On Romance:

In those days I wasn’t sure what ensued in her bed chambers afterwards, but I knew it represented the climax – no pun intended – of the romance.

The moon showed only a silver sliver of its full self.

Laying in bed, I waited patiently for the Cheshire Cat to open his eyes and reveal himself in the night sky. He never did, of course, but still.

There was something about the moon that cloudless night that inspired a deep feeling of romance inside of me.

Romance, I thought with a bit of a laugh. What is Romance?


Well, Google aptly defines romance as:

romance

rə(ʊ)ˈmans,ˈrəʊmans/

noun

1. a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.

I had a thirst for romance”

2. a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.

“the romance of the sea”


When we were growing up, romance was an easy concept to understand. Every recess was made up of a cohort of young Romeos, all chasing the collective Juliet.

It seemed pretty simple to me in those days. The boy bought (or stole from the neighbour’s garden) flowers, and then professed his love from beneath some sort of balcony. If he was a particularly adept romantic, he would do this by means of a sonnet.

The timing was important; it was best to perform the monologue under a full moon, but during a sunset would also suffice. The woman was, for whatever reason, constantly awake, available to listen, and always waiting for young suitors to visit her at strange hours. At the end of the performance, the Juliet decided she was either:

(1) Not into the idea and sent the boy home, or;

(2) Was satisfied with the romantic gesture and let her hair down for the young man to climb up.


Sure, I might have gotten a few different love stories mixed up at that age, but I had the gist of it. In those days, I wasn’t sure what ensued in her bed chambers afterwards, but I knew it represented the climax – pun intended – of the romance.

As I grew older I began to realize that my vision of what was romantic might not exactly capture the essence of romance. For one, my sisters began to give me an inkling that a truck load of chocolate might better serve a romance than any type of flowers – unless they were chocolate covered and edible. For two, I started to wonder what was in that “happily ever after” that always occurred after the curtains were drawn.

Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet (1884) by Frank Dicksee

We didn’t realize it then, but everything we watched or read during our youth emphasized the beginning of a love story as what should be considered romantic.

The romance always lay in the chase; it was the pursuit of love that was romantic. It was always about that opening gambit and a few initial speed bumps before both prince and princess were ready for that royal wedding. Then the credits rolled.


Even now I think of the happy couple, rosy-cheeked in their romantic infancy, reciting the story of how they met for an audience of half-interested single people. It often runs along the same lines. Initially, the female wasn’t interested but the male romantically wooed her into changing her mind. We cover our hearts and say “aw” when we hear of the cheesy and “romantic” gestures that helped to sway the odds in this particular Romero’s favour.

There’s not much to say after the “how we met” stories concludes; they are in the middle of their happily ever after. The movie is usually over by now. Babies start coming, fights start happening, and a divorce will probably be the result. The spark has faded. The spark that, we’ve been taught, represents the romance. Of course if we see romance – and by an extension, love – in this way, we’re doomed to a never-ending cycle of needing the hunt. Like freezing Neanderthals in the winter, our lives will be spent focusing on chasing the spark, never enjoying the fire we’ve already set ablaze. Is that really what romance is?


I look around me and I see that isn’t true. I see romance everywhere I look. It floats on the breeze that swirls around the elderly couple walking hand in hand in the park. At the arrivals gate in the airport, it swims in the teary-eyes of two lovers locked in an embrace. When two people are separated by an ocean, romance twinkles in the stars they look upon while thinking about each other. It’s in coming home to that familiar face after a long day’s work. It’s in missing someone, even if you just dropped them off. It’s in the strange way you can be overwhelmed with frustration but still love that person with all of your heart.

Romance lives in forgiveness, and understanding, after arguments both big and small. It’s in the first handful of dirt a widower throws on his wife’s coffin. It’s found in the breast pocket of a dead soldier, in the recently dried ink of a letter home to his high school sweet heart. When we’re a shoulder to cry on, romance is that little wet patch of tears they leave on our sweater. When we’re the ones crying, romance is the familiar smell of perfume or cologne that we inhale as we bury our face in their clothes.

