The Modern Experience: Relationships in a Post-Modern America

Relationships in our modern culture are strange things. If the importance of an issue is proportionately related to its exoticness, then relationships are important. Since so many of us are obsessed with the strange, exotic, and rare, it is no wonder that many a young person living in our society spends countless hours thinking about the Other. Not only how one envisions the Other, but how one relates to that rare Other. The relation is our obsession.

My own ambivalence towards romantic relationships has created a bifurcation in my own mind. Like a schizophrenic, I can look almost objectively at inter-sex human relationships. On the one hand, I am just as obsessed as everyone else; on the other, I am not in the least interested. At one and the same time, I feel as committed to talking and thinking about romantic love as much as I am committed to ignoring the topic. This explains my love for pedantic scholarship, politics, theology, etc.—everything but that murky of subjects.

Modern relationships make me cringe. Even the thought of engaging in anything intimate makes my palms sweaty. As I type these words, I can feel a trickle—then a flood. This summarizes both my ambivalence and my obviously passionate obsession.

The thought, then, strikes me: why the fear of a modern relationship? Is it, as C. S. Lewis wrote, that I am attempting to become that loveless person, locked inside a casket? Am I afraid of the inevitable human weakness love brings? Or maybe I just do not think the costly investment is really worth it all at the end of the day? Maybe I’m subjunctively stuck in a world of “maybes” and “what ifs”? The thought of this might-happen gives me, perhaps, the only security and comfort I need to progress through life. The thought that—well, God, I probably should not say this, but I have to—maybe I am that loveless, stuck-in-my-solitary-casket person. Maybe.

Modern relationships are, as they appear to me, doomed, immediately from their point of departure, to failure. They cannot, in any way, succeed. Success is the thing that happens strictly by accident. It is never that conclusion which must follow from the premises. In romantic love, what little romantic love one actually gets is frequently reduced to one-night-stands and ephemeral dinners. There is no repetition, no continuation. There are no promises. There are no absolutes. There are no Immanuel Kants bombastically annihilating the living shit out of our scared-shitless ethical foundations. All we have is transient. Passing. Fleeting. How can relationships succeed when nothing larger than the relationship exists? How can one get anywhere without knowing from whence one is coming and to whence one is going? You have people engaging in things that make ultimately no sense. They attempt to establish relations with another human being—and yet, they are doing things backwards. There are no moral boundaries. Nothing that grounds their being. When relationships work, it is a pure accident that occurs in an unforgiving, meaningless universe. How can anything work in a modern world without meaning and sense? I am surprised the thought of a potential relationship still exists…

Humans are unforgiving, simplistically legalistic, categorizing creatures. They are almost infinitely stupid—and yet, they think they can somehow know anything other than themselves. It is pure silliness. This idea that we know other people strikes me as, well, the silliest notion ever invented. And, since some of you are wondering where this rant is heading, this is precisely the problem of modern relationships: they are deceived into thinking they know. How can one deconstruct a false belief when the person holding the belief is certain? So certain, in fact, that anything outside of that particular belief happens to be “false.” None of us really know much—if anything at all. Those who know are in the dark—confused geniuses they are. Modern relationships want—nay, rapaciously demand—knowledge of the Other. This obsession with relationships has become a perversion of knowledge of the Other. Instead of humbly seeking to experience life, to live it without knowing much, we have succumbed to the atrocious notion that life can be understood. We have reduced it to something tangible; a how-to book printed, collecting angry dust on the shelf. We have become obsessed with information in this information age. We have lost our humanity in our obsessive thirst for truth (truth, in this case, being nothing but so-called “absolute, objective knowledge”). Now we live in a “just-the-facts-ma‘am” world. There are hardly any facts, just interpretations. And interpretations of those interpretations.

Sure, I did say I love you—ten years ago. I no longer mean it. In fact, as I see it now, those were young, restless days. I was wrong. I did not know what love was. In fact, whatever it was, I renounce it now. And I am almost certain I will renounce what I am saying now at some future point. I do not know when. Don’t even ask. I am on my way towards becoming something—or, maybe, we are all disappearing into nothingness…

We have allowed ourselves to get caught up in what the few elite are dictating to the masses—those individuals who use mass-media and mass-entertainment to exercise their so-called power. Outside of the masses, truth exists—but it exists as a singularity, caught up in the life-giving messes of your individual human subjectivity. That, right there, is truth—truth for you.

