‘Can you speak to something a little more?’
‘You mentioned something the other day, to the effect of love trumping masculinity: that all the men these days want more masculinity, but what is actually more powerful is love. I’d love to hear more about it.’
It’s always fun to play the ‘guru game’. Just choose who will play guru, and have everyone else ask you existential questions. Ideally, you will sit in an elevated position with a vase of flowers behind you, although we’re at a plastic table, awaiting our chicken-rice. Anyway, take long, uncomfortable pauses between words, like you’re searching for something. Let the wisdom come through.
‘Perhaps you can help me with a more directed question?’
‘I wrote down what you said because this was an eye-opener for me:
You said, “Personally I found that being able to feel this amount of love and tenderness in the body without being guarded is the ace in the pack, and masculine edge doesn’t come close to having a passion and doesn’t come close to being absolutely to the point of overwhelm with love and accepting how much love you feel and how much love you have and how much love you are. When you know yourself as this extent of love, all the seduction stuff becomes silly.”’
‘I’m glad I made a note of that. What strikes me is that a part of me might have been fixated on the masculine edge stuff and the seduction stuff all these years. Trying on other people’s ways of being. And I have to admit, in a way, I looked at those things through a “lacking” sort of perspective, like, how could I ever match up to those other awesome ‘seducer types’ who are the image of Adonis, etc. But now, understanding that being a loving person and not being afraid to express and embody how and who I feel love for, as a foundation, well, that’s kinda eye opening for me.
‘It also aligns with my truer self and my truer style of seduction. Like just being silly and full of love and not trying to posture and try to be all edgy or masculine or seducer-like. In fact, those times I was silly and full of love were the times I just had way more fun in, and ended up having more sustainable success.
‘There we go.’
This guy’s doing all his own work. I take an almost indolent sip of green tea.
‘I think I had the paradigm reversed. I seemed to believe that the masculine edge and seduction skills were the foundation, but now I see they could just be fun expressions on top of a deeper and more fundamental bedrock of love. That being said, my question now is: am I correct in my assessment about this?’
‘What are some examples or archetypes in movies or stories that best encapsulate this? For the longest time I’ve been trying to find some example that fits “me”, but i think this kind of love foundation is really what I’ve been looking for.’
‘These are really superb words. It sounds like you understand the paradigm I’m talking of, and that you’ve already experienced it, already preferred it, and have seen the sustainability in it. The moves of seduction are indeed the embellishment atop a lover, the cherry on the cake. The self-obsessed seducer is just embellishment: vapid, uninspiring, all cherry, no virtue. Would you rather date a woman who was freely herself, devoted to what she loved and natural… or date a woman who was trying to stoke your reactions to her, trying to reel you in, expanding her sexual energy as a juicy maggot on a hook, mentally self-correcting so she embodies a kind of femininity she subscribes to online? The second might be fun, but the gentleman can tell: it’s an accident waiting to happen.’
I might ‘get’ love, but honestly it’s a mystery to me why it happens at all. There was a girl at school, fresh-faced, curly red hair. She appeared to laugh in a soft, teasing way when I acted up in class or tried to look clever. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her breasts thrust forward through her thin, white school-shirt, which revealed in their entirety the ribbons and patterns of her daily bra. It was beyond morality, this burst of nature’s bounty, and her presence in ‘woodwork’ caused a great deal of pain. We must’ve been fifteen, sixteen.
But I made no approach to the smiling girl in case my friends all took the piss. She wasn’t one of the ‘lookers’ in our year, didn’t resemble any model of the mid-nineties media. And besides, two gingers dating? I didn’t check this assumption, though, that my friends would all take the piss. I just added the loneliness to my pile of growing regret. You might say the innocence of this love was tainted with the arousal of youth, but all love is tainted by eros: there needs to be fire beneath the prima materia to get it burning. Love is like a bunsen burner: you need to breathe oxygen in through the bottom. But it’s no good when the whole experiment’s encaged in shame.
‘As a film character you might resonate with, try Ethan Hawke in the Before trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight). He’s not the best ‘seducer’, has many moments of cringe, but he does enough to make it happen—he shows up just enough to make their lifelong love-affair happen. By the third film, you see him love fiercely through the most frustrating of conflicts. When I first saw these films I hated the guy—partly jealous he bagged this French chick on a train, and partly because I wanted a cooler role-model. But later, I came round to salute him.’
‘I vaguely remember that film.’
‘Most men might say he’s not in absolute dominance of the relationship. I say, ‘yeah, but he knows duty, sacrifice, and can actually make things work without diminishing himself and without needing the upper hand.’ She might fantasise about other guys from time to time, but she’ll never find one with more true goodness of heart, with more goofy humour, and she’ll never find one with whom she can be so herself. Most films obsess over seducer types, though. It’s hard to portray, in cinema, the kinds of male virtue that keep a relationship going, and it’s harder still to transmit real love. Wanna see the closest thing to real love?