The sorrow of lovers parted before they met, laments over promises betrayed, long lonely nights spent sleepless until dawn, pining thoughts for some far place, a woman left sighing over past love in her tumbledown abode – it is these, surely, that embody the romance of love.” – Yoshida Kenkō, A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees.

Not one of us will ever master love, or understand it. That is why everything about love is exciting and mysterious. As such, there is romance in all of it. We just need to move past our Hollywood conception of it and start enjoying the little things. Love isn’t perfect, and neither are we.

Our happiest and most exciting moments with our significant others will lay perilously close to the saddest and most dull ones. It’s all part of it, it’s up to us to appreciate each moment to the very last. There are little Romeos and Juliets in each of us. We are all romantics. We just need to embrace the romance that’s all around us.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

Follow Your Own Path:

Why you have nothing to lose finding and walking your own path.

For all of you none-sports fans out there, I promise the greater message behind this short story is worth the wait. So, bear with me!

At some point last year, I had just finished watching the Chicago Blackhawks knock out James Neal and his Nashville Predators in game six of their first-round NHL play-off series.

It was one of the most exhilarating play-off series I’ve seen in a very long time. It was full of goals, hits, skill, clutch plays, over-times, heroes, villains, and drama. In short, it was everything that sports fans watches hockey for. 

James Neal, Alternate Captain of the Nashville Predators
James Neal, Alternate Captain of the Nashville Predators Photo Credit: Nashville Predators Official Twitter Page (@PredsNHL)

When the game ended, Chicago being victorious, I  couldn’t explain why I felt a deep sense of injustice inside of myself. That injustice followed me around all day, a looming shadow constantly nipping at my heels. Why was I so rattled over the result of a game?

It bothered me until I was forced to stop and face the feeling in an attempt to understand it. I wanted to sit with the emotion in the hope that eventually I would let it go. Catch and release.

♠ ♠ ♠

On the surface, the source of that feeling seemed fairly obvious. Nashville had done everything that every young player is taught would result in their success on the ice. Not only had they done everything right, but they had done it better than Chicago.

And yet there they were, eliminated from the play-offs.

I felt as though something had been taken from Nashville. Like they deserved better. But why?

The more I took a deeper look at this feelings, the more I began to realize the root of the problem wasn’t specific to sports. It’s something we all deal with, every day, a humans.

In this particular instance, my negative feelings lay in a strange idea of hockey “justice” that had been indoctrinated into me at a young age. As athletes, we are taught to place all of our faith into the notion that if you play the game a certain positive way, a specific positive result will follow.

The problem with investing so much faith into this belief is that in sports, as in life, there is no actual guarantee of that desired result.

♠ ♠ ♠

In life, we’re faced with these false promises every day of our lives.

If we just follow these simple academic guidelines, we will get into a good university and find a respectable job. If we just master these certain athletic skills and systems, we will soon be playing in the big leagues.

If we find a beautiful or handsome spouse, own a white picket fence, a family dog, two new cars in the garage, and make six figures, we will find happiness. If we act in this holy manner, we will go to heaven when we die.

child-praying.jpg
“Dear God, I’m sorry I didn’t eat my broccoli. Please let me into heaven. And give me that big red fire truck toy I asked mum for.”

Most of the time it is either implied, or explicitly stated, that not following these guidelines will lead to the opposite result. We will fail out of school, get cut from the team, be unhappy in life, or burn in hell.

♠ ♠ ♠

I think that these inferences hold merit on a basic level.

If you refuse to attempt a mastery of your athletic skills, you probably won’t make the show. If you refuse to dedicate yourself to reading and writing, your academic pursuits will definitely be more difficult. I think basic instructions on the improvement of dream-specific tools serve as strong groundwork for anyone pursuing those dreams.

There are certain things you can’t ignore while chasing your dreams. Things like hard work, passion, and sincerity will always be crucial to your success.

So why do I think our How we should do things sense of justice is such a potentially dangerous set of beliefs to put our faith into?


Because we ignore the possibility that a team like Nashville can follow the age-old formula, preached by hockey clergyman, and still lose the game.

We ignore the possibility that we can obtain that corner office and own the dream house in the suburbs and still be unhappy.

We can experience hell on earth even if we are morally good people.

We can have a chiseled six-pack and still be unhealthy, or unable to truly love ourselves.

