“I was born in Russia and came here as a boy.
And in Russia all you can eat are bowls of tears.”
- Eugene Mirman
Even though I had been to Russia several times and professed my undying love of its people and culture, I never truly understood the Russian Idea of love till I heard this introduction on This American Life. It is from an episode called "Lost in Translation." It clarified for me what years of reading Russian literature could not. Moreover it explained why I’m comforted by Russia’s salted, broody subtlety.
This excerpt is preceded by a short story about correspondent Alex Blumberg, who was, at that time, a student. This whole exchange between Ira glass and Alex is five minutes long and can be found here .
But the important part is this…
“I have a clear, perhaps, culturally informed idea of what a great date is. It has to do with my idea of falling in love. In my mind, what I see is like the falling in love montage in the movies. When you go on a great date this often involves a board walk, there is a great deal of throwing your heads back in laughter, you might chase each other around a tree, the splashing of water is almost always involved. In Russia it is a totally different thing. In Russian literature there is a lot of talk about the soul and soul mates. So for them FALLING IN LOVE MEANS FINDING THE ONE PERSON ON THE PLANET WHO UNDERSTANDS THE MISERY OF LIFE AS DEEPLY AND FULLY AS YOU DO."
When I asked my teacher about this theory that Americans and Russians have completely different views of what it means to fall in love, she totally agreed. And then she went on a rant about Americans. “Americans have no understanding of what it’s like to fall in love! I never understand why do you always say “he makes me laugh”? Why is that so important? Every American I’ve ever met, all they say when you ask them how the relationship is, they say “he makes me laugh” as if that’s the greatest thing in the world! What’s so great about it?””
I think about this story almost every day. I suspect it might help us on our journey to Absurdistan.