I often wonder if our text messages and email exchanges will be published and analysed and poured over as the great letters once were. I lent you books and I was surprised that I had not underlined anything in them, this was alien to me, no words of text I hoped someone would find when I was dead and understood what I really was trying to say. I want to finish all sentences I exchange with you with “so…” because then you would think I am more intelligent them I am. I want you to see the potential for what I could have been. I want to narrate our stories with hindsight and see them not as a serious of chemical processes but as something much more important in which I frequently find myself off topic and have to say “I digress,” enough for us to laugh at the character I had created for myself. The character of an intellect. Someone who does things consciously and deliberately and manipulatively, not by accident. Not by luck chance.
“Have you ever heard of Big Picture syndrome?” I ask you and you say no, but I know you will have done once I explain.
“It’s when you get so preoccupied with the science of things, the logic of numbers that tell you how small and insignificant you are if placed in a timeline showing the formation of an ever expanding and ever evolving universe, it’s when you stop thinking your actions really matter because you become so pre occupied with the Big Picture, it’s also known as In The Grand Scheme of Things disorder.”
“Have you heard of Little Picture syndrome?” You ask me and I say no, but you know I will have done once you explain.
“It’s when you get so preoccupied with the beauty of things, the coincidental occurrences that tell you how large and important your actions are if placed in a timeline showing the ever evolving influence and effect you can have on other people lives, it’s when you start thinking your actions really matter because you are so preoccupied with the Little Picture, it’s also known as It Only Takes One Person disorder.”
We both agreed they sound positively dreadful and deeply suspicious
I went to a museum the other day that contained an exhibition on Mexican Prayer cards, colourful IOU’s to saints for miracles performed and thank you notes to heavily burden spirit guides. There was gratitude in spades, thanks for diminished tumours and thanks for safe births and thanks for recoveries from injuries caused by standing behind horses but the best one on display depicted a blueprint of a industrial structure with the words. “Thank to God all mighty saint Francis of Assisi the seraphim. I thank you with all my heart for this miraculous accomplishment: a warehouse with multiple uses.”
My good friend, the extremely talented writer Owain Paciuszko, wrote an interesting article on the concept of “The Spark” yesterday and it can be found here
I have spent most of the afternoon pondering his arguments and the idea of The Spark being a dumb imaginary concept or a real notion to put weight into and I have written a response to his piece below thus wasting my day/spending my time awesomely.
Anyway, have a read and then go out and make love to a beautiful stranger.
"The Spark Effect"
My esteemed colleague Mr Owain Paciuszko’s article on the concept of The Spark within the tricky world of dating got me thinking, it got me thinking like Carrie Bradshaw and then I snapped out of that and started thinking like me. I am going to ramble on for a stretch about his argument of The Spark being pretty dumb and offer forth my own thoughts and ideas on what I sadly (sorry Owain) believe to be a legitimate reason for not carrying on and booking that second date.
Now hear me out… my argument is weighted on dodgy science and personal experience so therefore it is logical and at the same time completely biased.
Firstly Mr Paciuszko calls into question the idea that it’s existence (or lack of) is a good enough reason to stop two people going from Date One to Date Two, it is the reason Party A (lets call her Brandy) does not want to see Brad again, even though they had a swell time under the circumstances.
Now by believing in the idea of The Spark you ignore the external factors and extenuating circumstances that effect its lack of presence on a first date e.g. the environment of awkwardness in the crowded bar, the pretence that comes with meeting someone for the first time, the souped up version of yourself you present who doesn’t get scared by the news and the dark anymore…and that could be deemed a bit unrealistic. The idea of The Spark demands that the clicking arrives swiftly and comfortably in a constructed world in which the totally awesome yet shifty version of yourself is on display rather then allowing for the gradual “getting to know you,” situation. The idea of The Spark is ruthless and doesn’t give much weight to realism
BUT The Spark is…. Right.
I believe that Brandy has a point, if you’re not feeling it within the first five minutes then what will another three hour meeting prove? Now Brandy may believe it’s because of romance or fate or Matthew McConaughey comedies, I on the other hand believe it could be down to a simple case of biology…
Now I do believe there is such a thing that draws people together like an invisible magnet powered by the almighty waves of Neptune himself but I believe it is part of the process of evolution. We have all felt that intangible fire-o- loin’s lust with someone we don’t know all that well, just as we have all felt that sad damp squid-o-loin’s no lust with someone who we really want to fancy but just don’t and this could be because mother nature wants us all to have a powerful race of super babies.
