THE MISTAKE OF FISH LOVE
In the pursuit of a better world, wouldn’t it be worth trying to exchange that affection for true love?
TRUE love! That’s what we are all after. As in happily ever after. But, what is true love, really? Is it unconditional love? Is it respectful love? Is it selfless love?
As one of the most central themes of our lives, it remains strangely elusive.
In a perfect setting, love is the first emotion we encounter when we enter this world — a mother’s tender embrace of her newborn child. But soon, as we grow older and life becomes a little more complex, love becomes this intangible concept we constantly search for, we need to endlessly redefine, explain, practise and fine-tune.
As a child, we are told fairy tales that generally end with the ultimate prize of true love, the Disney kind that heroines à la Snow White, Cinderella, Belle and co. happily find, because they deserve it.
So, love isn’t unconditional, is it? It can’t be ours unless we deserve it first. We have to brave almost insurmountable obstacles of hardship, poverty, mean relatives and atrociously bad timing to gain some merit. What about the seemingly lucky few who grow up surrounded by a devoted family within decent or even privileged financial means?
Are they doomed by ways of the unbearable lightness of being?
As a teenager, we start to look for love outside the inner circle of family. And, what a pitfall that proves to be. Peer acceptance, first crushes and disappointments all around.
Pop songs have extensively covered the subject for decades, and so have abstruse opera librettos before that. And literature, classic and otherwise, wouldn’t even exist without the endlessly recurring theme of unreciprocated affection.
In adulthood, the subject becomes seriously confusing. Do we marry our first love or our last? Have we found our soulmate? Is there a soulmate for everyone?
Is crazy, mad, burning love a sound base for a sustainable relationship? Or should we drop the romantic notions and build on solid attributes like respect, acceptance, commitment?
How about good looks versus social standing? Does the recipe for success lie in arranged marriages or in the algorithms of modern-day dating apps?
Before we can honestly claim to have found the perfect answer, we become parents and life comes full circle. Will we practise unabridged tenderness or rather tough love? How can we be expected to teach our offspring the meaning of love while we still struggle with its definition ourselves?
Our daily news consumption deals with the unfathomable atrocities some individuals inflict on their fellow humans.
Children are bullied to death by schoolmates, raped by relatives or beaten within an inch of their lives by the ones they trust most.
Adults are stabbed over the content of their wallet or bludgeoned courtesy of senseless road rage.
And helpless elderlies are abandoned in the forest by their kin, left to starve and generally disrespected in the worst manner imaginable. So we ask ourselves: where is the love?
What we should really ask ourselves is: “what is love?”
Maybe we need a paradigm shift. Maybe we need to spend some time pondering the concept of Fish Love.
Courtesy of Abraham Twerski, this is the tale of a young man who is asked, “why are you eating that fish?”
His reply: “Because I love fish.” “Oh, you love fish. That’s why you pulled it out of the water, you killed it and you boiled it. You don’t love the fish, you love yourself. The fish tastes good to you, and therefore, you killed it.”
The parable shows that so much of what is perceived as love is really fish love. When a man and a woman fall in love, the author elaborates, what the young man sees in this woman is someone who can cater to all his physical and emotional needs, and she feels that the young man is someone she can trust and who will support her.
They believe that this is love, but each one is really looking out for their own needs. It’s not love for the other, Twerski says.
The other person becomes a vehicle for our own gratification, a means to an end. Too much of what is called love is really nothing more than fish love. True love is not about what we are going to receive, but rather what we are willing to give.
All too often, we make the mistake of believing that we give to those whom we love. Real love however, is loving the ones to whom we give. True love, therefore, must be a love of giving, not a love of receiving.
In the pursuit of a better world, wouldn’t it be worth trying to exchange fish love for true love?
Let’s give it a try, in the name of love.
Real love however, is loving the ones to whom we give. True love, therefore, must be a love of giving, not a love of receiving.
‘Fish Love’ is a story by Abraham Twerski, about a young man who is asked, ‘why are you eating that fish?’