Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Love's Labor's Loss

"Therefore, brave conquerors, for so you are
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world's desires,
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force."

My thought about the above quote from Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Loss, in a Buddhist context, is that transcending desire, in a healthy way, is one of the fruits of deep meditation, but that aping and pretending to be there when you are not, can be quite painful. We try to do an end run around obstacles and get to the fruits without paying the price. Adolescents use asceticism to cope with life's richness. Guess I wish I could develop to the adolescence phase.

Aristotle says friendship is about the love of virtue. That's what I take away from him. Hanging out with guys who want to advance knowledge and learn is the great aspiration in Love's Labor's Loss.

Friendship is also about saying the hard dark truths about someone. The only problem is that it's easy to be judgemental and not hide your disgust at lack of virtue, at mistakes--which pushes people away and isn't an act of friendship. We have to be aware of our projections, our disgust at others can be really disguised disgust at our own projected traits that we don't own.

Friendship is complicated. When you're younger it's about playing together. As you get older it's more, concern and deeper conversations come into it. Friendship can be about someone you feel comfortable confessing your deep dark secrets and your shames. Deep thought is friendship, that is was I got from Sara Jenkins book on friendship.

The fantasy of the spiritual community providing deeper friendships was ripe for me to become disillusioned about. It's just like everywhere else, and humans are human. Even so, a shared project draws people together, so sangha is about the aspiration of deepening the spiritual practice.

Learning about friendship is also learning about the limits to it, and your fantasies about it. This may be masochistic of me, but I really think that a lot of life is about disillusionment of false ideas. So a friend will not ameliorate all your problems or be an always available safe harbor that if you can just get there, everything will be alright.

I've been thinking a lot about the idea that Republicans don't want to give out "free things" from the government because people lack discipline. Virtue should be rewarded, not lack of virtue. This viewpoint lacks compassion. As usual, the Republican ideas are good personally, but not so great writ large, when people are suffering. Because you can't imagine suffering the way people suffer does not mean they don't suffer. Government is about taking care of us, how ever "us" is defined, usually with borders, but also increasingly with ideas of citizenship. There are always limits and I appreciate that government can't solve every problem, and I appreciate that expanding government can't go on infinitely. I also appreciate that meddling in people's lives can be annoying.

A hindrance to friendship is capitalism. If it's not taking up all our time to make ends meet, then money can be an issue in playing and can be a bone of contention. I saw a man try and help out another who was stuck in the snow. In the process he smashed the other car. He weaseled out and denied he hit the car, and a family in financial crisis had to pony up for the expense. People don't want to be responsible financially when they are helping out. I could see that getting in the way of friendship.

We need time, emotional energy, curiosity, tolerance and many things to be a friend, but also interest in the other. Friendship dies when it's always about giving to the other or a patriarchal or matriarchal  view of a person. But nobody is always equal so there will be some of that.

In Love's Labor's Loss, these friends end up falling in love despite trying to stay away from it. In his previous play Shakespeare has a friendship where the friend tries to steal his friend's lover, threatened to rape her, and then almost instantly they make up at the end. Can you name that play?

As a fun exercise, go away and do something for 5 minutes, and then write down Love's Labor's Loss. I've had the dickens of a time getting it right, there are so many ways to mess it up.

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