We ignore the possibility that we can wake up at twenty nine years old in peak physical condition, be highly skilled, but still be in the minor leagues.

♠ ♠ ♠

It is in our ignorance of these very real possibilities that we create very real suffering for ourselves. We see life as unfair or unjust. We’re shocked and appalled when these negative possibilities come to fruition. We waste years pursuing something because someone else told us it will bring us joy. Then we feel as though life isn’t fair when that joy doesn’t magically appear.

Yet, there is absolutely no logical basis for us to feel this sense of injustice when these perverse results occur. The injustice lays only in the vast faith we’ve put into the doctrine of “how things should be.”

In cases where one acts correctly but still suffers disaster, one is left bewildered and unable to fit the event into a scheme of justice. The world seems absurd.” – Seneca the Younger, as quoted in The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton.

This may seem like a negative perspective, but it’s not.

I believe that understanding these very real negative possibilities gives us – as human beings – real strength.

If you can fail by following the rules then you can succeed without fanatically following them.

Bondi-Beach-2-copy-1280x800.jpg
There are no rules. Only choices. See the world, chase the sun.

You can be a respectable person without pursuing a traditionally esteemed occupation. You can publish an influential academic piece without attending Harvard, or topping all of your classes. You can be a great champion without a pedigree or without following the traditional path of your respective sport or discipline. If heaven is your goal, you can still find that stairway if you step outside of the three thousand year old guidelines written in scripture.

You can be a happy person without following the status quo or chasing the American dream.

I can’t give you a blueprint that guarantees success for your pursuits in life. I can’t tell you the way to happiness. But neither can anyone else.

So break the chains of expectation. Free yourself from the prison of how things should be, the shackles of how we should live. Stop wasting time following other people’s blueprint for happiness, achievement, success, or spirituality.

Carve the path that calls to you. Follow your dream whether or not convention considers it probable, because convention can’t guarantee you success or failure. All you can do in chasing your sun is keep your feet moving and your eyes on the light.

And let come what come may.

Be good to each other,

~ MG.

Photo Use Courtesy of:

(1) Cover: joecoculo.tumblr.com
(2) Boy Praying: ministry-to-children.com
(3) Girls at Bondi: blog.ishine365.com

On Relationships:

From the time we’re children, we’re taught by society that we aren’t good enough. By the time we reach young adulthood, we try to paint over the people we are with the brushes society suggests for us. We ignore who we’re meant to be by wearing the hats of the people we believe we’re supposed to be. We eventually forget who we are.


The modern culture of romance, or “dating culture”, is the result of the complete lack of importance placed on the vast substance inherent in our own humanity. We spend our days painting beautiful masks of ourselves and spend our nights wearing them out to down town masquerades.

Every weekend is our carnival, every club is our Venice. With all of us dressed in the height of fashion and wearing the dreamiest of disguises, we’re content to dance our youthful years away.

We paint our masks with the simple stripes of the surface. We think of ourselves, and others, as white or black, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or Muslim. We continue to identify with our surface and mistake it for who we are, when the two are not exclusively connected.

We’ve traded complexity for simplicity. With all of us exchanging our identity for identical illusions, we have slowly rendered ourselves interchangeable. All of our masks look the same.


We build sand castles in the path of crashing waves. We find beautiful partners and we dance the nights away. Sometimes our dance partners stay the night and maybe even for breakfast. Sometimes, we share a second dance. On extremely rare occasions, we find their outer shells so shiny and sparkly that they capture our attention for an entire handful of dances.

These dances last long enough to facilitate relationship status changes on our Facebook and inspire overwhelmingly cute Instagram photos of our morning snuggle and romantic gestures. We do everything and go everywhere with this person. We’ve found the one we want to save our last dance for. We’re totally and completely in love.

The Lovers I (1928) by Rene Magritte
The Lovers I (1928) by Rene Magritte

And then our surfaces begin to erode. They become difficult to maintain. We struggle to keep up the act. Our polished smiles and filtered personalities begin to crack. The weeds from our overgrown interiors begin to force their way through those cracks. We’re confused, and so are they.

