Kate’s Platform Address on Sunday, “Love Stinks,” drew our attention to the negative aspects of love. She reminded us that love can be unbearable, insufferable, painful – it isn’t always chocolates and roses. Our love can be unrequited; we may never find love; there are challenges in every loving relationship, so even if we find love, we can find it difficult; love is sometimes insufficient to sustain a relationship; it is terrible to lose love, given the vulnerability love requires; sometimes we are bad at loving others, and sometimes we are loved badly. Love can be as upsetting as it can be uplifting.
It may seem depressing to dive with such enthusiasm into the downsides of love. There is a tendency, in our culture, to recoil from anything which might complicate our picture of “positive” emotions. So many of our cherished cultural stories about love exalt it as the perfect union of two people, the best possible achievement in life – when in truth, a perfect relationship is impossible, and there are many routes to happiness, some of which do not involve love at all.
That’s why I appreciated Kate’s perspective on love so much. It’s important to keep love – and other goals our culture sets up for us – in proper perspective. The stories we tell ourselves about love can be overwhelming and impossible to achieve, which makes us nervous and miserable. Having a realistic outlook enables us to meet love face to face, and have more reasonable expectations for our relationships.
This is a typically Ethical Humanist approach to things: we try to avoid putting anything on too high a pedestal, keeping our view realistic and honest. I look forward to Kate’s future Platform Addresses, “Laughter Sucks” and “Joy Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be!”