The Beloved

My love life has always been a little unconventional, never more so than it is now. Traditionally, and in all the books on love I’ve read so far, the lover is male and the beloved is female. There’s absolutely no reason to make things more complicated than necessary. In this case, complicated is just the tip, for I, the female, am the lover, and my beloved is a man. I have found the one my heart loves, and he is my beloved because I love, love, love him.

That is my role as the lover: to love.

Love is always a threat to the status quo because lovers always want to build their own secret world nobody else is a part of, speak a language only the two of them know, and do things like swap pronouns when everyone else is happy to keep everything exactly the way it has been forever.

The beloved exists in the lover’s amorous imagination. Love implies a way of valuing someone. Unlike love, which needs to be learned how to do, valuing (or devaluing) someone else is universal among humans. Even the word “beloved” denotes more than a simple term of endearment. There is a value judgment inherent in calling him my beloved. It means he has a special place in my esteem. I regard him more highly than any other individual on the planet.

He is my beloved. He is in the perpetual state of being loved. By me. There is nothing he can do to stop me. I would have to choose to stop loving him, devalue him in some way so that he’s no longer seen as the beloved, or cast someone else in his role as my beloved.

That’s how this works.

The lover puts the beloved on a pedestal, not for worship, but as a way of fully concentrating the imagination on his suggestive being. The beloved becomes valuable through the lover. The lover attaches value to the beloved simply by committing herself to him. The amorous imagination is used to continuously affirm the value of the beloved apart from what the lover already knows to be true. 

Love is an attitude. Love is not merely a means of giving and receiving. Love is never practical and doesn’t have a clear objective. This is how love can come to border on madness. Desire doesn’t play a role in the bare-bones structure between a lover and beloved. Desire is wanting something for personal gratification. The lover attends to the beloved for who he is without the desire to make him any better he is, unless that is what he desires.

When love is an attitude, the amorous imagination steps in to downplay any negative thoughts about the beloved. My beloved is perfect, but this might not always be the situation. The lover might be aware that their beloved is not desirable to anyone else. The beloved is loved unconditionally. My beloved is also an Adonis, but this is not why or how he became my beloved. Whenever someone loves another person because of some reason or another, these become conditions for love. By adopting love as an attitude, love and the beloved are created. Love exists within the lover; it doesn’t come from an external source. The lover responds positively to the beloved, and in valuing him, makes him worthy of her love. This way of using the amorous imagination has been compared to alchemy. 

Without the imagination, it would be impossible for a lover like me to value the beloved as he is, my beloved. While he is real, he exists for me in another dimension just a little outside of reality. Stimulating the imagination is not the same as yielding to self-delusion.

If I’m perfectly honest, he’s pretty much my beloved because I’m obsessed with him.

Awakening

When a woman is in love, she can’t pretend otherwise. Passion can’t be restrained. Her feelings swell until they consume her. He dominates her thoughts day and night, until she is carried away by the tide of passion. The feelings come before the words. I want to scribble everywhere. I can’t get my thoughts in order. He fills me up like a balloon threatening to float away at a moment’s notice.

Or pop. He could destroy me. I am a balloon and he is the needle. One prick, and I explode, shatter into a million pieces. You would think being destroyed is a bad thing, but it’s not. Not this way. It is strength. Not mine. It is all this man before you. He could destroy you, and I like that feeling. A woman wants nothing more than to think she is strong, until shown otherwise. It is humbling. Not every man can bring you to your knees. This cannot be done by even half of them. Only by a few. So far, he is the only one.

My cup runneth over.

This is ecstasy. Not the pill. There are no drugs here; he is the drug. Ecstasy can feel like a trance-like state, or it can wake you up. It makes your whole body come alive. There is nothing you want more. Actually you don’t need more. That’s the thing. Anyone can give you more. Not anyone can give you enough. I am insatiable. He satiates me. I still want more. It’s madness! There is nothing to end this cycle. The feelings build up inside of me. Energy needs an outlet. This kind is explosive.

I can’t control myself. I am hot and bothered. I pace back and forth. I am woken up in the middle of the night by the force of these feelings. They crush me. I am not weak, they are strong. The feelings pervade my dreams. He haunts my dreams. I see him everywhere. I am never alone. I look at him the way someone looks through a kaleidoscope. There are so many facets to admire. There is complexity and depth. This is not true of everyone. 

There are some people who suck the life right out of you. You can’t bear to be near them for longer than you have to. There are some people who are like magnets. You can’t help but be pulled towards them. You don’t realize the energy it takes to be around them until you’re exhausted. And you do get exhausted, in a good way. But you leave so you can restore your energy and come back for more, because even when it’s enough, you’re never done. Not really.