We thought we had already shown one another our true selves when we let them see us in sweat pants or without make-up on. They smelled our morning breath. They caught us with food stuck in our teeth. One time, we even farted in front of them.

Our own shallow notions of ourselves had us equating who we are as people with what our natural surfaces used to look like, before we painted them with water colours and doused them in exotic smelling oils.


6901650-carnival-mask-wallpaper
Are the cracks starting to show in your mask?

But there’s an entire other world inside of us. It’s full of scars, dreams, mistakes, passions, light, and darkness. It’s a place we’ve ignored while we focused on our appearance, on the character we’re acting as. That place of substance deep inside of us – that place which makes us different and beautiful – provides a journey that would never truly end if our loved ones were to explore it.

But that place scares us. It scares us because we’ve never explored it ourselves. It scares us because we have no idea who we are.

It becomes a terrifying prospect to open this place up to the person we think we love. It’s our own little house of horrors. Even if we did muster the courage to ask them to come inside, how can we expect someone to want to see us for who we are when we can’t even stand the thought of it ourselves? The fact that our significant other is also probably feeling the same personal insecurities only exasperates the situation. The situation becomes unstable because both partners have awoken a deep-seeded self-hatred.


We begin to miss someone loving us for the surface appearance that we’ve spent so much time perfecting. We long to feel that superficial attention and shallow admiration again. We return to the masquerades.

We prefer to spend our time there, hiding behind our masks and having them admired by similarly veiled strangers. We begin to look a little too long at new potential dance partners, with shiny new faces that haven’t eroded like those belonging to our significant others.

We’re bored with what we have at home, because surfaces are simple. There is no journey for us to go on.

That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is. Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing. You get to love your pretence….the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks. They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are.”― Jim Morrison, 1981 Creem Magazine interview with Lizzie James.

Eventually one (or both) of the partners will realize how difficult it will be to excavate our identities with the appropriate teams of spiritual archaeologists. The road toward self-love has become long and treacherous. We decide a quick reset is much easier.

Being with another person is no place to hide from ourselves, after all. It becomes a race to see who can come up with the perfect wording for whatever arbitrary excuse we’ll use to break up. We’ll call it “losing our spark”, “growing apart”, or “not being happy”.

We’ll break up, get a gym membership, and work on painting over the tiny cracks left from the waltz that lasted a tad too long. We’ll return to the carnival and, thus, the cycle is born anew. We’ll swear off the opposite sex, and then love itself – as though they were the core issues rather than our festering self-loathing.

Eventually that human desire to share ourselves with another will overwhelm us again, at which point we’ll put on our glass slippers, head to the ball, and once again spiral out of control toward midnight.


I’m not saying to ignore your surface, or that it’s not important. I believe the maintenance and development of your body is just as important as your mind and your soul. I believe in balance. Try to indulge in an ignored inner passion.

It makes no difference if that includes cooking, playing an instrument you suck at, or listening to old Led Zeppelin records, as long as it fuels your soul. Read a chapter or two of an old, classic novel while you’re on the stationary bike doing fasted cardio instead of reading your texts. Work a little bit every day on that part of you that we can’t see, that part of you we’ll never be capable of fully exploring. Work on remembering who you really are.

Show me your beautiful and meticulous surface, and I’ll admire it. It might even lure me close enough to share a dance. But if that’s all you have to offer, it’s a dead end. It’s boring, and I’m out. Show me that endless inner garden that you’ve grown, maintained, and explored for yourself, and I’m in.

Take me by the hand and let’s explore one other. Like two children on a magical adventure, I don’t care how much time we spend in there. You’ll have my interest and wonderment forever.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

Photos Courtesy of:

Venetian Mask: 7-themes.com

On Substance:

When I think of the word substance, I think of weight. I think of density. A bowling ball, a newborn baby, a dying sun. I think of what actually makes up the matter of someone or something, beyond the mask or façade on display.

tumblr_static_8uyuewxv7o4ckwsgs048w00c
Disclaimer: I have no way of measuring the density of this artistic rendition of a star. But, to me, it looks dense.

We attach varied levels of importance to things tangible and intangible according to the meaning and value they have to our individual experience. Yet the word always carries the same meaning for all of us.