We became acutely aware of knowledge so-called. This perverse knowledge was reduced to single events. Those single events were then used to color the entire life of the Other.

An entire life reduced to the facts of a few isolated events. Events you merely witnessed. Nothing which you understood. For how could you? You were never really there. You were a bystander. Merely watching what you thought was happening. Translating everything. Emphasizing one thing over another. Focusing on this, not that. Remembering that, not this. Repeating that event over all other events. An entire human life stood naked and cold before you. And yet…

What have you done?

You have done what humans do best: think they know something when they don’t. You have done what humans do best: crucify those who proclaim Truth. You have done what humans do best: reduce everything to print. You have done what humans do best: unforgiving, simplistically legalistic, categorization of a human individual. An enormous human individual, mind you.

In your remembering, you have accentuated a so-called truth about the Other. (Outside of your subjectivity, such a truth probably does not even exist.) In your remembering of particular events—events which you claim to know but know nothing about—you have degraded a human being; condemning him or her to the infinite abyss of unforgivingness. In your remembering, you have chosen to continually recollect a particular event—thus making the event unforgivable. It is an event—err, a mere memory—that will exist, possibly forever.

And yet the human, oh, the human. The human changes. The human evolves. The human forgets. The human forgives. The human is not even aware of your recollecting of events. He is oblivious to your so-called “knowledge” of him. But that human, the real human… He does not exist—for you. But, remember, that he does not exist only for you. He has surely changed—and moved on. He is out there, somewhere, being human. And you, you “knowledgeable” one, you are out there dissecting every little thing. Giving names to that which you know nothing of. That primordial of sins. Like the biblical Adam, the only thing you are capable of is naming—naming animals which you know nothing of. But naming things gives you a sort of voyeuristic pleasure. It makes you feel confident. It gives you life. You think you know. Again, an indication that the sin of Eden is still ever-present: your obsession with knowing is akin to Eve’s biting of that fruit…

And then the simplicity. Oh, the simplicity! You think you know when you know nothing at all. You never have. Your simplistic legalism; it is followed faithfully. Every “i” is dotted, and every “t” is crossed. You never seize to amaze me. You take complicated things—subjective things, mind you, which you have no access to—and reduce them to a couple of paragraphs, if that. You reduce an entire human being to a dustbin of nothingness. And you pride yourself in your simplicity—which you follow so religiously. So legalistically.

And then the categorization. We have not stopped yet. We need names. What do we call him? Which clique does she fit into? Is it really true? Is it really possible? You can take an entire life and reduce it to a word, a phrase? And you think you know?

Anything?

Modern relationships are exercises in so-called knowledge. They cannot stand on feet they do not have. The job of the modern human in a modern relationship is simple: reduce, reduce, reduce. For the stupid, all things are understood. All one can do is follow someone on Twitter, stalk them on Facebook, masturbate to them on Instagram, etc., etc.

Where is the relationship? Where is the intimacy you so demanded?

You get what you came for. You never came looking for a relationship. This explains why you’re reading this after your one-night-stand last night. But it’s okay. I have news for you: you can probably learn just a little bit more. Maybe your knowledge will save you. Maybe your reductionism will become your religion. Maybe your subjectivity will consume all other subjectivities out there. Maybe you will become god. Maybe.

But I place my bets on those few remaining. Those few particularly flawed. Those who live life. Those who ground their reality in something bigger than themselves. Those who obey categorical imperatives not because they have to but because that is the right thing to do. Those who choose you as a friend—who do so with an honest heart and an absolute spirit. Those who live life not because they have to, but because they choose to—for there is no other way.

As for an explanation—a definition of “relationship”—I will not offer you one. You already got what you came for. There is no need for more information. Ultimately, it probably doesn’t matter anyways. I doubt a definition would launch you into success.

I was going to let you try the fruit but then decided against it.

Sincerely not yours,

Moses Y. Mikheyev

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