Monday, May 13, 2013

Aren't We All Lovers?

Love at the Getty
I've got some pretty amazing friends. They are talented, intelligent, and cultured. Because of these renaissance qualities, our discussions wax philosophical with a serious dose of twenty-first-century cartesian doubt... okay, let's just call it what it really is, skepticism. 

Today, we emailed about love. Names have been changed to protect the guilty. 

Received: 5/13/3013 at 11:02am (From A Friend)
Subject: What we need is... 

...an antidote to waking up feeling like this most mornings... 

True Love

True love. Is it normal
is it serious, is it practical?
What does the world get from two people
who exist in a world of their own?
Placed on the same pedestal for no good reason,

drawn randomly from millions but convinced

it had to happen this way – in reward for what?
For nothing.
The light descends from nowhere.
Why on these two and not on others?
Doesn’t this outrage justice? Yes it does.
Doesn’t it disrupt our painstakingly erected principles,
and cast the moral from the peak? Yes on both accounts.

Look at the happy couple.

Couldn’t they at least try to hide it,

fake a little depression for their friends’ sake?
Listen to them laughing – it’s an insult.
The language they use – deceptively clear.
And their little celebrations, rituals,
the elaborate mutual routines –
it’s obviously a plot behind the human race’s back!

It’s hard even to guess how far things might go

if people start to follow their example.

What could religion and poetry count on?
What would be remembered? What renounced?
Who’d want to stay within bounds?

True love. Is it really necessary?

Tact and common sense tell us to pass over it in silence,

like a scandal in Life’s highest circles.
Perfectly good children are born without its help.
It couldn’t populate the planet in a million years,
it comes along so rarely.

Let the people who never find true love

keep saying that there’s no such thing.

Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die. 

Wislawa Szymborska


Response: 5/13/2013, 11:46am (From Michelle) 
Subject: RE: What we need is...

Okay. Wow. That's a lot on a Monday.

I get it. I hear it. But I ask this: is this not so much a question about love and more a question of requited love? I never think of love as not existing--nor do I separate this "love" from "true love." Love is love and is true as true even without the "true" flag before it. It's a universal--it's Kant, and for it to be universal it "Kant" not be true (see what I did there? ;) )


It's so serendipitous that you sent this today. I was speaking of this very topic over the weekend: Are relationships possible for a lifetime?

As I sit and reflect and avoid the pile of bullshit work that my desk has accumulated, I come back to the same simmering point: we've all got love. We've all had love. We've all lost love. We all will love again. But what I cannot answer is: will those I love love me? That seems to be the big poetic cliff-hanger--the one question we can never answer. For, even when we assume love and are validated with words of that love (love from another) it can never actually be proved and outside of the moment that validation doesn't exist. Past or present, love is expressed in the moments that end as quickly as they arrived.

I worry about the bitterness. I worry about our own frail egos, cracked hearts, and misunderstood ids eclipsing the lightness of love that elevate our spirits to a flutter and a fancy. I worry about cynicism and distrust. I worry that thinking these thoughts and reading these poems are unconsciously rewiring the channels between heart and mind. But more than all of this, I worry that this search or need for a love validated by another outside of self is holding us back. So, I go back to Whitney (poor Whit, the woman who needed to take her own advice and avoid drug induced bath-time commas).


"Greatest Love Of All"



I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be

Everybody's searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs
A lonely place to be
And so I learned to depend on me

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be

And if, by chance, that special place
That you've been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place
Find your strength in love  

I also go back to a favorite, "When You Are Old" by W. B. Yeats:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;


How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;


And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

The thing about love, that Yeats so articulately shared with the world, is that it leaves--the person leaves. But the love, the love doesn't leave. We can think back to it, we can hold it in our thoughts, and in that moment it comes back. It exists again in that time and space. It exists in the way that love can only exist: a feeling, a thought--a cluster of energy that cannot be measured or defined in material ways. It's universal as the stars above, and "Kant" be thought of in any other way (is it getting old?).
With that in mind, aren't we all lovers? And doesn't that feel painfully wonderful?

Response: 5/13/2013, 4:43pm (From the Friend) 
Subject: RE: RE: What we need is...

Ha, I know this was a lot for a Monday.  But maybe it does mean something if I did happen to find it.  Maybe it also means nothing."When You Are Old" is the most beautiful poem.  I want to be the subject of that poem one day.  Don't we all.  And yes, this Monday morning thought had a lot more to do with requited love than love in general.  Gosh the weekend just ended and I already could use it again.  I am a bit mixed up in my thoughts right now - but I didn't mean to send the first poem to be cynical because I think it's actually more hopeful than it comes off.   

Four hours later, here is my line by line analysis this poem... 

True Love


True love. Is it normal - Well depends if you think truth is absolute. 
is it serious, is it practical? It's definitely serious. Practical - probably not.
What does the world get from two people 
who exist in a world of their own? - A lot of smugness! But also, it's kind of like the buddy system, if we were all just roaming around unattached, it might be harder to find someone to do all those things out of obligation because you know someday you want those same things done for you. 
Placed on the same pedestal for no good reason,

drawn randomly from millions but convinced
it had to happen this way – in reward for what? Ah, this was my first serious head nod line.  It IS true. Look at the way people get married, how if you are of a couple, you are on a pedestal.  

For nothing. 

The light descends from nowhere. But then I am not this cynical. I think if it is love on a pedestal then the light is sort of projecting from the inside, out and then inside again.  It's like when a woman is happily pregnant.  
Why on these two and not on others? 
Doesn’t this outrage justice? Yes it does. -Yes, probably.
Doesn’t it disrupt our painstakingly erected principles, 
and cast the moral from the peak? Yes on both accounts. -Of course.  The spotlight wasn't really earned here.
Look at the happy couple.

Couldn’t they at least try to hide it,
fake a little depression for their friends’ sake? -I smiled here. I like how she is now making fun of herself. Yes, it is pretty ridiculous that I, not in love nor in couple, should also be pitted. 
Listen to them laughing – it’s an insult.
The language they use – deceptively clear. 

And their little celebrations, rituals,

the elaborate mutual routines –
it’s obviously a plot behind the human race’s back! -Ha. Again.
It’s hard even to guess how far things might go -Exactly. It's exactly what we want to experience though.  
if people start to follow their example.-
What could religion and poetry count on? -Isn't True Love what religion and poetry count on?
What would be remembered? What renounced? 
Who’d want to stay within bounds? -Again, there are no bounds.
True love. Is it really necessary? -Yes, of course it is.  
Tact and common sense tell us to pass over it in silence,
like a scandal in Life’s highest circles. -Tact and common sense are what we use to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from experiencing the unknown.

Perfectly good children are born without its help. -Yes, sex and love are not always synonymous. 

It couldn’t populate the planet in a million years,
it comes along so rarely. -Isn't the fact that it is rare, why we want it?
Let the people who never find true love -Please god, don't ever let that be me.
keep saying that there’s no such thing. -I don't think I can say this... not now at least.
Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die. -I like this line the best.  if you take out "Their" and made this sentence "faith will make it easier for them to live and die," means that it can either be faith in either it's existence or non-existence.  
Wislawa Szymborska

END EMAILS... though the discussion continues... 

© Habit & Style, 2013.

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