Our very lives are a testament to the fact that reincarnation cannot be contested. As many Eastern philosophers have suggested for centuries, reincarnation refers to the traditional rebirth that occurs after death — but beyond a mere theory about the afterlife, it encompasses the transformations that occur indefinitely throughout the course of our individual lives. Every moment that we are alive, we are exposed to new and unfamiliar situations that force us to reckon with the fragility of our identities. We are compelled to change — to reconstruct ourselves — in the pursuit of personal growth. Reincarnation therefore does not only consider the rebirth following physical decay, but the changes we choose to undergo every second that we are alive. It is a timeless feature of the human condition: that we are not static, but dynamic bodies forced to reckon with our ever-changing psychology. This is a frustrating reality, of course, and it certainly poses a threat to some of the most pervasive beliefs we hold, such as that of unconditional love.
From Cinderella and Prince Charming to the love songs we dreamily indulge in, we consume the idea that true love is eternal once it is found. We do everything we can to find “the one.” We endure bad dates and scavenge Tinder and Bumble for hours on end, leaving the more intriguing questions about our emotions and sexualities to the fringes of media. This is compounded by the glamorization of romance in social media, the urgency to escape social isolation and our desperation to lead a meaningful life. But is it not also complicated by the fact that our fluid identities condemn us to a reality in which no one can truly understand us infinitely? Even the deepest of human understanding carries an inevitable undertone of fleetingness. And it is this contradiction between our changing selves and the permanent nature of unconditional love that leads me to question if the words “I love you” carry a truth beyond the moments they are uttered. After all, people change. They are cruel just as much as they are kind, and they are certainly prone to vices. So maybe love as we understand it is nothing more than a collective social hallucination, one that exploits our desire for permanence in the face of this endlessly changing world and our even more changing identities.
And maybe it is time to consider that we fall in love not with people, but with moments: a moment in which our lover is bold, a moment in which they excite us and a moment in which they exude kindness, compassion or any other quality we may deem worthy of love. And maybe love is not meant to linger infinitely but to be rekindled over and over again by meaningful gestures. And maybe there is nothing wrong with this. After all, it is what makes commitment so exciting: the idea that a person is not a territory to be conquered, but an evolving entity that you must endlessly aspire to win over the affection of. That is the truest declaration of love, not the marriages that constitute a $78 billion wedding services industry in the United States and almost 50% of which end in divorce, but the gestures we take on every day in the pursuit of true love.
What exactly am I suggesting then, with my seemingly cynical musings? Am I claiming that we break down the institution of marriage and enter a polyamorous society where it is forbidden to commit to one individual? Of course not. All I am saying is that maybe we got it wrong the first time around. Maybe some of us are lucky enough to find our one true love, but some of us aren’t. Maybe we were made to be freer when it came to love. Like Tomas in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, who claimed that his romantic affection for one woman did not diminish the love he felt for another, maybe we were never meant to rely on one person to satisfy the many existential needs we could not fulfill ourselves. Tomas is certainly not an example to lead by given his womanizing tendencies, but maybe he is right that our lovers are not tokens to be won over and selfishly exploited. They are to be liberated from our desperation for exclusivity. And if they fall out of love with us, they ought to not be condemned for it.
The beauty of human connection is in its power to paint our lives with meaning. Maybe our current conception of love restricts us. And maybe commitment was never meant to be a form of certainty, but only a greater gamble that at its core is equivalent to saying: “I understand that we have no idea who we are going to become in the next week, let alone the next day, and I will fight for your love every moment that you are reborn, over and over again,” to discarding the idea that your partner should not change for the knowledge that they will, and hopefully for the better. To grow together: That is what it means to honor another in the face of our impermanence. That is the ardor with which we should all aspire to love.