It’s the definition of an addiction. It’s not just the high. It’s the cycle. Live and repeat. You are flying, you don’t want to come down. It is pure pleasure, never diminished by time. You return again and again.

I return again and again. I could never repeat the cycle with someone else. It is always him. It has only always been him. My experience is not singular. Very few bother looking for it. I’ve discovered it for myself. I’ve found the rest of me in someone else. I am whole. Everyone is looking for something in life. Some of us don’t know what we are looking for. The rest don’t bother to look. They are complacent. He never gets old for me. He is always something new. The only new thing under the sun. 

Falling in love and being in love are two very distinct ideas. They commingle. Falling is the impression of something you can’t control, while being in love is something you have to choose to do or be, not on a daily basis, but minute-for-minute. There is an intensity, a certain degree of emotion that goes into this state of mind. Because that’s what it is. It’s not a choice; it’s the result of making a choice, and then you find yourself in this uncontrollable state.

Love is moderation, but passion has its place. Nobody talks about passion enough. Nobody writes about passion outside of a motivational speech designed to inspire someone, or a lot of someone, elses. I am not setting out to inspire you. I have been inspired.

Better yet, I’ve been awakened. Women do this, come into some sort of awakening. With the right sort of man, they do. A woman who hasn’t been awakened hasn’t read the right books or met the right man. Women awaken and it is men who awaken them.

I am not a man. I don’t know anything about what it is they do. What I do know is that I am coming into my own, and that is because there is a man. There is something in him that can never be in me on my own. I am a woman. We are separate, different, and distinct. There is something to be said for a man who can make a woman submit. A woman in the midst of today’s feminist rhetoric does not submit.

I do not submit. I hold my own. He makes me weak. No, he makes me vulnerable. Or maybe neither of those things. I still haven’t exactly worked all of this out. Women are supposed to be more given to emotion. Not me. This is not a brag. It’s an insecurity. To be a woman in the presence of a man, my God. Make no mistake, it is a man’s world. This man takes up mine. 

I don’t know what it is exactly that I’ve awakened to. I’ve not been sleeping these last however many years (a lady never gives her age). There is no reason to go into the sexual awakening that has accompanied this passion. It wouldn’t be proper. He takes up all of me. It is all one to me now. What exactly have I awakened to? 

Maybe that the minutes of my life have meant nothing until now. Maybe that the idea of an independent woman I’ve held so closely my whole life no longer means anything to me anymore. Maybe that two is better than one. Maybe that I am not an island.

Maybe. I don’t know. He does this to me. Makes me uncertain. Maybe it’s an awakening to the realization that there is never a more to life, that you can eventually reach a state of this is it. I don’t mean that as a fatalist. I mean that as someone who has become satisfied after running in the rat race of life too long.

As a woman, nonetheless. 

It doesn’t matter if I don’t have all the answers. He probably does. He won’t tell me. This is what keeps things interesting. You don’t want to make it too easy. The fact remains: I’ve been awakened, and I’ve not walked through life as some unintelligent fool thus far. Three years ago, you would never have caught me admitting that a woman is better off with a man. Never. Times have changed. I’ve not changed. But I’m different. I see things differently.

I’ve awakened to something. Let me tell you that I have acted the fool in front of this man for the sake of nothing. For the sake of him. For the sake of it all. I have not been awakened to some kind of realization that I’ve some untapped potential. I don’t know what potential I would speak of. I have failed at almost every endeavor I’ve embarked upon. Probably because I’m a woman.

That’s only half serious. But that’s the whole point. I have failed at every turn in life in spite of trying my damnedest to do the best I could. And none of that matters anymore, because here I am. Pouring my heart out as if I’m in some kind of therapy group, which I’ve been a part of in the past. I’ve met Jesus Christ himself in one of them.

None of that matters. What I’ve been awakened to is what really matters. For me, that’s him. That’s all that matters. I am well-educated, and I’ve been awakened backwards into a silly girl in love like I am still in high school (I never went.). I have worked all my life to be something and I failed.

Here I am. This doesn’t feel like failure to me. I feel blessed and blissed out of my mind. All the time. He does this to me. I thought it would go away. It hasn’t. Not for months. Years, actually, if I’m honest. I’ve tried to avoid it. I can’t. I’m in love. This is what happens. Nothing else matters. 

Only this.

I’ve awakened. Maybe to nothing except him, I don’t know. Do I need more than that? He has taken up my whole life, and I give him mine. 

