Autodidact: self-taught


The Trial of True Love

by V. L. Craven

Once again, William Nicholson has written a book that makes my mind spin. He wrote Shadowlands as well as a truly excellent, philosophical novel called The Society of Others . His books are the type where it seems he’s telling a simple story, but there are layers upon layers of other things happening. The one I’m reading now focuses on love, but seems to me to address any feeling people have at all.

I’m currently reading The Trial of True Love (about halfway through) and it’s made me consider the times I’ve thought I was in love with someone. Looking back, I would now term it ‘obsessed’ or that I was bored with my life and needed something to focus on and so was in the frame of mind that would allow me to pick out some random woman and say I was in love with her. If she doesn’t return the love that’s even better, as I didn’t really want a relationship–I just wanted something to obsess over–and it’s more romantic if it’s unrequited. Then you get to suffer for your love.

The book is about a writer who is writing a book about true love and love at first site. He’s thirty, broke and has never been in love. While working on the book, he falls into love at first site, which he takes to be a coincidence. I think it’s that he was thinking about it and writing about it and so he wanted to experience it and so did. It’s written in first person, so to hear him talk about the way he feels about this woman reminds me of how I ‘felt’ about one woman in particular. I put that in quotes because I had convinced myself I loved her and would do anything she asked, but that’s not what was happening in reality.

Another book I’m reading right now [Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert] addresses this sort of thing—how we define emotions we’ve experienced in the past. What is the true emotion? What we feel at any moment, which is influenced by if we’ve eaten/got enough sleep/our childhoods/our cultural background or how we view those emotions two days or a month or a decade later, when we can see the picture most clearly? I cannot remember if I was aware that I was lying to myself—I don’t believe I was. I recently found a large notebook’s worth of papers devoted to this woman. If she’d’ve returned the sentiment, it would have been romantic, but when it’s one-sided it’s creepy.

This also reminds me of the times men have told me they loved me when they didn’t really know me. One man was particularly adamant and we talking to one another enough (I never spoke to my inamorata) that I heard his side of things enough to see that he’d never accept that I simply didn’t love him. He seemed to take it that I was intentionally trying to be alone and that if I’d only try we’d be happy for ever. His ‘love’ for me was based purely in his mind, as my ‘love’ was. Even though he and I interacted and I had no real contact with the woman I was enamoured with I think our experiences were the same. I just knew if I had the chance she’d realise we were meant to be together. Ironically, these two experiences, which lasted several years, over-lapped by a considerable time and I did not see the similarities. We are blind to our own ironies, I believe.

Back to the novel, the protagonist (in his bid to get this woman to let him into her world) has explained to her why he believes in true love (she does not) and why he believes he could meet his true love and never stray. He says that true love is just that. Love that has to do with truth. His true love would know everything there is to know about him and still love him and if he were to have an affair he’d have to tell his wife about that affair to keep their love anchored in truth, which would be unthinkable. I find that idea simple yet interesting. Do the people who cheat NOT believe in true love—do they believe in keeping secrets from the person to whom they are supposed to be closest?

Personally, I really lucked out in finding someone who is my best friend and got to know that person over a long period of time. It wasn’t a being-struck-by-lightning sort of thing, but from my own experience, while being struck by lightning is dramatic and makes every second of every day beautiful or terrible it’s also painful as hell and one is never quite the same as before and not in a good way.

[I found this when going through some old files. It must have been written in May/June 2006, but I thought it was worth posting.]

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