"You cannot quantify dishonesty," said Erica. "Dishonesty is absolute. We are all champions of it. I would have loved to give that man a chance to turn his life around, but I didn't respond to that love. You did the same thing for most of your life in a different manner. You would have loved to have a close, intelligent association with a few women in your life, the very thing that I have accused that man of for not being able to establish. We all have the same need, so it seems. We merely respond differently in our individual dishonesty. He tried to rape me; you tried to rape yourself; and I saw the man's need and didn't respond, as I wanted to. Which of these three would you say is worse?"
"I think we should form a club," I said to her, and began to laugh. "But what shall we call it? We can't call it the Flat Earth Society. That name has already been taken, though it would fit. I'm also certain that this club would have a wider membership today, under this parameter, than the original Flat Earth Society had in the past."
"Indeed it would," said Erica and began to grin. "That membership would include every man who dreams about honest, close, and intelligent associations with women, and women with men, the kind that we are not allowed to have. But who really prevents us from fulfilling our hopes, except ourselves? No one, I think. Still, we do it, Peter, and so we built more and more iron curtains. How silly of us! Except, is this process of isolating and dividing ourselves from one-another just silly, or is it infinitely tragic? Tell me Peter, will you ever be able to quit your membership in that club, and build for you an honest and close friendship relationship with other women?"
I just shook my head. "I don't know Erica," I replied in an uncertain tone. "I may die dreaming that dream, trying to find a solution for it, without ever finding one. Of course, I am also a hypocrite, as you said we all are. If I ever had an honest to goodness real girlfriend with a close, even intimate relationship, I wouldn't know what to do. I have so little time left after work as it is, which I owe to my family."
"Thus, love becomes a duty for us all, doesn't it?" said Erica. "But don't we have a paradox here? Love and duty negate each other. If you think in terms of duty, love is already put out of your sight. Also why does everything have to be quantified? Do you have any idea of how little time it takes to love a person? I fell in love once with a man in less than a minute. This minute gave me a fuzzy warm feeling that lasted for days. It brightened my life. Whenever we spoke afterwards, this fuzzy feeling was renewed. I think we were both affected that way. We were both in a tizzy."
"But it did stop, I take it. Didn't it, Erica?"
Erica nodded silently.
"That's what I am afraid would inevitably happen in my case too," I said. "The truth is, I don't have the financial resources for a fantastic involvement with another person, like dinners, movies, theaters. I barely have enough left to take my own family to the movies, not to mention dinners and theaters. A junior diplomat is a gopher. That puts me at the lowest rank on the pay scale. I'm afraid Erica, love as we have defined it, will likely always remain a dream for this very reason, even if it might magically become a possibility."
"And that is why it remains a dream," she interrupted me. "But why do you have to quantify everything?" she almost scolded me. "How much does it cost, Peter, to share a cup of coffee? And who says that you have to foot the bill? What about sharing the cost? What about accepting a gift, if another is better provided for, financially, than you are? In my love affair with that man, I paid for the coffee. I always did. I was the big income earner. It was natural to do that. Apart from that, it simply wasn't important who paid the bill. And what about going for walks? That costs absolutely nothing at all. Or what about spending an hour at the beach? That's what we did now and then. We were close enough to one-another that this was enough. This wonderful relationship lasted for almost two years. It wouldn't have ended if he hadn't been sent to the other end of the world and died there in one of those wars our country got dragged into, to support. Of course, this was in the days before Fritz came along. Nothing of that sort would be possible anymore."
"But suppose it were possible, Erica. Wouldn't it enrich your marriage?" I said quietly. "If only obligation and duty rules, which take the place of love, as you say, wouldn't your rediscovery of love outside of your marriage bring a new light and life into it, by flooding it with a new sense of love that apparently needs to be always renewed?"
Erica nodded and grinned. "You got me on this one," she said. "You are totally right. We do the absolute worst to ourselves. We prevent love by all possible means. And then we are glum, because life isn't as bright anymore as it once was. Of course we blame each other for it in our marriage, and so we should, because we both play this game that has isolated us from the universal principle of Love. It should be embraced, rather than be diminished. Our marriages should be buoyant with love, instead of being glum and filled with want, tensions, expectations, fears, jealousy, frustrations, to the point that most of them fall apart. We seem to be doing better politically, in spite of our tens of thousands of nuclear bombs and our many wars, and threats, and large-scale looting."
I nodded. "Considering what we do to each other in our private world, it's probably amazing that we haven't blown up the world yet, militarily. However, don't hold your breath, this may yet happen," I said. "But what about you? How do you deal with that? You are an intelligent person. You live in a world that seems to be more open than ours. Are you able to follow your own advice?"
Erica just laughed. "We are more open to the truth, politically, in this country, than you are in the West. Our system is so rotten that its stench cannot be concealed anymore with brainwashing tricks. But socially, Peter, we share a common mythology with you that started long before the East/West division began. That deeper mythology was born in distant ages and probably for much more sinister purposes. It has kept us divided against one-another ever since, and was probably meant to do that. The tragedy is that we are not even allowed to talk about the paradox that our isolation and division represents. That's already deemed treason. We shouldn't even be talking to one-another, you and I, as two unrelated married persons of the opposite sex. That is why studying love is so difficult, Peter. It's easier to study nuclear physics. Everybody respects me for that. Nuclear physics is good for society. Bridging social isolation and sexual division, that's bad, unless it is a part of the officially sanctioned game that gets us isolated more deeply than any other form of division that we've come up with. And it's all done in the name of Love."
She explained that nuclear physics is an important field of research for society, and so is microbiology, but she added that Love is the one field that makes us most human, which should therefore be deemed far more important. "What do all these other fields matter, if we can't treat each other like human beings, with respect and loving, and compassion? Why would we have industries if it wasn't for the purpose of enriching one another?" She paused, and looked at me as if she was about to say something that may sound silly. "I realize now before my research in physics and biology can have any meaning to me," she said, "I must first research how to become a human being."
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