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QUINTESSENCE

Growing Orbits

The Lion of March

I LIVE MY LIFE
I live my life in growing orbits
which move out over the things of the world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower
and I have been circling for a thousand years.
And I still don't know if I am a falcon,
Or a storm, or a great song.
- Rainier Maria Rilke, "Book for the Hours of Prayer, 1899
(translated by Robert Bly)

Growing Orbits. The idea of personal expansion in our lives, of opening to challenge, of accepting a dash of the unknown and embracing the unpredictable, seems to have fallen victim to the science of predetermined probabilities in an era of social data matrixes. In modern love, the idea of personal fluidity - that who I am today is in progress toward an imagined tomorrow - is somehow lost in translation. Romance bolts out of the gate, a race horse with blinders plunging down the track in tandem with another contender handicapped to be a "good match." There is no longer room for fuzzy edges.

On the Internet dating sites we are strategically "paired" to our own so-called cluster of perfect others. Our chemistry is calibrated, our interests indexed, our sex appeal rated, our faith examined, hobbies tallied before we are even admitted to the dance. There are as many ways to connect the dots between people now as there are systems of relationship - by geography, education, sport, religion, age, wealth. But no one mentions the elephant in the room: love is not particularly a matter of proximity, say, or religion - or we'd all of us be hitched to our closest neighbor on the cul de sac sitting behind us in temple or Sunday school. Nor is love the by-product of implacable destiny; we do not necessarily fall for the one whose heart line is marked as ours is in the palm of our hand.

What love is, is a matter of wonder. Of how in the heck? Of one part pheromones and two parts luck, and perhaps a dash of repartee thrown in. The magic of being human, of falling in love, lies is in the fuzzy edges. The unexpected. What makes us laugh, or reach out and take someone's hand in a tough moment of loss. Sometimes the very someone we fall for is the opposite of all the things we like about ourselves. A balance in the universe, so to speak.

So as we come out of the halo of hearts and chocolates that obliterated the middle of February, think about the spring robins stalking the yard. The robin builds a nest knowing that a mate will arrive to inhabit what is built, to join in the ambition of family. Another will share the song. In our own search for love in the modern era, let us from time to time put aside the checklists and demography stats, and remember to put ourselves out there, alive in the world. Build, and love will come.
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