If you have followed this blog series about relationships (if not, I would strongly suggest you start at the beginning of it and read the back entries till you get here—it may change your life) you will recall the following. We spoke about how we are totally responsible for all of our relationships. We proved that the wounds and losses dealt to us by our relationships have no meaning (but of course, sadly, always carrying with them a great deal of pain and suffering). We discovered how able we are to avoid these wounds and losses altogether; how, when they are not avoidable, we can modify our responses to the pain dealt to us; and also how no matter how deeply destructive the relationship experience is, there always is the possibility of making something beautiful or valuable or both out of the ashes of that horrendous fire.
Today, we will move on to the final pillar of the building on which sound, healthy and happy relationships stand.
This is the pillar of specificity.
Just as there is no meaning to the chaos of the random wounds we get from our relationships, so there is the opposite truth. Every single thing of value, worth, joy and beauty given to us by our relationship is given to us because we are us.
Our partner’s smile at us over morning coffee; that text of “How’s your day going?”; the laughter you share over an old in-joke; the shoulder our partner gives us to cry on; that hand they place on our knee when we drive; the wisdom they dispense; the loyalty they give; the trust; the love—all that is good, all that is precious, all that is happy, all that is beautiful is given because we are we. Our partners give to us specific to us. Had they been in a different relationship, they would not have the same in-jokes, the same shared history and subsequent response to it, would not have loved in the exact same way, would have given the other partner different gifts that they give us, and even would listen differently to them.
Our partners, our parents, our children, our family, our friends—they love us because we are we. Yes, they are capable of love and they are loving people, but they choose to give the love they give to us, in the way they give it to us, because we are we.
This is not hard to understand, that this gift of the personal, the gift of the loved one close to us is specific to us.
What gets forgotten or not thought about is that the same is also true on a universal scale. Let me try to explain.
Enrico Fermi was an Italian-American nuclear physicist of the last century, considered the architect of the atomic bomb. He received a Nobel Prize for Physics for his work. During a lunch with three fellow geeks in 1950, following a spate of UFO reporting’s, he asked what became a conundrum that yet has to be solved by the bets minds out there. “Where,” he asked, “are they?” What he meant was, if intelligent life is a common occurrence in the universe, and given that the universe is 13 billion years old, even if intelligent civilizations have risen and fallen, we should have had ample evidence of these entities’ presence. There is none. This problem, first posed by that question, became known as the Fermi paradox.
In addition, there is the rare earth hypothesis. This posits that there are many variables that prevent life as we know it to develop.
For instance, life can only develop on a rocky planet just the right distance from the right type of sun with a planet as large as Jupiter further out to sweep up debris, and so forth. Couple that to the fact that only once in the 4.5 billion lifespan of Earth—about 600,000 years ago–did single celled organism enter other single cells, and survived the process to become mitochondria and chloroplasts in animal and plant cells respectively. (Mitochondria helps cells use oxygen and chloroplasts helps cells use sunlight. Without these, complex multicellular life would not be possible). A rare occurrence indeed, only once in 4.5 billion years. Furthermore, in a June 10, 2019 study published in the Astrophysical Journal, the authors report that it is highly likely that such a toxic buildup of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide occurs in the atmosphere of most of the habitable planets of the almost 4,000 exoplanets known to exist today, that these planets are unfit for complex cellular life.
“As far as we know, Earth is the only planet in the universe that can sustain human life,” says Edward Schwieterman, the study’s lead author.
Life, and specifically human life, is special. There are probably nobody like us around. Earth as a place is special and probably unique. We may have the only blue planet with its wispy clouds and its extraordinary continents of green, ochre and white.
Therefore not only personal events, but things such as a beautiful sunset, seeing a full rainbow, sitting at a fireside, and so on, and so forth all are gifts to us on a personal level as well. (Yes, it is also given to anybody else who are there at the same time as us, but that does not make that it is given to us because we are we, any less significant or less special).
If we live our lives, looking for the gifts every person and every day have in store for us, we become satiated with the blessing of those gifts. We start to overfill with gratitude. We start giving not to receive in turn, but because we are so filled up that the giving becomes blissful for its giving.
Relationships that attain that state are spectacular indeed.
Let’s remember that we are responsible for what happens in our relationships. Let’s be consoled that things always break down instead of getting build up. Let’s be reassured that we are very powerful in decreasing the damage of being broken down, and so godlike in build something beautiful out of the nothing of the ashes. Let’s remind ourselves that if we look for them, we will find so many gifts every day just for us, that we would not be able to help ourselves and have to start giving because we are so full.
If we remember this every day; if we reframe our thoughts, feelings and behaviour accordingly, then there is no way that our relationships will not all thrive and prosper.
In the final one of the blog series, I will give out a number of rules to make our lives with each other happier and more fulfilled ones.
Dr. Strauss l Wellness Lead
Follow me on Twitter @DrPieterStrauss