The Disease Known as Love

You are a fever
running through
my blood,
not by choice,
not my will,
fighting infection,
yet still lethal
enough to kill

You are a virus
spreading throughout
my entire body,
unstoppable,
incurable,
unable to be controlled,
leaving no part of me untouched,
infecting my soul

You are dangerous
in close contact,
a wild strain,
and new,
six feet apart
isn’t far enough
away to protect
me from you

You are the disease
known as Love,
and I the patient,
stuck together
forever and always
in isolation,
until the day
you kill me.

If You Leave a Lover Alone

If you leave a lover alone with her thoughts for twenty-four hours, here is what will happen: 

She will start by pining, consumed by her own sighs, and lost in the memory of her beloved. He occupies her thoughts day and night. She is in love to the point of distraction. Nothing holds her attention. She won’t take food or water. She will starve before she ever sees her beloved again. Her thoughts take a turn.

Her beloved is dead. His horse and carriage have turned over. He was killed in a duel. The victim of a political assassination. He jumped off the side of a cliff. The thought destroys her. There is no life after him. She goes through a list of things she has to live for, and nothing comes to mind. She doesn’t have time to mourn him. Her imagination is running away. She is coming up with fifty ways to die. She can live no more. Her life is already over. She throws herself into the abyss of despair. 

All feeling is gone. She is cold and calculating. All she needs is a plan. She thinks about flinging herself off a cliff, too. Maybe she’ll drown or drink cyanide. The possibilities are endless. She’s enraptured by her own imagination. How else could she do away with herself? A knife to the femoral arteries. Her father’s revolver he keeps in a drawer in the study. There’s some rope laying around. She could make a noose and tie herself to the willow tree outside. 

The willow tree. This is where her beloved first touched her hand. She wasn’t wearing any gloves, and he touched her! A reason for living springs to mind. Maybe he’s not dead. She has no proof. She has been locked in this room for far too long. Despair metamorphoses back into hope. Her heart begins to thaw. She decides to eat the first morsel of food she’s had in days. Clarity returns. Love reigns in her heart once more. 

Now she is flying. She takes no notice of the time. The sun rises and the sun sets. This is all she notices. She is optimistic. She finishes the duties she’s left neglected for the last fortnight. There is a tray of letters in the hall she hasn’t read yet. There is one from her beloved, and she really knows now that he is not dead. The letter is short. Her optimism fades to mortification.

He hates her. She has never been so absolutely certain of anything in her entire life. She couldn’t be sure he was dead. She’d rather him dead than hate her. She won’t give him the satisfaction of killing herself. He will have to hold on to his own hatred for her. She turns red. Her anger flares up. She has done nothing to deserve this. The burning inferno inside her turns cold. Her stomach drops.

What if she has done something to deserve his ill favor? She reads the letter over and over again. He has not said what she has done wrong. She makes a new list. The new list makes her want to die, too. It is everything she has done wrong ever in his presence.

She was too cold. She was too capricious. She was too bold. She was too honest. She had the audacity to approach him. Her manners were too affected. He hated her gowns. Her coiffure was too gaudy. Her curls too tight. She had no accomplishments. She was undomesticated. She showed her concern too soon. She preferred the tender charms of Petrarch to Baffo’s sonnets. Everything is wrong.

The willow tree. She should hang herself there. She has the memory all wrong. She has blown things wildly out of proportion. He didn’t touch her. He merely stumbled and grazed her arm. Her imagination has magnified the smallest detail. She has lost all sense. She can’t think straight. 

The next morning she doesn’t get out of bed. The maid comes and wakes her up. There is a gentleman caller in the drawing room. It all comes back to her. It is the fifteenth of the month. Her beloved is downstairs waiting for her. She wants to fall to pieces when she sees him.

She swoons. 

The Madness of Love

I went mad for a summer as if the pandemic wasn’t enough to drive anyone mad. Love hit me with all the force of a train and struck me dumb. My brains fell out. I lost my keys in the woods. The power lines went down and I lived without electricity for a week. I wrote notes on the mirror reminding me to eat. 

There’s a certain mad quality about love once the mysticism fades away. Love is mysterious and makes us curious before pulling us into its mad grip. The madness of love descends like clouds in a storm, making us act crazy and do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. We are conditioned to accept acts of madness when love is involved. Crimes of passion carry a lighter sentence than crimes committed in cold blood. Madness can mean insanity, or it can mean getting carried away by enthusiasm. Love exists at both ends of the spectrum. Madness rules when desire cannot be controlled. There is a tendency to underestimate the power of love. 

