, Newburyport, MA


February 14, 2014

Love: its comings and goings

You know it’s Valentine’s Day when storefronts are sick with every shade of red. You’d think love was important. Certainly the most acceptable four-letter word in our language.

We also think we are a very loving people.

Except, of course, when it comes to gay and interracial love, and then we say, uh, not so much. Already, something’s wrong here.

Certainly we don’t understand it, however much it’s studied. Love may be long or brief, hurt as much as it heals, and we’re clueless why.

We could just shut up about it: Most of what we say about love is incurably romantic — and if it sounds good and feels good, we think it must be both good and true. Unless there’s more to it than pretty words.

People used to think what their popes and monarchs believed, and woe to those who didn’t. Then individuals came to hold beliefs that were true for them, regardless what others thought.

That’s when love declared its independence, thanks to folks like the troubadours, who advocated for it in art, song and poetry. Marriages were arranged before love became democratic.

The love we now follow by the call of our hearts, however, works no better than love arranged. In this free and democratic society, more than half of marriages don’t last because love doesn’t. We freely find love and lose it, honor and dishonor it, respect and disrespect it, nurture and starve it. We give ourselves to each other, and take ourselves away.

We could learn from certain love stories, but we must pay close attention: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella each was saved by a suitor, but were they truly in love? Sleeping Beauty gazed at her liberator “in a friendly fashion,” and Snow White “felt friendly” toward her rescuer — as if they dared not call it love, certainly not at “first sight.” Apparently more is involved in real love.

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