An article I read germinated this idea of "cleave." Edward Mendelson, in reviewing The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 2: 1923-1925, for The New York Review of Books, examines the urge of Hemingway to fully cleave to someone. Hemingway addresses the subsuming of one person into another in several of his novels and also in his letters. Not addressed in this review but well known to the public is Hemingway's problems with alcohol and eventual completed suicide.
Hemingway's very real life also serves as a message for the danger inherent to cleaving. It is understood that no man is an island. Yet healthy relationships balance an independence with an interdependence. As always, whether we are addressing sweets or alcohol consumption or love or working, to cleave or not to cleave comes back to the key point of balance. How to both adhere to another without severing one's self?
First, I'm going to address mechanisms for why some people seek to cleave with something based on my application of several ways of thought:
Metaphysical: Joining with another or a substance fills holes in ourselves that otherwise leave us with a vague discomfort, emptiness, and/or aimlessness.
Religious: If one is to cleave, join with God or Allah or the almighty who will light the way on the soundest path.
Eastern philosophical: The act of the cleaving is what holds meaning. Everything is transient so while one can enjoy the process, the outcome is never permanent.
Hormonal: When sharing a bond (lovers, mother with baby), oxytocin can be released which creates a feeling of warmth and deepens the love and connection.
Neurochemical: Substances can be the quickest acting, whether cocaine or alcohol or even hyperpalatable foods. Passion in the initial stages of a romance can also release dopamine and trigger the nucleus accumbens.
This post is part jest, part exploration, and part utmost seriousness. When we get uncomfortable in our own skins or lost, we seek immediate relief. This can come in the guise of a lover or a Bombay Sapphire Martini or a glazed donut or even a Mercedes. When these items are sought after in the service of briefly separating from self, the relief will be temporary and sometimes even larger problems will then ensue. The holes, briefly filled, will reappear as gaping maws, and the subsequent disillusionment can be crushing. As a Buddhist proverb tells, if you see Buddha on the road in front of you, kill him. It is not what is external to us that provides ultimate truth. The trappings may not in fact matter: the education degrees, the relationships, the job, the car, the social standing.
Who are you without the story line?
To engage in life, and join with others in an independent and interdependent way, pause to determine the constants within you. Dismantle the false icons, let go of substances if used in unhealthy ways, to discover the truth, for you. Finding the answer within allows you to cleave in a way that disallows cleaving. In other words, you can find what Ernest Hemingway sought without losing self and without death. By finding self, you can then bond with someone else in a way that preserves who you are. For some people, no written manual is needed to facilitate this process. For others, like me, guidance along the way remains key.