I couldn’t stop writing. I couldn’t stop moving. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t hold a thought for more than a few seconds. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t breathe. There were a million needles stabbing my body all the time, like I was electrified. My heart was constantly racing. My hands were constantly shaking. The journal I kept is mostly just scribbles, fragments of a lost mind. There were a lot of fragments, pieces that have reappeared in later notebooks in a more legible hand. I jumped from one thought to the next without any clear connection. It is the diary of a mad woman with song lyrics copied down for good measure. None of this mattered to me in the moment. I was happy, I was writing, and I also thought I was dying.

There were a lot of times I thought I was dying and my doctor just didn’t tell me, and I thought I would go right on living up until that point. Nothing else mattered. It was madness. I walked around life like a visiting tourist. There was no sense of reality, none whatsoever. Looking back, it all looks a lot more simple to figure out than the experience had been. I had fallen in love and didn’t yet know it. Turns out you don’t have to allow yourself to fall in love, but you do have to accept it before reason returns.

It’s a really big pill to swallow. Or maybe it’s not, I don’t know. This has never happened to me before. I had to claw myself out of the madness. Madness is not necessarily a good thing, but some of the greatest blessings come from madness. It has taken me this long to make some kind of sense out of the experience. Love has no concept of time. It was like I had woken up for the first time in a long time only to go back to sleep and wake up again to realize I had woken up the first time. Every day I literally woke up, it was like the previous day had been entirely blacked out from my mind. My memories returned, but my memory at the time wasn’t working at all. I was Dory from Finding Nemo. 

I was Lucy Whitemore in 50 First Dates.

Madness is a constant state of uncertainty. The only source of uncertainty for me was in writing. This is where I’ve found most of my blessings. I’ve left traces everywhere. I couldn’t stop writing, even though I didn’t always know what or why I was writing. There was a part of me that could recognize what was happening without being fully able to acknowledge it. I had seen something I hadn’t yet experienced. I didn’t have the language I needed to properly describe what I was experiencing. It came to me in fragments and almost completely lost among so many other mundane topics. 

I dropped out of time and space altogether. The days blurred together, and there were two times in the day: awake when the sun was up, and asleep when the sun was down. There were so many other things going on in my life that needed my attention that fell neglected by the wayside. There was this constant pressure of something that needed to be done, but I had no deadlines. Ecstasy is a hard feeling to describe, but easily recognized. It’s a trance-like state. There was an intense longing for I didn’t know what. The only word on my mind was more. More of whatever it was I had been feeling. It felt like something irretrievable had been lost to me. I called it my “voice” in writing over and over again.

Voice is connected to identity; my identity collapsed in on itself. I had fallen fast, and I had fallen hard. I was madly in love. I had surrendered myself into the madness and gave no thought to anything in my life. Madness rules when desire cannot be controlled. You can never trust someone in love to act sane. There’s an ingrained idea that the heart, not the mind, should be followed in matters of love.

This should never be done. Madness will ensue. 

Love also has to have an object. When all of this madness started, I had no fixed object in mind. In retrospect, I can re-read my mad diary and see how the points connect, but I couldn’t in the moment. I had lost all sense. There was a continuous cycle of falling in love and not wanting to be in that state of mind. The sweet side of love is standing on top of a mountain. The dark side is standing at the edge of a precipice. You are living your best life and dying at the same time. I also have to point out that this is from the perspective of a woman and never I had experienced lust to such an astonishing degree. Once I had a fixed object in mind, there was nothing that was going to stop me from possessing him.

Nothing.

That’s right, I knew him by lust first. Moderation was not in my vocabulary. Like I said, love has no concept of time. I started at the wrong end and traveled backwards. And actually, I hated him more first, too. These things never make sense. Only time ever tells.

I harassed him endlessly. Picked fights for no reason.  Stalked him online shamelessly. Stole all of his stuff. Read all the books beside his bed. All of them.  There was no stopping me. Desire is an irresistible force.

Love is not madness, though. Love is temperate. Someone in love also has to be someone in control. It took a long time for me to cool down. I had completely lost it for him the way I lost control over this essay. Love has driven strong women mad.

I went mad for a summer.

Mr. Perfect

Girls are programmed to find Mr. Right, the man who will sweep her of her feet and take away her breath, before riding off into the sunset together and carrying her over the threshold of their new house. Mr. Right meets every item on the checklist: he is tall, dark, handsome, funny, charming, and romantic. He is everything she has dreamed about since she was young. He listens when you speak, loves the food you cook, and he even helps you wash the dishes after dinner. Plus, he’s always home from work on time and never misses a scheduled date night.

