Tuesday 20 August 2002

The art(?) of loving

Jeneane Sessums wrote:

That problem being that too few of us understand what it means to love. Simply to love and to love simply. At the heart of the matter, too many (for my liking) are missing heart—a passion that transcends the feelings we have for ourselves (our own individuality, needs, and so on) and that transcends even the feeling we have for the other person involved (the recipient of our love).

That “beyond” place is a place where love loves itself—driven by an undeniable instinct to protect and honor itself at all costs…

And AKMA wrote:

The [second] [okay, “the almost-kinda-practice-for-a-second”] honeymoon couple relished their four days on their own, and report to the world that they have only grown more deeply in love than ever. Speaking just for myself, I shall say that my fondness for, adoration of, attraction to, pride for, joy with, respect for, delight in, and passion for Margaret have grown hour by hour for nigh onto twenty-four years now. She’s just flat-out the greatest. Thanks, sweetheart.

While Dorothea Salo recalled “two terrified people arriv[ing] at their newly-rented apartment eight years ago:”

They loved each other, very much. They had been paired since she was a college freshman and he a new-minted grad student. But they had spent the last two years apart (save for a few precious visits) after he left grad school. Would their love survive a tiny apartment (with roaches, yet), her inability to cook, his never having lived on his own?

She picked up the phone book and hunted for restaurants that might serve a couple of vegetarians. (Her vegetarianism was all of two days old.) Her eye lit on a Mediterranean restaurant that, by the address, couldn’t be more than a few blocks away. They set out, holding hands again.

That was the best decision they could possibly have made. The server in the little restaurant welcomed them kindly. Did he see how tired and afraid they were? The food they ordered turned out to be excellent, hummus and falafel and grape-leaf-wrapped rice. Suddenly they thought that perhaps they’d make it after all.

They have gone back to the little Mediterranean restaurant every year on move-in day since then. They’ll go again this year.

Mike Golby described it like this:

What is it to me? Hmm… I’ll have to go Hallmark on you, Frank. Love is like the South African sun, cycling our ancient earth, giving us life, sustaining us through times good and bad and, at night, radiating [like the wave breaking skywards] to the unknown sky. Love is all we have and, contrary to my good parents’ advice, all we need. Like the sun’s light, love is all around us, twenty-four hours a day. The darkness, which we so often take as “something”, is always an absence of light and evil, to me, is always an absence of love.

I wonder whether some people are better equipped to love than others, or simply more skilled at it, or got better lessons in loving (or studied more seriously), or does it just—as the cliché suggests—come down to working at it?

I’ve always believed that becoming good at anything requires:

  • an interest in the subject
  • a certain degree of aptitude
  • one or more “experts” whose behavior one can model
  • a sense of inner confidence (the belief that you can do it)
  • accepting that hardship and sacrifice are part of the cost
  • tenacity (aka passion and commitment)

And, at a very deep level, the process has to be fun—only sheer enjoyment will carry you through the periods where the goal seems unattainable, the activity pointless, the struggle just too hard.

It’s easy to apply these parameters to becoming a champion swimmer, or photographer, or vice-president of marketing. But how about love?

I think I’ve always assumed that having good role models is the critical factor but now I’m not so sure. Plenty of people manage to build lasting relationships on the foundation of a damaged childhood. Or do they?

Is tenacity the essential ingredient? Can one person’s determination keep a relationship afloat? Is it true that some individuals possess an innate ability to love (or an aptitude for loving deeply and sincerely)? What might give one the confidence and resilience to sustain a relationship for (say) 24 years?

I don’t know the answers. I’m good at certain things, but (regrettably) I couldn’t put loving at the top of the list. As much as anything, I’m intrigued that hardly anyone assumes they’ll be able to play golf as well as Tiger Woods, yet most everyone takes it for granted that love is a skill that comes naturally. Even though, as Jeneane pointed out, “too few of us understand what it means.”

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Comments

Each and every kind, and each and every instance, between people and even between instances within an individual's life, is so idiosyncratically and unpredictably different, in the paragraph, the chapter, and the whole book, as to render questions about the beast meaningless.

The marvellous thing, though, is that at the same time it is predictably identical at water level, and variations, gloriously manifold as they are, are miniscule obsessed-over variations on the same theme.

As for me, I make it a policy not to talk about it in public. It's no-one's business but ours (me and any of the people I love), says I. Not to pee-pee on any of the folks you quote in your post, of course, but I find public lovey-talk a little distasteful.

Love is love is love, fraternal maternal nocturnal MisterBurnsal, whatever. The intensity or inflection may be different depending on the person who inspires it, but it's All One, and the simplest thing in the world.

I've always felt that the real thing is cheapened by talk, and prostituted by poetry.

But then, I've been drinking again, so grain of salt.

Posted by stavrosthewonderchicken on 21 August 2002 (Comment Permalink)

How does one not talk about something that looms so large in one's life, Stavros? (No offense taken, by the way. You're quite entitled to be squicked at public displays of affection. I knew I was risking that when I wrote what I did.)

I dunno's it's predictably identical at any level. Not been my experience. Lucky you if it's been yours.

Posted by Dorothea Salo on 21 August 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Chris, writing about love is, to me, the ultimate gift you can give the person you love. If I had someone special, I would write about them daily. I wouldn't be able to help myself.

I most likely wouldn't show the words to anyone but the person, but I would write them.

And when AKMA shared his affirmation of love with Margaret, and Dorothea shared her love with David, I appreciated the glimpse they gave me/us into that which was important to them. Though there is a bit of envy thrown in, too.

I am only human.

Posted by Burningbird on 21 August 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Chris, I understand what you're saying -- I doubt I'd post anything so deeply personal on my blog.

But, like Bb, I appreciated the glimpses of relationships that were revealed in those posts.

Posted by Jonathon Delacour on 21 August 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Me too - I do apologize if I offended anyone at all. Dunno what comes over me sometimes. I suppose that I regard it as something too precious to risk sullying with mere words....

What, me, a taboo?! What's next, hails of frogs?

Posted by stavrosthewonderchicken on 21 August 2002 (Comment Permalink)

Words are halting, feeble. They don't say the right things. I know it.

There is, however, power in public speech. Even when the speech as speech fails, the courage to *speak publicly* is a not-insignificant signifier.

Or so I have found. David liked my moving-day post, quite a lot. :)

Posted by Dorothea Salo on 21 August 2002 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour