Is life better lived or imagined?

Somewhere in Allan Bloom's last book, Love And Friendship, he speaks of the promise of romantic love and its fulfillment -- my recollection is that it might have been in a discussion of Anna Karenina. Whatever the context, Bloom averred the fantasy of a life together would be 'better than any fulfillment'. In short, our dreams are a beautiful fraud that life demolishes at leisure, in the manner of a child picking petals off daisies or a lizard making a meal of an insect.

Whatever the truth of that claim in many respects, it is nonetheless true that life can surprise in the other direction -- by being better than you expected. I can think of at least three examples in my own life. In the first place, sex was nothing like what I expected -- to the extent that I was capable of expecting anything, which in my profound ignorance I was not. Still, I had expected it to be pleasurable. I had not expected it to be rapturous and utterly transporting (and no, physical spasms had nothing to do with it and were not a feature of my rapture). The fact that I have abjured such rapture for the past quarter century is neither here nor there. It was better than I expected by an order of magnitude. That's the point.

She comes first.

She comes first.

Then there is the dog. I had always thought that having a dog would be a life-enriching experience -- why else have one? But the fact is that I hadn't yet met my dog, I had only met other people's -- which is a bit like trying to judge how much you will love your own child by how much you adore children of all kinds in any playground. I expected to love Chummy when we got her, but I had no idea how much, how deeply, I would love her. Having a dog, despite the rather comprehensive restrictions -- as a free spirit I have chafed within them at times -- you can't move about with anything like the freedom of other people, for a start -- is a whole dimension of being human that I had no idea was really possible. Whatever the cost in freedom and convenience, being Chummy's parent is vastly better than I can describe. It is certainly well beyond what I imagined at the start. In fact, the reason that I am so willing to accept great restrictions on my freedom is that I love my dog and care for her wellbeing so much: one proceeds from the other. 

My third example is a bit different from the others in that it doesn't, directly, involve anyone else. It was the moment when I finally realized my years-long desire to write music. One day, I erupted with a song ('Golden Shadow') that set me on a path of songwriting and music-making that has been part of my life ever since. The pleasure and satisfaction are beyond what someone else might imagine -- and certainly I was right to want the realization of that dream, instead of cherishing the dream as something better than any reality....

In short, Mr Bloom: Though you were right about many things, I don't think you were right about this one.