In the modern world, love and marriage begins when two hearts collide and the experience of “falling in love” occurs. Marriage may or may not follow. Nevertheless, the general hope is that love will lead to marriage. Love and marriage goes together “like a horse and carriage.” Forever and ever. Eternal love. Trite as these phrases may be but the experience of falling in love leading to a union that lasts eternally is the longing, the hope and wish of most.
In the traditional Chinese way, arranged marriages was the route to marital happiness. As recent as within the span of my own lifetime, I witnessed one of my uncles being matched with his wife. A love match? No. But prior to their marriage having the final seal, my grandmother went to seek the advice of a fortune teller to reassure herself that this would be a good match and will bring forth success and prosperity. Did they live happily after? I am not sure but the couple did have several children, four of whom were sons. Being Chinese, this is considered a great success indeed.
A Chinese arranged marriage is between two families coming together based on rational-logical criteria, that is to say, primarily socio-economic ones. Socio-cultural criteria of both parties are carefully scrutinised: are they of the same class, cultural and ethnic background, and is the boy older than the girl? The question of their falling in love, with their hearts pounding, is never brought into the equation of wedded bliss. I know it is hard to compare the traditional Chinese way of coupling with that of the modern and/or Western way, but recent research emerging from neuroscience testifies to the fact that love begins in our brains. Our brain actually gives us empirical evidence to show how our feelings are affected using MRS scans. So it seems the organ for this “falling in love” phenomenon is all to do with our brains, and very little with our hearts!
The curious thing about both love and arranged marriages is that both can meet with disasters. I adore the story my mother used to tell about an arranged marriage. The bridegroom arrived to meet his bride riding a magnificent horse and the bride met him holding a large bouquet of flowers that hid half of her face. On their wedding night, when they finally met face to face, the rider turned out to be crippled and the bride’s flowers hid a harelip! As for the disasters in love matches, any statistic in Australia or USA testifies to its failure. In Australia up to nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. Is this a failure in love matches or something else? Who knows? Love cannot be empirically measured but brain research seems to be able to do this.
The technology associated with the measurement of love is exactly that. It measures emotional variables and love, being an emotion, can show up on a brain scan. As for the rest of love’s measurements, its quantity and quality – we have to rely on subjective reports. Of course, subjective reports are notoriously unreliable. Hearts and mind change within days, if not within hours. How many Romeos and Juliets have looked back and said: What did I ever see in her or him? Ha!
If we cannot rely on technological gadgets and our subjective feelings or our parents to tell us whether or not love and marriage is forever, there is one more recourse. Online dating! Aha! I know many friends, young and not so young, who have met online and got coupled! Happily or conveniently, maybe, unhappily and inconveniently, yes. Forever, no. Or perhaps TV reality shows like: ‘Is She the One?’ could be the place to find love and marriage.
In the end, falling in love is an accident. I previously wrote a poem with that title simply because I was so inspired by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh and his story of falling in love with a nun. Just prior to the outbreak of the Vietnam war, Thich Nhat Hanh was a young man living in a monastery, contemplating taking his final vows. After much anguish and thinking, he finally made up his mind to do it. As he walked towards the monastery, having made this momentous decision, there on top of the hill, a nun stood silhouetted against the sunset. In that very moment, he fell in love. However, the young couple was separated by their chief monk and nun respectively. With the breakout of war, they never saw each other again.
If falling in love is an accident, then consulting the I Ching may be as safe a bet as any to find eternal love, or the eternal lover. Chinese have an expression to refer to the eternal lover: yue liang ai ching (moonlight lover). The I Ching is one of the four Confucius classics. The I Ching is the Book of Change. It is an oracle and is consulted on matters of all kinds. Essentially based on synchronicities, a series of “accidents” or ”chances”, the I Ching is as good as any to find your eternal lover. I recommend it.
So I Ching your love. Or appear in “Is She the One?”