It feels as if it was only yesterday that we met on this dull afternoon when I was sitting on the floor arranging pictures for a photo exhibition I planned to do but wasn’t too excited about and when Parvin came in and the world changed. (I was still in university, working on my thesis, Parvin was already finished.) The world didn’t stop. No, it wasn’t that kind of drama. The world changed, imperceptible at first. You feel it but cannot make sense of it yet. It doesn’t register as an event at all, only much later you remember: ah, yes, there was a moment when it all began. We both vividly recall the intense “chemical reaction” between us, but, at least I did not understand a bit of it at first. Deep in thought – my usual condition – somehow perhaps envisioning an oddly questionable career as a photographer, however, absorbed in an artistic creative mode I was highly aware but my mind didn’t get it at all. I sensed the spark but, maybe because something like this had never happened before and I had no preconceived reaction ready or because in this state of heightened awareness the usual defensive vigilance is turned off, I did not flinch. I felt the flame, the wonderful fire and I let it burn, let it override Me, let it unknowingly consume me.
It’s the privilege of hindsight to see things like that after the mind had enough time to wiggle out of the morass of impulsive conditioned reflex. In fact, in hindsight I see now how this moment was the trigger for something like a landslide in my life and, as it turned out, in our life. When I look back on the evolution of our relationship I’m so amazed how things actually happened.
I did not think at all. Not in this prime moment, not in the ground-shaking time following immediately after.
Not in my wildest dreams had I ever thought about anything like a long-term relationship. Perhaps Parvin had, but I was as clueless, unconditioned, and unprepared as I probably needed to be to run into the luck of my life. I was young and right in the middle of playing around like anybody else at the age of twenty-something. I was fine, I didn’t need a revolution, I thought.
But for the first time in my life – I can see this now – I happily and without the slightest hesitation made deep decisions without thinking. I, who lived in his head like a hermit crab lives in its shell, actually ran around free and unrestricted and open to the most unimagined surprises. I had abandoned my supposedly trusted thinking strategy, but my mind, uneducated, untrained as it was then, hadn’t noticed it.
Decades later, when the real work of relationship became apparent and when the fruits of such work gradually emerged I began to see all this: How the mind, as good as it may be with things like logic, planning, and making sense, is incredibly unreliable, hopelessly subjective, that it has its stark limitations and that it is in general just one aspect of our identity, an aspect, which has the distinctive attribute of unjustified condescension, in fact of luckless arrogance. By discovering, in retrospect, how wisely, in fact, how intelligently I acted when I skipped over the thinking and surrendered to the way things happen best by themselves I learned profound lessons. It not only cleared the way to finding the love of my life but opened my heart and my eyes to a wonderful freedom, which lies in the liberation from the slavery to the mind. This spine-tingling moment, suddenly looking into those loving brown eyes of my Parvin was perhaps the beginning. I found that one has to use the mind wisely, that happiness doesn’t so much come from thinking and planning to accomplish things, even though that doesn’t hurt, but from paying attention to what is actually happening by itself, often truly miraculously and intrinsically unthinkable and unplannable.
40 years! What a fabulous life together it was. We kept the little slip on which Parvin wrote her address with eyebrow liner when she bought my best picture on that day and asked me to deliver it.
She never paid for this picture but then she astronomically overpaid with her love she gave me endlessly. This was another boundary I crossed in these first months after we met. She is such an amazing woman that I couldn’t quite believe that she would really love me. But again, to my own surprise I managed to more or less override such concerns and trust not my self-critical mind, but relate to the direct experience with my senses. A lesson I learned in her arms over and over again.
I am the adventurer, Parvin actually not so much. I’m not sure if she really knew what was in store for her when she smilingly said yes to me. I’m the planner, she not at all. In fact, she can drive me nuts trying to discourage me from almost any new exciting thing to do. Really, it is so funny, she would have been quite happy to stay home. But when we are out there carrying out a plan, she is a supporter par excellence. She is the best companion I can imagine and she mostly loves it. Where I struggle against obstacles she adapts. She stays cool when things get serious, in fact, when things get really stressful she keeps a wonderful common sense I secretly learned to rely on.
She is my queen. Her wonderful hair that drove me wild in those years grew white while she shared her life with me and we got old together. Neither I nor she could quite imagine that at first. No one really can, even though we see it happening around all the time. If we’re lucky it slowly happens all by itself, no matter what we do.
It seems rare that couples stick it out for the long term nowadays. I’m not so sure if the old idea of confluence is even still attractive to people. They may still see the ideal of altruistic behavior but not really believe in it. Partnership only works when both benefit from it, and when it doesn’t work, move on. I think that is quite true, however, in order to gain benefit for both one has to transcend the whole concept of self. It is no solution to favor one self over the other, my self over her self. Altruism is a beautiful concept, but it is basically unrealistic. Self as such is an illusion, no matter how common and vivid this experience may be. My self, her self; it’s best to call the whole thing off. When she’s happy I’m happy and vice versa. In a relationship you cannot be happy by yourself. And if you think you don’t need any relationship you make the same mistake. Life is nothing but relationship; individuality is the interpretation of a real experience but only a concept. Darwin was so badly misunderstood when the apparently brutal principle of the survival of the fittest was seen as the core of his findings. He discovered this law of nature, but more importantly he saw that cooperation is the ultimate secret of life and of course the real origin of happiness. When you are guarding your self interest: what’s in it for me, you are not so much selfish, you are unrealistic. A relationship never works for me nor for her, it works by itself.
For a poem I wrote a while ago click here.
Klaus P&K day 2012