When we say something is of substance we are vouching that it possesses a depth beyond that which can be recognized on the surface, and that depth is essential to its meaning or existence. Substance is the existence of something beyond what we see and, more often than not, it is something of value.


Humans are the perfect example of what it means to have substance. We are much more than the surfaces we allow each other to see.

We are never skin deep. Each one of us is the result of the hundreds of thousands of intricate internal and external relationships and experiences. We appear to be made up of seamless and simple skin on the outside, yet internally we are a patchwork of a million personal pieces unique to ourselves.

It is this chaos inside of us, and not the calm surface, that makes us human. It is what separates us from one another; it is what differentiates us from the similar skin we’re all sharing.

Your internal substance is the part of you that isn’t easy to read or boring to learn about. The vivid and unique oils of your internal landscape are a personal portrait. Consistently being altered by the paintbrush of life, each stroke of colour adds to an already endless wonderland of adventure and intrigue.

Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat (1887) by Vincent van Gogh.
Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat (1887) by Vincent van Gogh.

So why then, are we so obsessed with hiding our complexity?


We meticulously maintain and groom our shallow surfaces. We carefully polish our vast array of smiles and we rehearse our jokes – for those are the weapons we’ll arm ourselves with during this weekend’s social campaign.

We place an unhealthy importance on the mastery of crafted emotions; our gasps of shock and fits of laughter must be believable and emphatic. We carefully iron out our faces after our trousers and we use the same mirror to apply our emotions in the same way we do our lipstick. We spray on our personality with our fragrances. We wear around our necks the persona we want others to see and then we hang Tiffany pendants and wooden crosses from them.

Our outward expressions, no longer useful tools in demonstrating the inward feelings we ignore, have become gadgets we use to accentuate our surface appearances. They serve the same purpose as our Marc by Marc Jacob clutch that matches our new Prada pumps or our Burberry tie that creates that must-have contrast with our Armani suit.


We’ve somehow began equating our surface with our substance. We’re only as beautiful as our most recent Facebook profile picture, the filter we choose for it, and how many likes it receives.

Our experiences are summed up in small collages and uploaded to Instagram, its value judged by how many people stamp their approval with little digital hearts.

We’re only as healthy as our body-fat percentage tells us we are, or the amount of gluten we avoid. Our spirituality is defined by the colour of our Lulu yoga mat.

We’ve forgotten that there is an entire world inside of us. It is a world full of experiences, memories, ideas, ambitions, and beliefs. It is a place that would take a lifetime for us to completely explore.


MEDITATION2
There is a magnificent kingdom inside all of us. When will you find yours?

Yet we’ve never cared to examine or maintain this inner kingdom. Our inner selves have become, like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, crudely sewn and stitched together with ideas scavenged from the surface. Surface-deep ideas of what the superficial world insists makes us a whole person.

Instead of planting the seeds of wisdom, acceptance, confidence and self respect in our endless internal garden, we’ve left the weeds of ignorance, denial, doubt, and loathing to grow in their place until they strangle us.

The demons who feed off of these negative plants – such as fear, jealously, sadness, and paranoia – have grown strong and have multiplied. They prowl unchecked in the shadows of ourselves, and have become the tyrant kings of our domains while we have become strangers in the only place we can truly call our own.

Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

So maybe skip the hair /nails /tanning appointment or the gym today (unless its leg day – don’t skip that). Find a patch of grass and sit in silence. Watch your endless thoughts drift slowly by like the calming stream that they are. Trade in your typical Saturday night debauchery for something that inspires real growth. Instead, sit around a table with a few close friends – turn off your phones – and really connect with one another in real, human conversation.

Whatever you feel inclined to do, take some personal time and trim the rabid weeds strangling your soul. Plant the positive seeds of wisdom, acceptance, confidence and self respect that will grow into the beautiful garden you can be. Take back your kingdom, even if it’s inch by inch.

Do a little bit every day. Like Rome, you won’t be built in a day. In fact, you’ll never stop planting, cultivating, and exploring yourself. As a child of the stars, you are as limitless and as endless as the beautiful universe from which you came.

You are dense. You are full of substance. You are perfect.

Be good to each other,

~ MG.

