I don’t know who first said that we like people for their virtues, but love them for their faults. It used to make sense to me, but I don’t think I believe it anymore. Certainly I love people for their eccentricities–for their little quirks of behavior, for their strange obsessions, for the unfathomable things that make them tic. The strangeness of other people makes them fascinating and unique, and hammers home their essential reality. I don’t think you can love anyone until they’ve become so vividly weird in your eyes that you cannot help seeing them as something distinct from the background pattern of everyday humanity; until they are strange, we reduce them to symbols or types.
But their faults? There are certain feelings we feel when we see other people’s faults, and these feelings are often pleasant to us, but I don’t think you can accurately describe them as love. The best they can do is enable love indirectly, by overcoming our own insecurities. The presence of a genuinely perfect man or woman would be deeply unsettling, if not humiliating. Who could be happy in the presence of such a completely superior person? At best, we would feel uncomfortable. At worst, we would fear and resent their perfection. Think Sir Galahad from the Arthurian legends–the perfect knight comes across as an insufferable prig. Continue reading