Tuesday, March 23, 2021

When Love Calls: a Longing Look at a Four-letter Word


(Editor's note: Today I'm sharing a blast from the past when I was a columnist - 18 years ago - with a daily newspaper in Northern California (The Times-Standard), because the topic still holds true. In this post Trump America we need LOVE more than ever.)


The Beatles had it right when they sang, “All you need is love.

The most positive emotion in humans is love. It moves mountains. It saves lives. No amount of money will ever buy it. Your body and mind need it like oxygen.

It has spawned poems since ancient times when rhymes were written for kings and queens.

C.S. Lewis describes four kinds of love in his book “The Four Loves.” They are based upon the Greek words for love; Storge (affection), Phileo (friendship,) Eros (romance), and Agape (unconditional love).

Love is the best anti-depressant, but many of our ideas about it are wrong. Most of us get our ideas about love from the popular culture. We expect to be swept off our feet when in love. We tend to have unrealistic images that don’t fit with the real world.

The myth in our culture is love just happens. It appears out of nowhere and suddenly you are intoxicated. It doesn’t work that way. You have to actively pursue love by learning a variety of skills. You can’t just sit down and wait for love to come to you. That’s a mistake a lot of us make.

"Hate controls everything it touches, but love sets everything it touches free,” said Bryant McGill, in “Voice of Reason.” It’s true. Love can give us a new lease on life. It has no boundaries, other than the ones we set upon it.

An extremist when it came to love, Kurt Vonnegut also had a healthy irreverence about it. In “The Sirens of Titan” he wrote, “A purpose in human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

In “The Brothers Karamazov Fydor Dostoyevsky forcefully describes love. “What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love."

Paulo Coelho in “The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession” wrote, “Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.”

HonorĂ© de Balzac, who knew a thing or two about all-consuming love, wrote “Physiologie Du Mariage.” In it he states, “The more one judges, the less one loves.” The wisdom of this quote really resonates when you think about it. I think we’re all guilty, at one time or another, of harshly judging others.

One of my favorite quotes about love comes from Agatha Christie who wrote in her autobiography: “It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.”

It was Albert Einstein who asked, “How are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?” When I try to describe my first love (who I married) the words seem sappy and silly. I found that love grew, and was not a static thing.

The longer you love, the deeper it goes. I know this from experience. Poets and authors worldwide have talked about love since the days of yore, but the subject never seems to be exhausted. People have always written about it, big and small. Love is always a fresh subject.

Love is hard to define. How do you avoid mistaking it for infatuation or lust? Not even an experienced person can give a definite answer to that question. Psychologists talk about “that initial glow” (for the first six months) when a couple fall in love. It’s almost a fairy tale come true, but always ends in reality. If love survives the rigors of the world, it’s true love.

”Love is your mother watching basketball games with me, even though she doesn’t care about the game,” I explained to my sons early on. Love is selfless. It bends under stress, but always rebounds when given a chance.”

Contrary to what some people may think, love has no price, yet still has to be earned. A mother’s love for her child is the exception, because it has no bounds or requirements. I’ve seen love in my wife’s eyes for 39 years, despite all the dumb things I’ve done during that time.

Yes, I believe in the power of love. During my hippie days in the late ’60s, I eagerly embraced the message of “Peace and Love” even though I was a stranger to it. Love does make the world go around, of that I’m sure.

As It Stands, to have truly lived, we must have love in our lives.

Dave Stancliff is a former newspaper editor and publisher who writes this column for The Times-Standard. Comments can be sent to richarddavestancliff@gmail.com or to www.davesblogcentral.com

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