‘Paris, Texas. If you can withstand the slow burn, it’ll knock your socks off.’
‘I like the question you pose about who I’d rather date and, yeah, I’ve come across some unnatural women who I’m just not attracted to anymore, at least mentally and emotionally.
‘It’s weird to meet a woman who is full of love. We see the beauty but can’t place where it comes from. We think beauty should be on the body, but beauty is beyond the body. We don’t know what to do with ourselves.’
* * *
‘I’m still curious about masculine edge, though. Where do you see it fitting into this paradigm? How important is it and how is it best integrated here? I can still see its uses but I imagine it takes a back seat at some point. Is it just something that grows naturally out of devotion to the things you love?’
‘Having a ‘Masculine Edge’, or a kind of inner masculine structure, makes all the difference in the world. What is the core of it? Integrity, boundaries, a sense of core that doesn’t get lost in women. Verticality, they call it in some cultures. You don’t fall over. No Masculine Edge? Then your love drips and saps into a cloying, grasping hankering, and women will be able to run rings around you. No Masculine Edge? Your love will over-power you into a neediness. With Masculine Edge? You can still stand in your dignity, even when your feelings make you want to fall. This is the key of it all: to remain standing in dignity, while letting your heart love ceaselessly.
‘Another definition? I’m willing to feel my emotions, my anxiety, my pain, without acting from these emotions, without using women, explaining to women, trying to grab sympathies and consolation from women—her scented shoulder on which to cry—to try and make my feelings go away. With Masculine Edge? Your love, your sentiments are strong, while also contained. Your love is a gift rather than a burden, craving, loneliness, that needs to be alleviated. It is possible to love without smother, without collapse or manipulation or hiding. It is possible to love with a wide-open pride, letting the love channel through. As you hold a masculine frame, your love and your loving feelings can circulate through you and impregnate the air around, enlightening all, without knocking you off centre. The cynic, the seducer, judges love, his scars of rejection burned too deep. He thinks all love is weak and so closes his heart. But you can be open and straight and love, love, love.
‘Too many people confuse Masculine Edge, as I’m talking about it here, with a kind of daring, dirty-talking thing. ‘You’re a bad girl, I like it.’ This if fuck-talk. Sexual play. It might be daring to talk like this, but I don’t think it is Masculine Edge. You can talk like this and have no particular virtue, no presence, no groundedness, through which to contain and channel your love.’
‘Does this distinction make sense? ‘Masculine Edge’—in the way I speak of it—is a test, an initiation. Do you love as a boy or as a man? And how many kilowatts of love can channel through your body without you blowing a fuse or singing your wires? Are you willing to lose love, and give up what you want, if it’s the true, ethical thing to do? Sure, hit the gym and build what you think is a grounded, muscular, warrior body. But without love, it’s arid, uninspiring.’
I still don’t know how I wound up doing this for a living. What changed in me since those younger days?
‘Did you ever show up like this?’
Like what? With my heart fully open, or full of sexy-talk?
Let’s just say I’ve tumbled behind sofas with juice up to my knuckles. And said things in public that would get me imprisoned.
‘And the love?’
‘Oh God. There was a time… she was an American girl, actually. A slow-burner, oxygen quietly seeping in through the bottom. But I realised, one night, that I’d fallen in love in that sappy, fifteen year-old kinda way, and I had no way I could approach her now, no way I could fix a mask over my behaviour, because the love-feelings were just overpowering. I was running these feelings at 120% capacity, and I had to breathe and sit still throughout the day to keep from exploding under the voltage. Eating was hard. Good job I wasn’t driving at the time, either. The scariest thing, of course, was admitting to myself how much love I felt—I’d conditioned myself to compress such feelings since woodwork at school, remember—and, scarier still, was sharing what I felt with her. I mean, she was a friend before the love damn burst. Could I admit I’d fallen in love with someone, and get away with my dignity in tact? Could I openly declare—celebrate to the rafters and the angels and the heavens—that I’d fallen ass-over-tit in love with this chick and that no more sacred a thing could ever befall a man? To conduct this amount of love, and to share this amount of love, and to open these aches to the airs and the winds, burned through all the fear I had, for twenty years, held, about letting myself fall in love.
‘Was it useful you did all of that?’
Let us just say, to quote Basho, that I got a glimpse of the underglimmer. And it helped me play this guru game every once in a while.
‘You got a glimpse of her under-garment?’
‘Son, there are mysteries in the cosmos even the gurus should keep secret.’