The lucky girls learn about Mr. Right because her mother has married him. The rest of the girls learn about Mr. Right from the ones who have found him out in the wild. He is right because he fits the picture of him she has been filling in her whole life. Then one day she wakes up and realizes she is not the same girl anymore, and Mr. Right no longer fits the picture in her head. She forgot to think about Mr. Perfect. She has been told Mr. Perfect doesn’t exist, so she settles for Mr. Right, who is now all wrong for her. She is not happy anymore. She starts to think that if anyone can make her happy, it’s Mr. Perfect. She starts to believe that he is out there somewhere for her holding onto the happiness she so desperately craves. She knows herself better now. She knows what will make her happy, not yet who, so she starts drawing a new picture of Mr. Perfect.

Nobody is perfect, or so the saying goes. Mr. Perfect comes from the stuff of mythology. He is made up out of folklore.There are only stories about Mr. Perfect. Nobody has actually seen him. Mr. Perfect is soulmate material. He is made up out of the same stuff as you. He is rarely right, which is how so many girls miss him in the first place. He doesn’t fit the picture in your head at all. He’s not a single item on the checklist. He is not anything that can be dreamed or imagined.

He lives beyond the wildest imagination. It is so impossible to imagine he exists at all that the mind cannot even grasp his appearance when he materializes in a girl’s life. This is not who she was expecting. He is unorthodox and rude and unsettling. He doesn’t give off the same warm ooey-gooey feelings as Mr. Right. Mr. Perfect doesn’t sweep you off your feet; he pulls the rug out from underneath you. He only takes away your breath because he knocks you on your ass when he shows up unexpected and unannounced.

I know none of this sounds ideal. It’s a far cry from the idea of perfect we are all conditioned to have. The thing about falling in love is that it highlights all of our imperfections. This is what makes us so uncomfortable when he’s around. The last thing anyone wants is someone around who is constantly making us so aware of how we fall short in every way because that is how perfect they are. So perfect, it’s annoying and maddening. Humans are not programmed to spend time in front of things that make them uncomfortable, or next to someone who is flaunting their perfectness in your face.

This is why Mr. Right fits so much better. He says all the right things. He makes you feel all the right ways. You see him doing all the right stuff. He pushes you to be a better version of yourself. Mr. Perfect is so annoying because he’s content to just let you be. He lets you wallow in all your flaws and imperfections. He says nothing, just sits there modeling off his perfection.

What makes him so perfect, then? He is a reflection. Our reflection can only show us our imperfections. Only narcissists are in love with their own reflections. Mr. Perfect makes you run because you don’t want to have to stare at your reflection any longer than you have to. If Mr. Perfect was also Mr. Right, that would make him ideal.

Only Plato believes in ideal forms. The ideal man doesn’t exist. If he did, your brains would fall out. It would be from sheer awe that all this man is standing right before you. You’d lose your keys all the time because you don’t have any brains left to use. Instead of drawing a picture, you just want to scribble everywhere.

Mr. Right comes in like a knight in shining armor holding a sword. Mr. Perfect is armed with nothing but a glue stick so you can glue all your imperfect broken pieces back together yourself because he’ll never do this for you. Mr. Perfect lets you figure it out for yourself. The main difference is that Mr. Right knows who he is. He knows who you found. Mr. Perfect, on the other hand, has no idea who he is. He doesn’t understand who you’ve just found.

That’s why he is perfect.

But I Said I’m Sorry

I treat emotional wounds like the breadcrumbs you sweep under the refrigerator when no one else is looking. Eventually, though, the fridge has to be moved for cleaning and there’s an even bigger mess to clean up that makes you wonder why you couldn’t have take a few extra moments to sweep up the rest of the crumbs and put them in the trash.

It’s like waiting for a wound to get infected before finally deciding to put a band-aid over it.

Time is supposed to heal all wounds. Time has not healed all my wounds, only lessened the pain, but it hasn’t dulled the memories. Pain is a memory. I might not forgive, I don’t hold a grudge, but I never forget. I don’t forget the feeling of betrayal, I don’t forget a forgotten birthday, and I will never forget the feeling of shock I felt after making plans with a significant other only to discover he had gone out of town without me. So many fights have ended with me crawling into bed crying my eyes out and begging him to tell me he’s sorry for hurting me.

But I never said those words. My mom used to say being sorry meant never doing the same thing over. I think that’s unrealistic. Humans are always going to hurt you. The problem is an unwillingness to admit to hurting. The number of relationships I’ve had has taught me less about love and more about what love is not.

Love is not guarded. I don’t believe love acts foolishly and takes unnecessary risks, either. When we hurt someone and refuse to acknowledge their pain, we risk losing someone forever. Love isn’t careless, and I have handled too many relationships carelessly. Saying sorry doesn’t let the other person know you’ve caused them pain. It’s a way of owning up to your actions. Vulnerability is implicit when loving another person. Love involves a certain kind of defenselessness. It’s opening up wounds to another person to let them know, Hey, you’re not alone.

