The 19th Century French poet and novelist, Victor Marie Hugo, once declared “To love another person is to see the face of God.” His literary countrywoman of the same Romantic Movement period, writer, George Sand, pondered, “There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”
Love is arguably the greatest and most pervasive of all human drives. According to anthropologist, Helen Fisher, “Romantic love is not an emotion; it’s a drive. It comes from the wanting part of the mind, the craving part.” As French writer, Stendahl, noted, “Love is like a fever; it comes and goes quite independently of the will.”
For me, love was realized at a very early age. I was blessed with parents, especially a Mom, who showered me with affection, concern and attention every day without pause. Looking back over the 58 years of my life, although I have slipped, stumbled and fell in a number of romantic encounters, I have never once gone to bed without the knowledge I was loved by at least two people in my life; my Mom and Dad.
Regardless of my misstep or screw up, they have always been there for me. Lifting me up, dusting me off, patting me on the back and lovingly encouraging me to move forward, convincing me to learn from mistakes, and imploring their son to never look back. French playwright, Honoré de Balzac, wrote “The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” Jeanette Reynolds fits this mold.
For my Dad, while true it wasn’t until I deployed to my first war, Operation Desert Storm, in 1990, that I can remember him actually saying he loved me, he demonstrated his love in action and deeds long before then. More importantly, in the decades since he has overly compensated for earlier failures of acknowledgement and now we never break a conversation without an exchange of those three hallowed words.
Monsieur de Balzac also offered that “Love is the poetry of the senses.” An observation I view as keenly apodictic as it is encompassing. Experiencing real love allows us to transcend the boundaries of our faculties and sensibilities; it enhances our sentience; it allows us to view our lives thru an altered pinhole with bodhi and contentment. In the words of the late writer, Robert Heinlein, “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”
Bestowing love on another provides an equally fruitful awareness. In honesty, I think demonstrating love is an even more critical need for me. I gain much more from giving love than I do from getting it return. That is not to say I do not relish hearing the phrase “I Love You” whispered in my direction by my wife, Kate, nor appreciate the emotional uplift gained via the knowledge I am loved by family and friends alike. While those absolutes are critical to my emotional well being, I truly subscribe to that offered by the 13th Century Muslim mystic, Rumi, who wrote: “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”
Getting back to my wife, Kate, I cannot imagine being loved anymore by one person. She truly personifies the word and in doing so, elevates my well being and my psyche. My quality of life is remarkably enhanced with the knowledge that this incredible woman is in my life; that she loves me above all others is uncontestable, that the relentless affection and emotive soothing she showers me with is a tonic to cure all my ills and worries.
When I think of our life together, a passage from writer, Charlotte Brontë’s, literary masterpiece, “Jane Eyre” comes to mind: “I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.” Looking at our relationship, this passage from 11th Century nun, Héloïse d’Argenteuil to her lover and mentor, Pierre Abélard, resonates: “For not with me was my heart, but with thee. But now, more than ever, if it be not with thee, it is nowhere. For without thee it cannot anywhere exist.”
I am equally blessed in that I have always known the love of family; parents, siblings, children and grandkids. Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, wrote “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” To which, my postscript would read: The love of which cultivates a happy and therefore healthy life.
The same holds true for friends. The love sprung from deep friendship is a vital ingredient in the soufflé of emotions contributing to a hearty and robust life. Admittedly, I do not count many among my coterie of close friends, but the few I can tally provide contentment; spark my enthusiasms; encourage my pursuits (that I am even writing this blog is attributable to the inspiration of my wonderfully close friend, Bojana Andrejevic). According to British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” Knowing I am loved is a constant reminder I live a good life.
While being loved is a fundamental element of a healthy life, I firmly believe demonstrating and possessing love is an even more integral component. The great Post-Impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh, noted “I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” I could not agree more with the Dutch Master. (Although I must caveat that though I love family and friends, the older I get, the more difficult it becomes to embrace universal love of all. Thus, I remain a work in progress.)
This narrative is wordier than I anticipated and I must get cracking on. Before I go, however, I will leave you with several quotes that best capture the essence of my thoughts. First up, this perceptive assertion from the sagacious French philosopher, Voltaire, “Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.”
Following, in no particular order of preference:
“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.” English poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson
“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” French journalist, Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint-Exupéry
“I love you and that’s the beginning and end of everything.” American author, F. Scott Fitzgerald
“If music be the food of love, play on.” English poet and playwright, Sir William Shakespeare
“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” Mother Teresa
“I am in you and you in me, mutual in divine love” English poet, William Blake
“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.” British poet and author, Oscar Wilde
האהובה שלי היא שלי (“I am my beloved’s, my beloved is mine”) Song of Solomon 6:3
Love and be loved; now more than ever because“Life does not end at the Half Century mark. It actually BEGINS at the Second Fifty.”
The title of this web blog entry is from the Beatles 1967 hit record, “All You Need is Love.”