‘Masculine Edge—in the dirty-talk definition of the term—gives you fun things to say when the vibe is good with you and your girl. What makes you a flirt and not a creep when you dirty-talk? That your body can love and contain love. Sure, the sexy-talk kind of Masculine Edge brings energy and laughter and subversion into my relationships—silk and salt and silver and spice and the plunder of the sierras and seas. But having a flash of the ‘gypsy pirate’ gives no indication about whether you’re a man, grounded in yourself, able to love, or worthy of any kind of long-term trust! Too many Amorati (and especially those who’ve spent time in communities, let’s say, adjacent to ours) seem to think that the sexual side of Masculine Edge is the holy grail. Which is deluded. Flirtatious gypsies are good for a week or two, but let us ask: is there a kind of love which is timeless? When you can love in a timeless way, everything else gets put into context. Bring both the gypsy and this timeless love together, and now you’re talking…’
Glaucon—or whatever his name—nods his head in slow revelation. ‘I think I’m getting it.’
‘Masculine Edge is having a frame for the current of your emotions to flow through. It’s not a thing in itself, it’s scaffolding. It needs to be there, but it’s actually kind of contentless. Lose this scaffolding, and your emotions congeal: a clot of grief in your heart, a tear in your seminal ducts. This scaffolding kind of masculinity doesn’t have any cool ‘seducer features’ or clever lines about it. And it’s certainly not obsessed with itself: it is obsessed only with experience. If man is a wine, does he become richer over the years as he expands his lockers of guns and double-entendres? Or is it knowing love, and the shadows of heartbreak, that ripens the wine?
I wonder if one can fall in love the way one plays the guru game—dropping into love because you choose to, like you drop into wisdom because you choose to. Tell everyone you’re a lover, and they’ll see you as such. See the world through a perspective and believe it enough, and you emit a kind of authority that magnetises the effect you want. Like in acting.
But what is acting, and what is real? What is self-creation, and what is authenticity?
‘That was a fantastic breakdown of masculine edge. Thanks so much. I’m definitely gonna have to revise this multiple times to fully absorb it, seems like I really got something new from this today’
* * *
Amid the pause, I take a look around the restaurant, and smell the night air, warm and electric. The waitress refills our tea. We smile. She’s brought us cupcakes, ‘complimentary’, she says. ‘Chocolate’.
‘My last question then is, what exactly is love if we must be semantic?
Initially I can say that it’s a feeling or energy that runs through my body when I’m with others, or even a respect or good intention for people and things around me. But what do you say?’
‘What exactly is love if we must be semantic?’ Well, I think love is anything but semantic! But you know that…
‘I like the way the Greeks talked about their four qualities of love. Yogis, and especially Sufis, have a number of distinct qualities of love that they talk about, like infusions that give a nice flavour to emptiness or presence. Perfume of the Divine, and all of that. The love you feel for a kitten is different to what you feel for a ripe, provocative woman—the ‘love’ originates in a different part of your body, and shifts in its viscosity—but in either case, the love feelings exist within you, and your loving feelings don’t belong inside the object you’re looking at.
‘Love seems to appear when the ego quietens down. This is nature, and I think love is purest when there is no object, it’s just the flavour of the air. You can feel a passionate kind of love on a good spring morning, even if this passion isn’t pointed at anyone. But love starts to get complex when we think an outside object triggers it. If you believe your loving feelings come from a cat or a woman, this belief in separation, in love-as-depending-on-externalities, sets you up for some mind-created mess. And yes, there are hormones in the body which amplify the mind-created mess. This is when we start needing that woman to complete us, because we think our feelings of love will only reach their zenith if we can ‘get’ her—whatever you picture that to mean in your sordid little reality! If this is your frame, you’ll only be set up for frustration.
‘To be more specific to your question, I think all forms of love are more subtle than ‘energies that run through our bodies’. ‘Moving energies’ are more likely to be lustful and hormone-based rather than a love-state of consciousness. Having said that, we could say lust is a form of love (which is amplified when our heart is open as we feel lust). It is also true that deep, beyond-the-level-of-energy feelings of love can bring very strange and strong feelings onto the body. Maybe it’s for you to explore this for yourself, and tell me what you find…’
I’m on a fucking roll. Pure guru gold!
‘I got it.’
‘So what is the difference between all the various phenomena associated with love, like self-sacrifice, sexual attraction, non-sexual attraction, infatuation, and so on? It seems everyone’s experienced it but nobody can define it.’
‘Ok, one by one. You say you feel “a respect or good intention for people and things around you”. I think this stems from a giving state of love, one of blessing and self-sacrifice. This quality of love we associate with parents, that ‘good’ parents are sacrificial and bad parents are not. If you want a deep, enduring relationship with your woman, in which both people mutually give of themselves for each other, you need this kind of generosity, or, dare I say it, in some certain moments, a forgetting of personal agenda. On one end, this is a light devotional love—taken to an extreme, you merge with those you serve until your ego falls away, like a Mother Theresa.