This kind of thing is usually done in support groups, or between strangers. For some inexplicable reason, it’s somehow easier to pour your heart out to strangers. Maybe this goes to show how much we fear being judged, or losing someone else’s esteem all together. There’s nothing at stake with a stranger. The worst a stranger can do is walk away, and you’ll never see them again.

But you feel better for having told them.

Hurt hides in the deepest places. When someone says you’ve hurt them, they take the defensive. The opposite is letting down the walls long enough and becoming defenseless in front of them. There’s no guarantee the other person will care. My own experience has taught me that the other person has rarely, if ever, cared. It’s no wonder none of them have worked out. For me, it’s not really about how I think I deserve to be treated. It’s about how I can keep living with myself at the end of the day.

I’m the last person who wants to look back and see myself as broken. I don’t feel empowered by the number of times I’ve had to leave a relationship and start my life over again. I feel drained, used, and washed out. I fall into hopelessness. I get angry about how much time I’ve invested in doomed relationships. There’s nothing about any of them that makes me want them back, but there’s a part of me that mourns my old self, that wishes I would have cherished the innocence of never having been hurt in the first place. Nothing short of a miracle or a lobotomy would have changed the outcome. I don’t wonder if one thing would have been different, would it all be different. The truth I’ve had to accept is that most people, myself included, can’t or won’t be defenseless around the people they love the most out of fear of losing them or a part of ourselves forever.

There is not much about a person’s real self that makes them lovable. I’m not talking about flaws or shortcomings. I’m talking about the unchangeable aspects of a person’s soul, their scars and their stories, the things we will always remember them by. It’s one thing to know someone is proud or arrogant, and it’s another to understand where the arrogance comes from, and whether or not we think it’s justified. Love is incredibly evaluative.

There’s no chance of ever judging whether or not we love someone, until we know, exactly, what it is about them we are choosing to love.

All Things Love

This blog is about love. I mean that in the strictest sense of the word, but maybe not anymore. I started this blog in pursuit of learning more about love, about its nature and its essence.

I always come back to the same thing. The more I read about love, the less there is for me to say anything else on the topic, even though I’m more certain than ever I know what love is because it keeps manifesting itself for me in the same ways over again.

A blog is one of them. It’s the writing part I love, which I can’t do without an insane amount of reading. I still haven’t decided whether reading or writing is my true first love. What I have decided is that a blog is the best medium for my thoughts.

I never thought about what purpose my blog would serve. It was never a means to an end. Then I realized that’s what I meant when I chose love as the singular focus of everything I write. Love as a philosophy, love as a way of life, and love as something I find worth investing my time in.

I haven’t come close to exhausting love as a topic, yet I’m feeling stifled by the invisible constraints I’ve imposed on myself with this blog. I promised to only write on the subject of love, or poetry about love, when it’s far easier to show my work by pointing to the things I love.

This isn’t the first blog I’ve started. It is the most different. Poetry is not something I ever intended to write, and all the leftover white space makes me sad, no matter how much I like, love, or hate what I’ve written. I’m used to taking up a whole page and letting my thoughts take shape, preferably in a coherent manner.

No matter how many times I remind or reassure myself that writing is first and foremost for myself, there’s still an external pressure telling me to write differently, talk about something else, be someone else, and I usually end up getting myself stuck. I think a lot of writers end up in a familiar place.

One of the reason I chose a specific subject for my blog is because I didn’t want to fall into the trap of writing what anyone else likes more than I like something myself. I really love writing about love. I really miss writing about the things I love, the things that remind me that love is real, that it exists, and that love is a daily presence in my life because of what I do and how I choose to do it. Love is the motivating force for me behind ever word I write.

I don’t endorse purposelessness. I don’t want to wander through life aimlessly and I don’t want to scream words into empty air. There’s no escaping or denying the fact that humans respond to emotion in writing. I’ve done everything in my power to write about love detached from feeling and I can congratulate myself for being successful, or I can consider how pointless it is to write about love without the passion it requires. Words can make writers transparent or they can be constructed to obscure the truth. Writers keep a lot of tricks up their sleeves.

Love is confession and confession means telling the truth, and the truth is that love shouldn’t be separated from feelings because it’s feelings that make us human, that show our humanity from a place of total vulnerability. If there’s any purpose to this blog, it’s to show love by the work I do. I have a day job; this blog occupies a separate place in my life, the most special kind of place I call my private life, the one I don’t share with anyone else, except for the ones who are reading, who are virtually strangers and will only ever know me by the words I write.

