with you lover
While it is safe to say that Kookie has had the ice cream, the same cannot be said when a person is the object of, well, affection. The urban slang “hitting”, then, finds a greater level of credence. After all, hitting does not imply consumption.
Human beings can never truly be had by someone. A person who has suffered the horrors of non-consensual sex (and here I must interject that my heart breaks every time I hear a story of the kind, and it is my vehement belief that nobody can truly get over something so traumatic), they can at least garner solace in knowing that the perpetrator of that ghastly act can never touch their souls. A translation of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita leads us to believe (in reference to the soul, that is) that “Weapons cannot cut it, nor can fire burn it; water cannot wet it, nor can wind dry it”. We are, after all, more than our mere bodies. This leads us to another conundrum: might we not, then, be imbued with the ability to possess another’s soul? Well, not unless you are Lucifer.
We talk fondly of soulmates; lovers who share a bond beyond space and time. Just like the body, though, a person’s soul can never be truly experienced by another. When you are talking about the powerful connect you share with someone, what you are really speaking of is the individual experience you are privy to within the environs of your mind, which is nowhere the same as the feeling that exists in the mind of your lover. There is literally nothing you share with them. Not even their body, that you constantly thrust against your own, in an attempt to somehow fuse with them. Perhaps that is why Rajeshbhai goes only for the “bumper prize”; a mere peck on the lips will not suffice, nor will the more ambitious kissing of the French variety.
It is a paradox of sorts that spiritual wisdom has us believe that we are all but one, when for all practical purposes, we are content to be vastly different beings. Why, then, the constant need for another? Perhaps it is the realisation that, in the end, we are all going home, to that source where all living things come from.
And that explains the constant need to have a person.
A person we can never really have.
Rohit Trilokekar is a novelist from Mumbai who flirts with the idea of what it means to love. His heart’s compass swerves ever so often towards Kolkata, the city he believes has the most discerning literary audience.