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Romantic Ne Plus Ultra

May 16th, 2022

Moments of sufficient lucidity are often perceived as overexposure; sleep deprivation. Sadly, really, it’s when the dust settles and the sex drive slows down when you get a sneak peak into what’s behind the curtain of the primal urges. Yes, I want food and I’ll buy Cheetos, but I really just want to be healthy. This lucidity only comes after consumption of the hedonistic. I don’t realize how little I actually care about having an orgasm until I’ve spent a whole day beating off.

How does this apply to romance? As if the hesitancy to respond to a text from her weren’t indication enough, as soon as you indulge in the sexual relationship you realize how much you’ve fooled yourself into thinking that you desired anything else. The idea that being bound to a soulmate isn’t just pure chemistry -- it’s an amalgamation of strategic hangouts, well-timed responses, and, yes, chance. That at some point, all that work is no longer worth it. Fool yourself into justifying your manipulating them. Fool yourself into thinking you want more.

I always thought I understood the greatest truth: that love is the answer. With love you have a partner in this deranged lottery. There is a goal ingrained in our genes to procreate and, in the horrible complexity of the human psyche, to love. Fulfillment in that genetic goal obviously would lead to a sense of fulfillment. But if I’ve been wrong about what love is, then all this was for nothing. My efforts toward this end have been in vain.

Removing this foundation means that I have a new freedom of purpose. I don’t need to chain myself to my idyllic and, admittedly naive, pursuit of romance. But I want to. I want my heart to be lifted and for that to be it. I want love to be the answer. But it’s not.

In Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, the author proposes a thought experiment known as the Experience Machine. Nozick was battling against the increasingly adopted belief in Hedonism: the idea that the only valuable things in life were what gave one pleasure. Winning an award, having sex -- pleasure is good and, thereby, anything that isn’t pleasurable does not enhance one’s well-being. The premise: plug yourself into this machine and you can experience any pleasure that you’d desire. For a hedonist, there should be no reason not to plug yourself in forever. Any hesitancy is proof that there is something about life that is meaningful beyond what feels good. However, there’s another, more thoughtful argument against plugging yourself in. If you were to, any pleasure or joy you’d feel in the machine is limited to what your mind acknowledges as joy and pleasure. In other words, there would be no opportunity to discover more joy because we’d be limited to our own fantasies.

The idea of a goal or a feeling being the answer clearly limits our strivings. Maybe it’s not the worst thing to grow past 17. Beyond awaits this beautiful potentiality that there will be something more to feel. I know this because it has happened before. There’s still time. It’s a long life.

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