Photos Courtesy of:

Cover Art: Storm At Sea (1820-1830) by J.M.W Turner
Star: zodiac-compatibility.tumblr.com
Meditating woman: odishasuntimes.com

On Motion:

It occurred to me that everything around me was in motion. A fleet of clouds sailed across an ocean of burning suns. Finely manicured blades of grass wiggled playfully like toes in the evening breeze. The flames of the camp fire danced a crimson cha-cha.

The voices of a few people close to me bounced around my ears. Their musical consonance provided a soothing background symphony as I lay in the grass looking up at the night sky. Despite being stranded somewhere in suburbia, the stars had managed to sear through the light pollution and were sparkling brightly in the heavens above me. The crackling of the fire was calming. I was still. I felt at peace.

In my perceived stillness it occurred to me that everything around me was in motion. A fleet of clouds sailed across an ocean of burning suns. Finely manicured blades of grass wiggled playfully like toes in the evening breeze. The flames of the camp fire danced a crimson cha-cha. The Aurai ran their kind hands softly through my hair and down my neck, inspiring goosebumps with every gentle gust they granted me. As still as I was, I couldn’t help but notice my chest expand and collapse with the huffing and puffing of my breathing bellows. I started to run with the idea.


Nothing about us, or the milky way we’re swirling in, is meant to be still. Motion is in our very genetic make-up. From head to toe we are wired with veins, interior aqueducts dispersing and directing the life force that flows down from our mountain heart. The large part of us that is made up of water yearns to ebb and flow with the tides, our distant cousins that crash upon the ocean cliffs. Our legs are powerful propellers designed to run, jump, and swim. Our feet are designed to absorb the impact of that motion, doubling as fins when we flap them underwater.

The music of our heart is a constant drumming, the unique resonating rhythm our body constantly dances to. Our breath is constantly flowing through us, winds that whisper new life into the deepest, darkest depths of us. Our minds are magnificent machines, master of our endless mental motions.

clarity
Everything I could see was in motion.

Nature is no different. Everything around us is revolving in a cycle of motion. The sun and the moon chase each other endlessly. Rivers restlessly flow into lakes that are never truly still and silent. Fields giggle with the gossips of grasshoppers. The swaying trees of the forest shelter the busy bees, beetles, and bugs. Even mountains move ever so slightly, their rocks forming slowly over hundreds of years.

Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.” Blaise Pascal, Pensées.

Then I take a look at our society. I reflect on the values and norms we’ve convinced ourselves are correct. I look at all of us, in a constant war with our desire to move, twist, and flow. I see us slouching over computers in blank cubicles that are as small as prison cells. Chained to our desks, our legs bounce with the defiant motion desperate to escape its confinement. I see us slave away in factories, separated from our constantly moving world around us by thick cement walls.

We flip through magazines as we sit for hours in airports before seeking solace in the rigidity of our neck pillows during long-haul flights. I see hyper-active children incapable of sitting still being sent to the principle’s office before doctors recommend a plethora of medications to cure them of their perpetually-moving disease. We’re stuck in libraries for hours sweating over the books we’ll be tested on for finals.

The gluttonous goblins of mindless media – such as Netflix, reality TV, Fox News, and Hollywood productions – share in the spoils of mental warfare as they gobble up entire years of our lives. Even meditation has been misconstrued as something that seeks to silence the mind, rather than allowing ourselves to slowly drift down our river of the thought, observing it without judgement.


The entire journey of life is a constant motion. We are meant to consistently learn, grow, and evolve. And we’re meant to do it together.

I’m tired of being chained to a library desk. I’m tired of seeing the people I love being confined to professional prisons. I’m tired of seeing my fellow humans drowning in socially constructed quicksand. I’m sick of sitting still. I want to use my arms and legs for the propulsion they were designed to provide me. I want to be cured of this sitting sickness. I want us all to remember the freedom and peace we feel when we keep ourselves in motion. I want us all to fly, together.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Reliance:

Our minds are lined with shelves overflowing with advice that we’ve accumulated over the years. Mental libraries, divided by subjects such as love, life, and happiness. Many of the tomes covering these various subjects are made up of simple but memorable sayings to help us along our path. 

