Heart of darkness

Among my favorite literary explorations of love comes in the form of Virgil’s “Aeneid.” The Lit Hum staple captures many facets of love: love as parental duty, love as patriotic fervor, love as erotic passion, love as self-destruction. Overall, one might say that the righteous love is that which corresponds to fated duty. Love that contravenes duty is quickly dissolved no matter how enthralling. Just think of poor Dido, who could do nothing to keep Aeneas in Carthage. “Forgetful of [his] kingdom and fate!” and unstirred by the “glory of destiny,” Aeneas wastes “idle hours in Libya’s lands,” as well as Dido’s loins, given the subtext (read between the loins?). But when Mercury confronts him at Jupiter’s request, Aeneas quickly realizes the risk his fascination with Dido poses to the larger project of his life as the young leader of the vagabond Trojans. He resolves to leave at once. Dido, with her intelligence and lover’s constitution, senses something is amiss. Inconsolable, she laments, “Will my love not hold you, nor the pledge I once gave you, nor the promise that Dido will die a cruel death?”

It might seem hyperbolic, but the burden of harmony between love and destiny might be a good rule for love in the college setting. If we think about Columbia as the launchpad for the “project” of our lives, then our relationships and dalliances will either support the progression of that project, or take us off the right track. I don’t mean to suggest that we are meant to be looking for the first lady to our presidential aspirations, or the doubles partner to our U.S. Open dreams. Rather, I would venture that the projects we are pursuing here, more narrowly defining our fields of interest while expanding our knowledge of the world, can be broadly considered a “search for beauty.” With this understanding, Columbia is the nucleus from which our hunt for beauty begins. It is where we begin to live life as an aesthetic experience. The pursuit of beauty, however the individual may choose to define the term, emanates from the sights we see, the books we read, the things we do, and—maybe in this contemporary moment—the scenes we Instagram.

We are seekers of beauty, and when we go out on weekends looking for a hookup at a bar, or heading to a date, that search mustn’t cease. Presuming that the experience of love truly arises when relationships get more serious, the burden of duty really comes into play. If we are going to spend hours with our beloved, they cannot be idle hours, for our kingdom and our fate may remain unfulfilled! But who doesn’t like sitting in bed reading, or watching a movie, or going downtown and walking around window shopping and eating ice cream? Who doesn’t like visiting the Met just to look at paintings you have seen tens of times with new, more loving eyes, or to linger over dinner, or to go to a concert and dance while wildly drunk without a care in the world? Should we fear these “idle” hours, or are they somehow useful?

To love at Columbia is to find a person with whom every activity suffuses life with a particular beauty. Yes, I just wrote that. In this rose-tinted view, the movies, museums, magazines, meals, meetings, moments, and meanderings of a life lived with another become the fodder for countless discussions, small and large, that bring the projects of our lives into sharper relief. We ought to love those who help us grasp the gravity of duty, by giving us a small window into what it means to be codependent, be it for one week, one month, one year, or until “death do us part.” We ought to love those whose life’s projects, whether tentative and exploratory or definitive and obligatory, invigorate our own efforts to make something of ourselves. We ought to love those who give us pause and help us to be deliberative in our attempts at fruition. This love doesn’t have to be wildly intense, nor does it have to be all-encompassing. But if it is going to be a part of one’s time at Columbia, it better not be trivial or superficial to the point of waste. Feel guilty for hours spent idly, because if you are discussing Lauren Conrad when you would rather be discussing Joseph Conrad, it isn’t worth a heart of darkness just to roam those hills.

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj is a Columbia College junior majoring in political science and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies. He contributes regularly to The Canon.

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Anonymous posted on

I knew this was going to be bad from the first line.

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Edward Charles Bennet posted on

You're a dick.

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Anonymous posted on

Ah, anonymity. Releases the scum of the earth to post freely the first simple opinions that flash across the screen in the tiny skulls of folks like yourself. Why be so unnecessarily harsh on your fellow student, especially one who has produced and published something that they should be allowed to be proud of accomplishing? Commenting for the sole reason of saying something, anything, is why the Internet is horrible. Only morons take advantage of this opportunity because anyone more intelligent understands what it means to be thoughtlessly, publically, anonymously, gratuitously, cruel to another. Why bother!?

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Anonymous posted on

Irony?

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sarteorientalist posted on

Tell us more, oh wizened and ironically 'anon'ymous keyboard warrior!

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Anonymous posted on

How intuitive and thought provoking. Surely not penned with impulse. The author may wish to consider the value of flavours both in "a person with whom every activity suffuses life with a particular beauty" and the variety in the depth of field. Could experiments in finding a better combination of the two give one a more robust experience in co dependence living? Before we find our life's partner. Or will this be seen as the pursuit of the trivial and superficial. We do need to love those who help us leave the comfort of the shore for finding new oceans of love and all that the journey and the experience can bring. Even when at Columbia. You may wish to think about this when you next roam those hills.

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Anonymous posted on

Is that your real name?

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Anonymous posted on

I think there is a very bundled and direct relationship between love, forgiveness, and strength. To forgive, is to love; and to do all that is to allow another to be stronger than they were before. So naturally, in the absence of love in a community there is weakness in a community. A rap artist named John Reuben paints the picture of that relationship when he said "Misery loves company and twisted forms of affection Meet the human heart where hostility lives
Sometimes revenge feels so good that I don’t want to forgive
And oh no thus the cycle continues
It’s an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth
Til they’re all loose and you’re bitter blind and numb
You bark but can’t bite because you’re all gums"

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Anonymous posted on

I'm usually a hypercritical cynic but I really liked this piece.

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Anonymous posted on

This article has marvelously captured all that I've felt in my love life!

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