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We Are What We Do (and reasons for love)

by Dan Dascalescu - 2008-Oct-31

I watched We Don't Live Here Anymore tonight. I rated it 6 out of 10. On the topic of relationships, I found Before Sunrise and Before Sunset much more relevant and touching.

We Don't Live Here Anymore did have an interesting bit of dialogue though. Terry, the wife who is no longer loved by her husband, asks him:

[Terry] You say, "You are what you do"? Who really believes that?

I mean, what does that mean? Does that mean I'm a cook, an errand runner, a fucker, a goddamn cleaning lady?

Because if you, you bastard, lost all discipline and folded up, and turned drunk and got bald and lost everything, I'd love you.

I love you. You, Jack.

In that hypothetical situation, Terry would love Jack for the history between them, but if she met that Jack at that moment, for the first time, she wouldn't look at him twice. (Terry also misunderstands the verb "to do" - it's not limited to "housewifing" activities.)

Imagine Terry asked herself the following question, which I found very powerful. It's called zero-based thinking:

Would I have ever gotten started with this project, relationship, career, etc. if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I now know?

By answering "Yes", Terry condemns herself to a future identical to her dreadful present situation: unloved by her husband, ignored, criticized, cheated on. But still, she says "Yes". Why? Beats me.

Is it sane to love a person for "who they are", even if they do terrible things? You'd actually love not that person, but a past version of them. "Is this the person I've married?" is the question that would arise in such situations, and the answer should be "Judging by their behavior, no."

Philosophically speaking, we are what we do. To do is to act. The only way to interact with a person (except perhaps brain scans or brainwave manipulations), is through their actions. Any form of communication is an action as well. If one thinks something but acts otherwise, that's hypocrisy or a mental disorder.

Therefore yes, we are the totality of what we do. A philosophical movie that illustrates that very well, as opposed to the tautological idea that "we are what we are", is Total Recall, where one character says:

You are what you do. A man is defined by his actions, not his memory.