Though I believe these expressions are beneficial in keeping the bigger picture in our minds, I find they often lack depth and substance. One such expression I hear used often, and have been guilty of using myself, is:

if you love something, set it free; if it comes back to you, its yours.”

When I paint a picture in my head of what this expression means to me, I picture a person opening a birdcage and letting a yellow canary fly out of a narrow apartment window, or a little boy letting his excited terrier off of the leash in a park. Eventually, both owners have their pets return dutifully back to them. I think this expression serves as a powerful microcosm of the dependent relationship dynamics which characterize many modern romances.

The problem with this expression, and the picture it paints, is it associates the notion of love with both ownership and reliance. I think both the notions of ownership and reliance are contrary to that of love, yet they’ve found a place in many of our intimate relationships.


The one you love is not a car. You didn’t buy him from a salesman. She does not come with ownership papers. In order to set something free you must first be the owner of it (or at least have it in your possession). You had to of restricted his or her freedom in the first place. It seems tragically contradictory to fall in love with something when it is wild and free – whether its a bird soaring in the sky or the beautiful stranger you met on the train – only to try and capture and cage it. We have allowed the complex toxins of private ownership to leak into the simple, pure, and unrestricted stream of love. Loving someone isn’t releasing them. Loving someone is never wanting to cage them in the first place.


Reliance, in my opinion, is a much more subtle and dangerous form of ownership. The canary doesn’t return to its cage out of love, it returns because its the only source of nourishment and drink that it has ever known. The canary has grown to love its chains. It no longer believes in itself. The canary is in a state of dependency and has learned to fear a life without the cage. It fears being apart from the owner it depends on for safety, warmth, food, and water. The decision to return to the owner is both self serving, and convenient. The relationship has, from the outset, fostered a sense of real necessity.

The Bird Cage (1910) by Frederick Carl Frieseke
The Bird Cage (1910) by Frederick Carl Frieseke

I see so many words which emerge during conflict in today’s relationships that expose the same sense of necessity. We have to stay together. We need to work things out. We can’t just give up. These words are followed by the revealing of the foundations of reliance the relationship has been built upon. “She is the only one who understands me.” “No one else will accept me like he does.” “We’ve been through it all together” “I can’t be happy without her.” “I’ll be alone without him.”

We pile up these imagined conclusions as though our world didn’t exist before this person came into our lives. We begin to perceive life with this person as essential to maintaining the things we value in our world. These things range from the relatively narrow in scope, such as a specific circle of friends, a shared living arrangement, custody of the children, or the new puppy, to those broader in scope, such as our ability to be happy, accepted, appreciated, or loved. We become the canary. Our reliance becomes our cage.


I think it’s important to note that not all reliance is bad. Being committed doesn’t mean being caged. Too many people confuse commitment with a lack of freedom. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean being reliant on someone else. I really do hope the people in my life that I love the most know they can rely on me. I hope they know they can come to me for any type of help – for advice (although I can’t promise it will be very good advice), when they are feeling blue, need a shoulder to cry on, a wing man for the night, a hug, the shirt off of my back, or all of the above.

I want my significant other to rely on me. I want her to be certain she can rely on me for unconditional love, acceptance, and support for the rest of her days.

But there is a major difference between being in a relationship where you can rely on one another, and one where one (or both) of you feel like you must rely on your significant other. 

In the former situation, a couple is adding additional wind under each others’ wings. In the latter scenario, one or both partners are chained to the other by shackles cast in iron reliance.

The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” – Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays.

We must be the canary without the cage. Be responsible for your own happiness, acceptance, self-belief, growth, success, and well-being, because no one else can ever give you those things. Don’t create your own prison by accepting the delusion that someone can.

And, as much as you may want to, you can’t provide any of those things for another person, either. So don’t be the one caging another canary with promises to provide them with those things. 

Instead, accept that you are responsible for your own life, and others have the same obligation to themselves as you do. The sooner you do that, the sooner you’ll find another canary just as wild, free, and as perfect as you are.

There is nothing more powerful than a love that is born out of love. I can’t think of anything more pure or beautiful than two souls soaring together for no reason other than the mutual respect and endless love they share for one another. That is a flight that will last an eternity.

Be good to each other,

– MG.