I am no neurosurgeon but I have read some things and heard some things from very smart people and what we mistake for Sexy Spark can be us liking the smell of someone else’s immune system. That’s right Owain, that lady might not have fancied your immune system much, perhaps because it was too close to her own meaning weaker babies who will not be able to fight off the giant race of mutant lizards when they try and enslave us all. And that’s not your fault. It’s the fault of your pheromones. There is also a question of symmetry, and facial structure (because how reproductive you are shows in your face, yep) and other things you subconsciously detect about your dates genes within five minutes of meeting them. I don’t buy this 100% as I think it would be far too simple to put The Spark solely down to biology, but it does explain why you fancy some people you shouldn’t and don’t fancy some people you should.
Now that’s one argument but my main point is this…
How cool is it that subconsciously your body picks all this up, processes it, then presents it back to you dressed up as an uncontrollable and completely illogical urge for sex and sparkles and instinctual feelings that someone is just “right?” Biology is such a tricky and amazing motherfucker.
But you could argue that is not “The Spark” Brandy was referring to, that is just really wanting to have sex with someone quite urgently and not knowing why, because when I have felt The Spark most strongly (and I have) there has been some kind of intellectual foreplay going on as well as the physical. Now, I have certainly been out with people who I deem “slow burners,” whom I have done the second, third and eighth date with after not feeling that initial connection and I have certainly been in love with them, but at the same time, I have certainly felt terrifyingly strong connections with people I barely knew from across the room. Even if I put my logical thinking cap on and assume its because their genes and mine would make an army of Little Einstein’s, there has always been an added connection in which we totally like all the same pop culture, have the same sense of humour and yes, I TOTALLY loved that film/book/hairstyle/meme too! Now I label it “fate,” but I know it’s not.
I think it is a case of your powerful powerful brain picking up on things subconsciously, picking up micro emotions and signals and body language that tell you this person presents themselves in a way similar to you, or in a way in which you admire in someone of the opposite sex, no matter what their mouth may initially be presenting. I think if you happen to be good at reading people then you can tell whom you are going to have something bizarrely powerful with and who is going to hate you at 4 in the morning after dating for a year, who is going to like the same things as you and who is going to find your passions dull and vice versa. The older I get the better I get at reading strangers and potential mates (and the worst I get at cooking). I think this is The Spark dressed up as a series of psychological and biological processes happening so rapidly I am not aware of them, but then again I am not meant to. It is presented to me as instinct, and it has always been right, and I have always ignored it. It wakes me up sometimes with memories and feelings of shame to say “I told you so.”
So the ones without The Spark….
I had a truly wonderful time with these people and cherish those memories, but inevitably the differences overcame the similarities and we drove each other crazy/away, but with the “Sparkles” I knew within ten minutes this was going to be something dammed big. I guess I am with Brandy on this, and I do believe in sweep you off your feet romantic love BUT powered by chemistry and experience. We are learning all the time, learning if something is going to work or not, fine honing our selection skills and becoming more confident with who we are and what we need to function with another person, and through many many relationships and first dates you do develop the ability to tell pretty quickly whether there is something within another person that is going to clash with yourself. But saying that, I have felt The Spark with people who I didn’t work with, but my immune system must have. I guess it’s a question of weighing up sexual attraction and slow burning love.
Malcolm Gladwell discusses an interesting study in “Blink” carried out by John Gottman from the University of Washington. Gottman gets married couples to have a 15 minute conversations on something unimportant, and he analyses their language and body language using a specific code which pin points every conceivable emotion a couple may express during a chat. He has been doing this since the 1980’s and has observed over 3,000 couples, to the point where he can predict with a 90% success rate whether a couple will stay married after watching them for three minutes. He has learnt the little facial expressions and gestures and verbal ticks and subconscious ways of being and tones of voice that means a couple work long term or don’t, completely without their awareness that they are even in trouble.
Sometimes our body knows what’s working even if we don’t.
Owain implies that the idea of the spark gives weight to the bigger ideals of romantic relationships, the fairy tale stories, because it makes it seem like there could only be one person for us all. I think The Spark implies the opposite, that there are many many people out there for us. It would be naïve to think there wasn’t, but I think that is the terrifying part, because if you have felt The Spark more then once then you know you can feel it again, even within a long-term relationship and that’s scary. How do you know that “Spark” won’t scare you into straying, or worse, you will get involved with someone you don’t have the sparkles with, have never experienced it and then one day WHAM you do when you least expect it.
In conclusion I think it exists, but just not in the way myself or Brandy would like, and sadly I think if it is not there to begin with, even on a first date, then it probably wont turn up along the road because when you have felt it once then hey, why waste time?
Don’t you think late afternoon is the most hideously inappropriate time of day to feel upset? I can hear gentle sounds of traffic, someone’s sprinkler, and the neighbours wind chimes. Wind chimes are a perfect interlude, the breaker in spirals of self-doubt and a reminder that someone is trying to give the wind a voice and that’s just sad.