So they have to mean something. If all things love means all things love, then love for me comes right here when I’m at the page, and what comes out is an extension of that, it’s an extension of me and who I am. Writing has never meant anything else to me. At best, this is me giving myself permission to write about the things I love fearlessly.

Writers have to do that a lot, give themselves permission, otherwise it becomes a practice in how to please, instead of how to pursue pleasure. What it is is writing for my own sake.

Because I like it.

The Religion of Love

Religion is a loaded word. It is never a topic suitable for polite dinner conversation. When anyone does bring up the subject, everyone always has a strong reaction: either they believe in something, or they don’t. There is no right answer. At the foundation of any religion is faith, a belief in things unseen. Religion belongs to the realm of ideas where love is also found. Love, like religion, is a loaded word requiring faith to pronounce its existence. To do otherwise is to take love for granted. Love is the greatest intangible of all time. It can’t be measured, and when it is separated from feelings, nobody can agree on what love is, while simultaneously agreeing it’s an amazing, and even necessary aspect of life. Love tries our patience, and tests our faith. It changes our perception of the world.

Humans bear witness to love. The phenomenon of love is a centerfold in every culture and across human civilization. The appetite one has for love is influenced by a variety of factors, including religion, but it has been manifested over and over again throughout history, portrayed in literature, and it has been the subject of poetry. We are inextricably drawn to love as a deeply meaningful experience the way certain kinds of music pulls us in without ever truly knowing why. All kinds of moods color the word love from violent fits of passion and jealousy to entrancing states of euphoria and ecstasy. It drives strong women mad and spurs men to war. Crusades have been enacted in the name of love; it is a cause in and of itself, described as a battlefield and arena. Love is many things at once.

Love also has the ability to transform and change the way we see ourselves. Eat, Pray, Love combines these themes of love and spiritual transformation together in a memoir. Progress is hailed as a hallmark of our humanity, and humans are obsessed with attaining perfection being so inherently unhappy. Love alters perception and the world is seen anew. The promise of self-improvement becomes addictive and a way of life. Poetry offers models of love, while mythology and religion offer deities for worship. Love is expressed in poetry as a ruling emotion: “…there reigns Love and all Love’s loving parts” in Shakespeare’s sonnet 31, and “Love, that liveth and reigneth in my thought” in “Complaint of a Lover Rebuked” by Henry Howard. Love takes the place of a god in religion and is used to explain how someone could act the way they do in love. 

Falling in love becomes a practice in idolatry. Nothing else comes first when new love begins. It is the only thing on your mind keeping you awake at night. We kneel in worship at the altar of love, believing there is nothing better in life. Falling in love represents the culmination of human experience, ending in an eternity, or nothing at all. Dying in the name of love is used as a mode of expression to convey the depth of feeling. The idea of death is preferable to the thought of losing the one person we love the most. Love is fragile and we do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t break. Nobody wants to stop falling in love, though very little is done to prolong the honeymoon phase that marks the beginning of a relationship.

Love takes faith, undivided attention, and commitment the way following a religion does. There are certain beliefs, practices, and rituals that keep love in a never-ending, flowing state. It is a source of life that stays in motion. True love is never inert; it is constant. Love is exhausting because it takes an unconscionable amount of energy to sustain. The process of love is similar to the way faith is described as being tested. It never only happens once. Faith is tested repeatedly. When grounded in anger, religion transforms into rabble-rousing, an energy that is only sustainable by the sheer number of followers. Love is a religion for one; it offers a land to inhabit when there is not a refuge anywhere else. This is how the poetry of love is inspired in solitude. It is created out of the same matter which maintains religion. It is a relationship, not love, that takes two, though love cannot exist without an object. Love without an object is the desire for possession. The expression “money makes the world go round” first started out with the idea of love. It is the insane desire to possess money, or something else, which tears people apart, with or without remorse. Love exists for its own sake whereas money is used as a means to achieve an end with other objects in mind. Love, above all things, is not made; it is created.

If love can be compared to a flame, then it requires kindling and stoking to keep it burning the way going to church reinforces faith, or attending a recovery program reinforces sobriety. In all cases, there are things that inevitably cause us to lose faith or stop going. The premature death of a loved one can cause someone to stop going to church as much as it can cause the next person to start going. In the same way, honoring the death of a loved one by staying in recovery can cause the next person to relapse. Love is born out of paradox, while faith is found somewhere in between yes and no. 

