Alfred Lord Tennyson, in 1850, wrote:
“‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all”
(from “In Memoriam”).
Adverb: “Sea Breath”
If we’re speaking of family, children, fathers, siblings, mothers, spouses, friends, I’d say Tennyson’s statement is without doubt true-an axiom perhaps. We all lose someone, but we would not forgo the loving part in order to avoid the loss. But I think some of us would debate all day and all night whether we could apply this same principle to romance.
Andy Partridge of XTC once sang of being free of a love “more like murder”. The Everly Brothers, way back about fifty years ago, had a hit with “Love Hurts”, and countless other songs spawned by real-life experiences have echoed the same idea, that sometimes romance or unrequited love can cause far more pain than pleasure.
I’m well aware that planning to avoid falling for someone and so avoid the potential for such pain is perhaps a futile exercise, but then again, perhaps not. In an age when we’re all expected to fall in “love” multiple times, and when people are working much harder to present themselves as being desirable and irresistible, I say that it’s a wise form of self-defense and self-respect to do everything possible to fend off that turn of events which can be devastating to our lives and to those around us.
With this in mind, I’ve cunningly crafted for myself a pre-relationship, pre-drooling tool which I call the “pain –to pleasure ratio”. Unfortunately, I stupidly crafted the Ratio decades too late to do me any good.
It’s very simple and it works like this. When you see or meet someone who causes your pulse to race and your eyes to pop, you must metaphorically club yourself on the head and think:
Having achieved this glimmer of reality and sanity in your mind, begin to formulate just how much pain this person could cause you, and compare it to the amount of pleasure you first expected to extract for yourself. If he or she looks sensational but is clearly vain and opinionated, and his or her nose is at an inclined angle in relation to your own nasal plane, the ratio can be determined to be something in the region of 6 to 1. That is, you are likely to experience six times as much pain from this person as you are pleasure. I’ve included in my calculation two negative points for each of these manifest threats (not even taking into account any unseen threats): you might give them a different value depending on the situation.
The most fundamental message contained in the Ratio is this: just because someone looks stunning or at least “cute”, it doesn’t mean that they are, or as my mother used to say (and to my peril I took no notice), “beauty is only skin deep”. And it’s not just the beautiful who can cause you trouble. Perhaps we should all wear a large sign which reads “CAUTION-I AM HUMAN”, because it seems that when it comes to romance almost all of us jump first and ask questions later. “How dare he/she treat me that way?” we think, when, in truth, we have no guarantee of good treatment to begin with, particularly when we “fall in love” and jump into bed without taking the time to find out what that person is actually like…or what God thinks.
It’s amazing how many sci-fi good-guys have encountered aliens who appeared at first to be attractive, pleasant, friendly and kind, only to find out later that they were belligerent, man-eating monsters who’d been playing on that weakest of human weaknesses. Some humans are like that, and while they may not put us on some alien restaurant menu (“to serve man”), they do manage to wreak havoc on our lives and our self-image and our spiritual well-being. How wise it is, then, to think and to pray, to consider, and to respect ourselves and take good care of ourselves, when perhaps no-one else can or will do it for us.
The Bible takes this thought to its cold, stark extreme, in Solomon’s book of Proverbs. Solomon, pleading with a son to pay attention to Wisdom, personified and calling aloud in the streets to all who will take notice, warns of the dangers of a relationship which seems at the outset to be an all-pleasure experience, but which is packed with pain:
“Wisdom…will save you also from the adulteress,
From the wayward wife with her seductive words,
Who has left the partner of her youth
And ignored the covenant she made before God.
For her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life
(Proverbs 2:16-19 NIV).
The pain-to pleasure ratio is patented and copyright © by Nick Fisher August 2013