Boqueria Market, Barcelona. Photo Credit: Chiogor Ikokwu
By Chiogor Constance Ikokwu
Dateline: Rambla Del Raval, Barcelona, Spain
Matters of the heart are complicated. There are no easy answers and some people get pretty riled up discussing it.
Why the topic? I’ve been living in Barcelona for a couple of months studying for my PhD. In the past when I heard comments to the effect that a PhD can be a lonely and difficult journey, I brushed it off. Now I can’t. I’m in that voyage and gosh, that observation is not far from the truth! Aha!
It’s nothing like a first degree or masters program where one could potentially sneak in and out of big groups given the sheer number of students in a class. As I’ve realized, it will take a bit more imagination and creativity to have a lively existence while in this academic boat.
My knee-jerk solution is the worldwide web. I proceed to the internet to find events in Barcelona. What would we do without google? Thirty five years ago, it was a totally different world. Today, it feels as if our lives will end without the internet. Ok, I’m exaggerating but it’s quite essential to modern living.
While scouting the web, I stumble on a site called Meetup, which has what I would describe as a million events on anything you can think of, I kid you not! If you’re new in Barcelona and bored, you will find Meetup useful. Events range from hiking to dance such as Salsa, Bachata, language exchange, yoga, comedy, fitness, books, etc.
On Meetup website, I discover the Socrates Café Philosophy Meetup. The opening line goes thus: “Do you have a hunger for deeper understanding of yourself and the world? Do you value deep, honest and respectful dialogue? If yes, then this Meetup will be very interesting for you.”
Membership was immediate for me. I didn’t need anyone to convince me that it will be worth my time. I waited anxiously for the first meeting but didn’t attend because the 15-seat slot filled up quickly. As soon as the next gathering was announced, I dashed to the sign up page.
On the d-day, I arrived Placa Catalunya Train Station before 7pm, giving me a bit of time to walk to the venue. It’s cold. I pull out my bright red wool hat from my backpack and pull it over my head, forehead and ears, with my bright red coat to match. I must have been the only colourful creature in that environment as most were adorned in black, ash or brown. I also adjust my scarf (a medley of orange, yellow and black flowers) in layers to cover my neck nicely
La Rambla, the beautiful walkaway outside the station is crammed with hundreds, if not thousands of people at all times. It is one of the busiest roads in Barcelona. It’s the epicenter of tourist attraction lined with shops, restaurants, buildings and a market. It would interest you to know that the market is similar to our regular markets in Africa, ehe! It’s better organized though and pretty clean. You won’t find the chicken butcher hassling you with offers to behead your bird at the back of the market, where you’ll have to press your nose hard enough to fight the odour. Remember Wuse Market in Abuja or Isale Eko in Lagos? I can feel my Nigerian brothers and sisters nodding in accord. Apology to animal advocates – please stay with me.
I crossed over to the walkway on the right. It’s still tough to navigate with people walking leisurely, chatting, eating and bumping into one another. Finally, my guide – the google map on my phone, which I’m holding up in front of me in the freezing cold, guides me off the main road into a quieter, well-lit street. Again, what would I do without google map? It’s the love of my life in Barcelona. Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean.
I arrive Socrates Café, the venue of the meeting in good time. It’s welcoming and idyllic. There are a few people seating outside sipping coffee, drinking, smoking, eating and having a conversation. The door is full-length glass with wood frame. It’s nice to step into a warm space. A waiter with a broad smile takes my order (tea) and directs me to the back of the room with a wave of her hand.
Now the conversation starts. We introduce ourselves. A couple of people suggest about six topics, we vote and settle for “Is Romantic Love More Important than Platonic Love”?
According to the rules, this is not a debate. It is merely meant to stimulate critical thinking and sharing of perspectives. What strikes me is the considerable difference in viewpoints between participants from Asia, Africa (myself only) and the West (Europe and America). It is revealing. In a world where it is consciously or unconsciously thought that Western influence is near total, vast differences remain.
The author of the topic kicks off by posing pertinent questions. Why are we sometimes mean or even cruel to our romantic partners? Why do we tend to value and place more emphasis on romantic partnerships?
The contributions are swift. The first person warns of generalisations, notes that the fantasy of romantic love is a Western phenomenon developed during the enlightenment period. She points out that not every culture is lost in that Hollywood fantasy. The conversation goes on for at least two hours with some flash points
A summary of some of the reflections is outlined here: humans have a natural and biological need to mate and produce offspring, hence romantic love. Women probably invest more in romantic love because of the need for security. Western films have created a false sense of what love is with partners seeking to get everything from their lover, thereby causing immense friction.
There’s a tendency to take one’s partner for granted due to familiarity. What we demand of romantic partners, we do not demand of our friends. That’s probably why we have less squabbles with friends in addition to the fact that we may have several friends who meet different needs and one partner required to be everything. It’s better not to have too many expectations in a romantic partnership. Unrealistic and unmet expectations damage our relationship
It’s impossible for one person to meet all our needs. We require a vast network of support to fulfill our needs. That network of support is easier in Eastern and African cultures where some societies are still communal inclined. You can be in a relationship and be extremely lonely. Loneliness and being alone can be a factor that provokes people to commit suicide
At the end, some of those from Western countries felt communalism could lead to “chaos and disaster”. In fact, one person said she could not bear being around people all the time, and this speaks to introverts. She said that she might just commit suicide in that circumstance
Everybody did not agree on everything. In fact as we were wrapping up, I felt the tension. You could cut the air with a knife. It was an enlightening discussion, nevertheless. A Nigerian friend, in conclusion, says to me that African view of romantic love is more about commitment rather than butterflies in one’s stomach
Hmmmm, this forum is probably not enough for an exhaustive discussion. But I think no type of love is more important than the other.
I pass the conversation over to you. Do you think romantic love is more important than platonic love? Please share your views, experiences and comment.