The principle of eternity plays a role in religion with aspects of reincarnation included. Love can be thought of as eternal in that it is reincarnated time and time again. Though details change, the underlying structure is the same. The permanent couple, bound by love, is rare, even and especially in the animal kingdom. Humans fall in an altogether different category. Monogamy is institutionalized whereas love is a free-floating concept bound by very little to hold it back as a force of nature. For once, love makes a departure from religion, another institution, and evokes godlessness, nonetheless still requiring faith. Love can only be eternal if it does not strictly belong to two people, whether an eternity represents a lifetime, or continues on afterward. If the sole aim of life is the continuation of life, then love plays no role at all in human affairs, and the meaning of human experience is reduced to sexual reproduction. On the other hand, love is simply reproduced, seemingly for no reason at all, except to prove that it exists at all.

There is no institution of love making it nearly impossible to believe love is something other than a force of nature left, for the most part, unharnessed. That love is a force of nature can be seen in the way people act with reckless abandon when in love. We are more inhibited to talk about love than we are to act, and to live is to act, even if the choice is to do nothing at all. To live a life of love is to walk a life in faith. Believing in love takes as much strength of will as it does to believe in a higher power, whether there was a Big Bang or divine creation. Love only holds us more accountable; religion, at least, offers the possibility of salvation and forgiveness. There is a lot about love that will always be unknowable, but it’s this nature of love that keeps its song alive long after we’re gone. 

On Love

Everyone wants to know what is meant by the word love. Curiosity is a part of human nature. It is an insatiable urge buried deep within the very marrow of our bones. Nobody is born knowing how to love. Most people discover their own definition of love by first learning what it is not. Curiosity about love usually comes from a place of lack and is taken for granted the most where it exists in abundance.

The risk involved with knowing what is love and what it is to love is to understand when what you are receiving is not love. To love is a choice and not an easy one to make. Too much attention is given on how to be loved. It is attached as a caveat after “how to love” each time. Self-interest doesn’t play a role in love. Love is selfless; love is other-oriented. Thought of as a gift, love is an act of kindness, intentional, not random.

Contemporary conversations about love use the word to mean “don’t judge.” Self-love is becoming more about embracing flaws and shortcomings, instead of encouraging growth. Coupled with self-care, ideas about love keep the emphasis on the self with dreaded phrases like “me” time cropping up.

The subject of love cannot be continued without first understanding what is meant when that word is used. Love has become entangled in so many other contradictory notions, it now lives on the fringes of collective consciousness in esoteric obscurity, in danger of being lost forever if not revived, and in some cases, revised.

The word love has been displaced by seemingly near synonyms that fail to capture the essence and nature of love: happiness, contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction. Love is treated as a commodity, a means to an end. Love, like medicine, is a practice, as much religion as it is philosophy, and in rare cases, an absolute miracle.

The truth is that love is a delicate subject. The word itself has lost its vigor and potency the way it is used so casually and so carelessly. When love is brought up, it’s attached to relationships, marriage, sex, or politics. For some reason, love always comes with strings attached.

Examining love in isolation, detached from context, and cutting those strings, which have so far held together a working definition of love, is what makes the subject so incredibly complicated, yet still worthy of contemplation. Maybe even more so.

Love, if mentioned at all, is talked about in whispers and conveyed through hushed tones reserved for church corridors. It is borderline taboo, another forbidding aspect which makes the subject endlessly fascinating. It is no wonder, then, that love is found in proximity beside destructiveness. The desire to love and the desire to destroy are equally strong in human nature. Taboos imply silence, and if not broken, compliance. To bring up the subject of love is to destroy the barriers of silence surrounding it, to transgress against the taboo, while others still remain inhibited by how to talk about love.

Love is growth, it never destroys. Hatred is fueled by anger; love is fueled by desire: a desire to love without expectation of receiving anything back. Love, like religion, is best when not forced on anyone. The message of religion should never be conversion. Love exists as an intangible structure, an invisible framework for living. Love is also life. It is the opposite of death and decay.

This is a departure from the idea that humanity’s deepest desire is to love and be loved in return. There is never a guarantee you’ll be loved, or even liked, no matter what you do, even if you conform in the strictest sense of the word. Love as a mindset promises renewed satisfaction, not a permanent state. It must be reached over and over again.

Love is not only about the capacity, the will and desire to love, but also the ability to express that love as a need, meaning more than to gain a sense of belonging, and then to do whatever it takes to continue satisfying that need. Love this deep touches closely with fanaticism and cultivating a life of love is tantamount to obsession, addiction. It is love detached from feeling, as a mindset and a way of life singularly-focused on a continuously renewing process, an end in and of itself.

It is love for love’s sake.