Love is a Black Swan

Apologies in advance to lovers of the amazing Aronofsky film, this post is about the other Black Swan, as defined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book The Black Swan.

Black Swan events are succinctly described in the Wikipedia article as “the event is a surprise (to the observer) and has a major impact. After the fact, the event is rationalized by hindsight.”

What does this have to do with love? It’s simple really… 

Every great love affair has its story. Like any great story, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning is where all the classic fairy tales leave off.  The middle is where we find most solid partnerships, and the end is where we lament, we curse or we sigh.

In a previous post, I discussed the concept of soul mates following a conversation with my grandma. Based on related discussion since, it’s as if the details of 50+ years my grandparents were together – raising kids, missing each other, hating each other, but always remaining with each other – have washed away. She speaks fondly, wistfully, of when they first met and the tiny changes that would have prevented their meeting. She wonders: what are the odds?

In retrospect, it seems finely, perfectly, tuned. Never mind the 50 years of struggling despite distance, hardships, absences, irritations and the things that weigh us down in the every day. Those things don’t matter now.  She’s finally had time to catch her breath and reminisce. To remember his bright blue eyes, those nervous butterflies, and recognize the experience for what it must be: fated love.

Seeing her smirk at the thought of my grandfather after all they faced, and all they fought for, is like a glass of water to a heart wandering the sahara. Her happiness is almost more precious to me than my own. It’s beautiful to see. But was it fate?

I don’t know but I do know we can rationalize anything after the fact. Due to a rich chemical cocktail, infatuation can feel like life or death. Your heart is on the line in a very real way. Every glance feels as if the person in front of you can see your every weakness, as if your deepest secrets flutter inside your eyes. But you have to keep looking. How could this amazing experience not be guided by the cosmos?

Looking back on my own love life, I don’t like the idea of fate. Perhaps because it’s inconvenient to my current single status. If things were meant to be, and weren’t, I have to wait until the next BIG THING. It means that leaving past relationships might have been a real mistake that can’t be undone, or that this guy or that moment are not special because they aren’t fated or – worse – missing this date or having a quiet night in could throw the whole thing off course.

So, I’ll do what any human being who does not like a constraint will do: Ignore it.

With utmost respect and fondness for my grandma, and Cupid, of course.

Perhaps it’s not fate, or the flying spaghetti monster, steering our course and the fates of our hearts. Perhaps my grandpa met my grandma because, even in his naivete, he knew himself well enough to immediately recognize not just her outward beauty, but her kindness and integrity. Perhaps my grandma knew, beyond his big ears and poor punctuality, his yin would balance her yang.

Perhaps there was no rhyme or reason at all; perhaps they both just wanted each other badly enough to take a step. To fumble. To scream. To make up. To stick it out until one of them had to go.

What does it matter really? In retrospect, it looks perfect either way.