‘Sexual attraction comes from our deepest reproductive drives. We are lizards, deep down. But then Eros is one of the classic forms of love, and they say it’s strongest when you smell the pheromones of a female with a different immune system to you. But horny, rapacious lust can be sublimated to more holy qualities of love. For example, you might masturbate about someone you’re attracted to. When you do, are you getting off at her expense—building a scenario where you dominate and pillage her—or are you fantasising about her having such an orgasm that she opens to God? Maybe you can fantasise about pillage and God together. But when I fantasise about the latter, I also open somewhat to God as I masturbate.’
Tantric secret, that.
‘Non-sexual attraction… yes, far easier to live with the qualities of brotherly or familial love. Doesn’t feel as overpowering as Erotic Love, but meditate a little on the brotherly love you have felt in your life and you’ll notice: it’s really not nothing.
‘Infatuation… in my experience, this is most likely to be an activity of the mind, like when the pure fuel of Erotic Love gets mixed with a bunch of projection. Infatuation can be holy if you practice and meditate on the object of your love so that the object disappears, and you’re just left with incredible, sublimated feelings of love. But most people don’t inquire into their feelings like scientists, they slip onto the carousels of their urges and patterns and ride out their days in the realm of daydream.
‘My infatuations over the years, I believe, have stemmed from two things. First: I am sexually attracted to someone, and because feeling arousal in my body is painful and overwhelming (and because I need to get to the end of woodwork, or go about my day), my mind comes in, blanks out the erotic sensations in my body, and creates fantasies to cover the discomfort. Escape the burn and repeat the same inner theatre a few times, and the narratives you make there soon lead you to infatuation: you think about the girl all the time, mmm mmm. Second: in the deepest recesses of my memory, I hold a basic template of the way love happened between my parents, and therefore what love should be. Every time I meet a woman who hints that she’ll fit my template, I project the rest of my template onto her, and cast her in the leading lady of an infatuation story. This has nothing to do with the real-life woman I just sat down for coffee with—she just has an energy that triggers my infatuation pattern, and I will linger and indulge in playing out my programming until somebody snaps me out of it.
‘As you can see, I believe love is a variety of sublime, spiritual states of consciousness, of bodymind resonance. Until someone is clear about the variety of states-of-love (and you get clear by having these ‘initiations’ within yourself), psychological shitfuckery accounts for most of the fraudulent, toxic, blind-drunk versions of love we experience along the way. And this is why it seems that ‘love hurts’ or boys ‘only want love when it’s torture’, because our love hasn’t broken free of some psychic cage.’
This colourful language might be starting to betray my authority. Or perhaps this green tea is making me fuzzy.
‘To be fair, most enduring relationships combine elements of both the sublime and the psychological; that two-minute flash of the sublime at the beginning of things—or those ten sublime, truly loving minutes that freshen the air after a giant conflict—are the carrot that keep us in. I don’t think we can avoid the projection stuff. Maybe our best hope is to learn how we create these mental stories, learn to drop them before they create too much drama, and learn to see our beloved more as she truly is.’
A new calm has descended around the table. As I step down from the exalted pillow, I realise there are still many things I don’t know. I mean, this is just grasping at words. All I know is that sometimes, there is the presence of these feelings. Then, other times, these feelings seem gone.
He finishes up. ‘It always amazes me how many perspectives you’ve learned about and can consider from. This question of “what is love” has always been on my mind and I think this kind of pondering really helps me untangle what it is I’m feeling for a woman. The masturbation part got to me because I’ve never thought about that and always did it in lustful thoughts of fulfilling my own desires.’
A woman just entered this Singaporean restaurant we’re eating at, a mother, with her husband and two—no three—children. Her hair is glossy and plaited, held but cascading, and she’s slim, with loose arms and an easy demeanour: the figure of a woman with not a stress in the world. What a beauty, I think, as she gathers her gaggle at the table, utterly un-self-conscious of it all.
Absorbed, I get caught staring at her, and, after a quick flicker of anxiety, like I’m intruding upon sacred ground, her eyes expand in a telegraphic smile, her dilated black pupils flowing out toward me. Completely safe, completely at ease. Love’s eternity travels through eyes like that when a woman is wholly relaxed. We know the feeling: it’s Penelope on Ithaca, the missing piece of our soul we journeyed so far just to find.
This is the feminine I want to pierce and explode in, to bathe in and worship and implode in, to impregnate and destroy and be destroyed by in return. Pure as in pure as in pure, let us lay breathless in soaking sheets at the end and the death of it all. The lights have been turned up in the restaurant—a new scent ululates amid the air—and wild as my loins may be firing, I’m whole, and I am not in need of a thing.
‘Love is a form of madness,’ another student chimes in.
‘Love is the definition of sanity.’
* * *