We are deeply attached to some special people around us: our parents, friends, children, and partners in romantic love. This is among the most important and most valuable aspects of our lives. Being part of these relationships, and constantly getting involved more, and deeper, is one of the greatest (and perhaps most characteristically human) goods we can achieve.

At the same time, these relationships are also disturbingly at risk: any moment, we might be rejected; our dearest might have to leave us; or they might die. And what was of so much value to us - deeply affectionate, determinedly sustained, fiercely defended and at every possible occasion tenderly expressed - breaks away, ceases to exist (except in memories).

(Even if the other person is still there, that doesn't change much, for the value is in the relationship, in the participation of all those involved, and this is what has been destroyed.)

If we try to ignore that risk, we will be devastated by false emotions: some of the most powerful of them all are generated if we let ourselves be caught in this trap, both while the relationships still last (such as jealousy) and after they have ended (like distress). One way to make sure we are not taken by surprise is to systematically prepare: regularly contemplating the possibility, for each of our relationships, that it will end one day (a day which might be near already, for all we know).

Preparing ourselves, however, does not mean, and must not mean, attempting to secure us against the risk. This won't be successful at all - invariably it will only destroy the value in the relationship (and with it all the true love and affection which we brought into it). That value depends on our uncompromising stance. Avoiding the risk is as wrong as ignoring it: we would end up with a safe, but weak and shallow caricature of the real thing. We must be careful, then, not to drive our preparations in the wrong direction: yes, we acknowledge and make it clear to ourselves that all of our relationships must end, and that we can never know when and how that will happen; we open our eyes to that risk; but that insight must not prevent us even for a single moment from forming and intensifying attachments to those we love, to seek friends, to keep alive those connections we treasure. We mustn't shrink from bringing all our energy into them - but we mustn't close our eyes either to their inevitable ending. Take care.
Copyright © 2007-2012 by Leif Frenzel. All rights reserved.