Love: Business & Spirit

Hi Carl!

I am 21 years old and I’ve been talking to the same person for two years.  For
the first year we went to the same college.  He was a senior and I was a
freshman, so we just “hooked up” very casually without discussing any sort of
commitment.  It was a very shallow relationship.  This isn’t typical for me, but
I was so attracted to him at first sight that I couldn’t help it. To my surprise,
since he graduated (and moved 600 miles away), our relationship has grown
much deeper.  We talk almost every day via texting, calls, email, Facebook,
etc.  We each travel to see each other once every month or two.  I spent
almost two weeks with him over the summer.  And I think somewhere along
the way I’ve fallen in love with him.  I don’t want anyone else and I haven’t
since we met.  We aren’t “officially” together and we both have the option to
explore dating other people, but neither of us has (at least not seriously).  
When we’re together, I don’t get “fireworks” that people talk about.  Rather, I
feel admiration, completeness, and a sense of feeling home.  I’m not sure if
he is in love with me, but I sort of get the vibe that he is.  Our main challenge
is distance, as well as the uncertainty and fear that come along with it.  I have
three more semesters of school to complete.

Do you think this is love? I want to tell him how I feel, but I’m not sure if I
should. I don’t want to scare him off.  I’m also kind of afraid to admit the
magnitude of what I may feel to myself.  Any advice would be wonderful.  
Thank you!


Dear Friend,

How are you? This is an important question. I hope you are fine, original, peaceful, passionate, intellectual, romantic, real, non-traditional, faithful, honest to yourself, and unwilling to let convention control you.

Smile, for you are a wonderful cradle of the universe. See my website if you would like to know more about that:


When people talk, they may not realize it, but if they do not agree on the terms of the conversation, they cannot really have one. I will give you an example of what I mean:

A woman asks a man she loves if he believes in God. What she doesn’t realize is, they have been in love on a spiritual level, to some degree, perhaps, and they have loved one another on a basic level, understanding their common interests, and of course, they have been in love on an emotional, and physical level. But My Friend, if they do not meet intellectually, they will probably argue.

What the woman doesn’t know is that she is with, perhaps, the most honest man she will ever meet; so honest in fact that he wouldn’t presume to say for sure what God is, even to his children (had he any), and certainly not to God amself. Yes, the reflexive pronoun for God should be ‘amself’, I believe, not ‘himself’, at least if the old testament is accurate, and there is much reason to believe that it is far more accurate thana the new one.

So this man answers his beloved by saying, ‘what do you mean by ‘God’?’ He is not trying to play with her. Indeed, he loves her so much he cannot even stand it sometimes, but as such, he cannot lie to her, especially since the joy of his mind is in its honest exploration of reality, which he does not shy from.

She feels he is playing, or at best, being smart, or semantic. Or worse, she thinks he has no faith at all, and that perception is the saddest of all, because he has so much faith that he realizes it doesn’t matter what God is, or even whether Jesus could perform miracles.  

They fight, and sadly, they break up. His beloved takes her concept of God very seriously. But one day, years after the life-altering damage of his heartbreak is finally over, she will have grown to realize that his honesty in his uncertainty was as close to divinity as anyone can ever claim to have come.

Does that sound arrogant? Well, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is whether it rings true.

All this is to say that you and I do not meet intellectually, My Friend (and I don’t mean you are not smart; you are probably smarter than I am (^,^). But I mean that we have different perceptions, and definitions about the subject we are attempting to engage ourselves in. So telling you the following may hurt:

I do not agree with the terms used to discuss love, almost across the board, with anyone I meet. And I feel justified, because one of the greatest teachers on the subject, Dr. Erich Fromm, taught me (in his books), that most people have no clue what love is.

We are like natives in some south pacific region who can enjoy music, but having found an I-pod on the beach, have no idea how to really maintain it. We can play it, but once the battery dies, the melodies don’t come anymore, so the device becomes a trinket. Love today in the hands of modern people is better off than it was in feudal times, but let me assure you, living in South Korea, I can attest to the fact that very feudal perceptions and practices of love still exist. Think of the Taliban, conservative India, The Mormons…

So you have been raised to see love as something business-like. It is nothing of the sort. It is organic, ever-flowing, and either in a state of wholesome growth, like a physical body, or in a state of disrepair. And for most people living in capitalist society, socialist society, and of course, in fascist society (fundamentalist), love is in a state of disrepair, for the most part, anyway…

I will now get to the point:

There is no such thing as officially together…
You either have a relationship or you don’t…
It’s either a growing, loving one, or it isn’t…
There is no such thing as being afraid of distance…
There is no such thing as fireworks…that do not stay alight, forever…
There is no such thing as a shallow love relationship…
You are either loving one another, or using one another…
There is no such thing as typical or non-typical behavior; we do or don’t do certain things;
If we do certain things, they are part of who we are; period..
There is no such thing as exploring dating with others…
There is no such thing as magnitude..

If You are in love.

As Leo Buscaglia said, we don’t “fall in love”
“We grow in it”, or we don’t.

If you love him,  just love him; as stated in “If Only”
If you don’t; don’t.

I recommend Dr. Fromm’s book. It may be the most important entity you are introduced to in your life: “The Art of Loving”

Let me know if this helps…

Love, Peace, and Joy to you…
Carl Atteniese

PS: Minus your name, may I publish this letter on my site?

Thanks for the advice and the quick answer. Of course you can publish it on your page! Your letter gave me some great insight. Do you mind if I write back about a couple things? I’m intrigued by your point of view. First, I want to say that you’re right; we don’t meet on an intellectual level. I’m always caught in a limbo between my heart and my head. I clash between the rational and the emotional, between optimism and cynicism, and between being a spiritual person and, well, a science major. I’ve been told by several people, including one VERY spiritual woman, that I need to listen to my heart and my body more and my head less. I’m on a mission to resolve these differences and your letter definitely helped me take a few steps forward, so thank you. You’re also right about how we’re raised to view love as sort of a business relationship. We’ve been taught to date. To me, it’s sort of like being told to “shop around” in hopes of finding the “best deal”, whatever we think that means. There’s structure, norms, and etiquette involved. The more I think about it, the more overly complicated it all seems. But it also made me realize how the relationship I’m in is not like that. From the moment I first saw him, something changed in me subconsciously. Looking back, I remember the exact moment. Something clicked that said “Look no further. There he is. Get to know him.” And I did. Since then, he’s been the only guy I can even see. It IS something raw and organic, and it has naturally (and non-traditionally) evolved despite the distance separating us. I don’t even know how it happened. Moral of the Story: I’ve realized that need to stop thinking so much and just DO. I’m afraid of the magnitude of my feelings, and I’ve been using my thoughts to try to subdue them. I develop strong feelings slowly and I take love seriously. I need to learn to trust myself when it comes to matters of the heart, and my heart says this is right. I don’t know if he is my soulmate. All I know is that I’ve never felt this way about anyone. Relationships fail and people get hurt whether they live six miles apart of six hundred miles apart, so I need to stop hiding behind the distance. Carl, you told me exactly what I needed to hear. THANK YOU. Also, one thing you wrote caught my attention. You mentioned being in love in spiritual, basic, emotional, and physical levels. I understand basic, emotional, and physical, but what does it mean to be in love on a spiritual level?

Thanks, Friend

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