Thursday, June 04, 2009

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, he talks about something he calls the "10,000 hour rule", which is basically the statement that if you do anything for 10,000 hours, you will be good at it. He (or possibly someone else entirely) further argues that "talent" as we normally think of it doesn't really exist - if you're "talented" at something, what it really means is that you love it so much that you're willing to devote 10,000 hours to it.

Lately, I've been thinking that this might apply to relationships as well, based on two observations. One is that two people who don't love each other can build a functional relationship, if they have to - this is how marriage worked for a very long time. The other is that two people who do love each other are not necessarily inherently capable of building a functional relationship.

This is because a relationship isn't just about love - love is important, but there's more to it than that. Maybe the word I'm thinking of is "compatibility". Compatibility might be inherent, to an extent, but a large part it's learned. No two people are perfectly compatible right off the bat - part of any healthy relationship is learning to forgive each other for your flaws, and love each other in spite of (or even because of) them.

My point is that compatibility doesn't come automatically from love, but love makes it easier to develop compatibility in the same way that "talent" makes it easier to develop expertise. You can be compatible without love - it may not be a happy relationship, but it will probably be a functional one for the purposes of familial stability and so forth.

Now, before you start frantically wondering if anything is wrong with the relationships in my life - these are nothing but idle musings that in no way reveal my inner thoughts.

like a moth before a flame

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