And later I decided what it was I believed about love. We think of it as an active force. My love makes her happy; her love makes me happy: how could this be wrong? It is wrong; it evokes a false conceptual model. It implies that love is a transforming wand, one that unlooses the raveled knot, fills the top hat with handkerchiefs, sprays the air with doves. But the model isn’t from magic but particle physics. My love does not, cannot make her happy; my love can only release in her the capacity to be happy. And now things seem more understandable. How come I can’t make her happy, how come she can’t make me happy? Simple: the atomic reaction you expect isn’t taking place, the beam with which you are bombarding the particles is on the wrong wavelength.
But love isn’t an atomic bomb, so let’s take a homelier comparison. I’m writing this at the home of a friend in Michigan. It’s a normal American house with all the gadgets technology can dream (except a gadget for making happiness). He drove me here from Detroit airport yesterday. As we turned into the driveway he reached into the glove pocket for a remote control device; at a masterful touch, the garage doors rolled up and away. This is the model I propose. You are arriving home – or think you are – and as you approach the garage you try to work your routine magic. Nothing happens; the doors remain closed. You do it again. Again, nothing. At first puzzled, then anxious, then furious with disbelief, you sit in the driveway with your engine running; you sit there for weeks, months, for years, waiting for the doors to open. But you are in the wrong car, in front of the wrong garage, waiting outside the wrong house. One of the troubles is this: the heart isn’t heart-shaped.
– Julian Barnes
The comparison to a garage and a remote is quite haunting. I also read somewhere, “I am so horribly in love.” Of course it made no sense! Love isn’t horrid! It makes a little sense now.