Men talk of heaven, — there is no heaven but here;
Men talk of hell, — there is no hell but here;
Men of hereafters talk, and future lives, —
O love, there is no other life — but here.
Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (Robert le Gallienne translation)
I heard a joke recently that goes something like this: two people meet for the first time on a date, and the conversation soon drifts to personal details. The guy mentions he’s an engineer, and the girl, seemingly confused by the statement but determined to handle the situation with aplomb, responds “Oh, cool! I’m a Gemini”. We’ll round back to this scenario in time, but first I ought to provide some context for it. Last week one of my roommates offered me a curious question: what idea or sentiment could a girl express to you such that your romantic interest in her would dissipate immediately?
I’m a sucker for little probes like this, and, not wanting to spoil the ripe moment with too much contemplative silence, my knee-jerk response was that no suitor (suitress?) could reveal herself as some sort of Calvinist and win a call back (I’d let her down humanely with “I’m sorry, but I just don’t think we’re destined for each other”). My apart-mates are an interrogatively intellectual band, so I naturally spent the next few minutes immersed in gleeful argument, justifying myself and my allergy to predestination.
What an impossible mission it would be to enjoy what’s left of a main course and dessert sat across from a fatalistic date convinced that both of our names are already scribbled on one side or another of some ghastly ethereal chalkboard. Moreover, the pragmatist in me balks at the expansive and unlimited omniscience wasted in merely propping up such a bizarre hypothesis. After all, imagine how suave I could appear if, on such a date with such a girl, the food lay ready and steaming on the table upon arrival because our orders were anticipated in eternal advance….
I could commit an entirely separate essay to unwrapping the Swiss cheese block of loopholes and fallacies served up by that particular worldview, and I explained as much to my roommate. However, once the rhetorical crossfire died down, and once I had apparently reinforced my position as an arschloch with standards, I found my mind awash with other possible answers to the initial inquiry.
I circle back to the joke you read at the beginning of this little thought experiment. That plausible scene marks what I imagine to be the second fatal utterance I might encounter, though one could replace “Gemini” with any one of the smattering of astrological signs that illuminate credulity like a searchlight. I must say I’ve earned the right to my disdain, as I’ve spent my fair share of time leafing through magazine horoscopes and astrology “self-help” guides to revel in the sheer, riotous hilarity of their vague proclamations (a cursory glance at one November horoscope for Taureans like me indicated that I tragically missed a sultry and promising sexual encounter on the third day of the month, so long as it didn’t involve carnal relations with a Scorpio). As with many pseudosciences, one need only consult the source material for an effective inoculation against it.
For this reason, I’d wager that most any date with someone who seriously described herself using astrological piffle, or worse tried to make predictions about me on those bases, would be an ill-fated one. To consult astrologers for counsel and divination is to seriously believe that orbs of gas and rock and ice, and their trajectories millions of miles away, dictate our energetic and psychological states. Shall I be expected to invest trust and emotional belonging in someone whose locus of control fluctuates somewhere between here and the Kuiper Belt?
A list of honorable mentions follows. If my companion ever informed me that she regularly penetrated the looming Tuscan columns and red brick facades of Atlanta’s Church of Scientology, I’d have half a mind to continue the rendezvous only for the sheer novelty of it (the scientologists cast a redeeming light on the astrologists, who at least craft their insipid predictions according to heavenly bodies that actually exist). I’d apply a similar stance to revelations (if you will) of Mormonism, Christian Science, or any other such recent cults.
As I’ve laid out this colorful parade of apocalyptic conclusions to budding romances, you may have noticed a pattern. It takes a certain forfeiture of logic and other critical faculties to believe that a subset of humanity has been doomed to hellfire since before it was born, or that the positioning of planets in this rather unremarkable little suburb of the Milky Way accurately forecasts the future, or that a nineteenth-century charlatan delivered divine revelation via golden plates that no one else ever glimpsed. To afford merit to these ideas is to suspend the most potent and beautiful cognitive capacities of the human mind.
Allow me to pause for a moment of clarification. I recently absorbed a pair of episodes of the Netflix show Dating Around, where in one cringing moment a woman told an unnerved bachelor that “normally, when I go on a first date with a guy, I end up dating him for four years”. In another scene, a headstrong male suitor prematurely revealed his love of hunting for sport to an animal-loving bachelorette. This aside exists to assure you that I am not immune to the traditional red flags of courtship. I can think of myriad paths by which one could blurt the extrapolations or insults sufficient to earn the boot, but I am simply endeavoring to point out that unreason is terribly unattractive.
Rather than make such a declaration solely in the negative, though, I’ll phrase it in the reverse: I find that a penchant for wielding rationality is one of the sexiest goddamn traits a person can possess. She who merrily dismisses wish-thinking, conspiracy, blind faith and casuistry is supremely equipped to suck out and savor life’s marrows of unbound creativity, irony, humor, argument, irreverence and maybe even a love of the dialectic. A trellis, in other words, for a terrific and vibrant companionship if ever one I could imagine.