Friday, January 12, 2007


LOVE IS ... an early Valentine's consideration

“Love is funny or it’s sad,
It’s a good thing or it’s bad.
It’s a heartache or it’s mad,
But beautiful…”


What do I know of love?

I am mean and selfish. Many of my friends and family want little to do with me. I am vain, argumentative, arrogant, small-minded, petty, impatient, intolerant, increasingly agoraphobic and utterly self-serving.

I can’t and won’t wait in line to collect a $24Million Lotto prize let alone to pay for a loaf of bread, register at a resort hotel or pay my property taxes.

I’m the guy who yells at people in the cinema and at the Orpheum to “Shut Up!”

I cut off old friends like some people cut toenails. My son has a list of “People Who Are Not Welcome at my Funeral.” If you’re reading this, you’re probably at the top of this list.

I don’t love myself. I disappoint me. I’m not a movie star, James Joyce or a great singer. What the hell have I been doing all these years?

I know for sure what love isn’t.

It isn’t a gushy, mushy feeling of relentless goo. It isn’t Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman on the silver screen. Rock was gay, and, by all reports, Ms. Wyman, the first of Ronald Reagan’s wives, was a tough customer who could easily go a few rounds with Mike Tyson. Love isn’t all us lucky souls in the anonymous millions who have been told, “I love you,” by Michael Jackson and the last 125 Oscar winners. It isn’t puppy dog tails, although it may possibly be carrying small plastic bags in your pocket to pick up their lovely steaming leavings. That could be some form of love, for sure.

It isn’t the plans of politicians to conquer homelessness, spread democracy or discover new sources of energy. If anyone has a lock on being prime residents outside the Mist of Love, it’s politicians.

Love isn’t the revelations shared by actors, musicians or athletes on their amazing, mysterious processes that allow them to do those things that no one else can do and that they, themselves, surely don’t comprehend.

The only people I know personally who lay claim to the Truth About Love are clergy. Whether pastors or rabbis, celibate or resplendent with progeny, gay or straight, bearded or apple-cheeked, these guys can go on for weeks about Love. Jesus’ love, God’s love, man’s love for woman, love of humankind, you name it. And lest I sound even more cynical than you in your worst moments, understand that often these sermons and lectures bring sentimental, sloppy me to tears. (For the record, I don’t know any Imams or leaders in any other, no doubt worthy, disciplines. And being the hate-based, fear-based jerk that I am, and so far along in Life’s glorious path, I am not really open to meeting any.)

Wait. There is another category of person who claims expertise on the subject of Love, and that is the psychiatrists and psychologists. The only problem is that, from my personal experience with this bowling team, they are almost all universally certifiable. Show me shrink and I’ll show you a major wacko.

That leaves the poets.

And the songwriters and lyricists. These are the guys who truly get it, whatever it is. They can’t explain it or paint it or skate it or climb it, but somehow in skirting round and round the glow of the issue, they get us close to it. And that may be the best we can hope for.

Now, Bob Dylan, America’s Great Troubadour, is not someone to whom I customarily turn for solace or wisdom or even reduced rent. But he did say something a few years back that has stayed with me, or at least returned from the shores of the subconscious, somewhat dripping in seaweed and with definite sand in its pants.

Two or three love affairs back, I began to get this tiny shard of an iota of a hint of a shadow of an inkling about Love. “You gotta serve somebody!”

This is what Dylan told us, and you know what? He’s right.

If Love is anything comprehensible it is that willingness to help the other, to want to make the other person’s burden a little less today, to ring forth some small shard of kindness on the ones we claim to love, or even, on some days, a total stranger.

Two or three lovers back, I actually started to cotton on to this notion. Heck, I was only in my fifties by then. It’s never too late. What if I inconvenienced myself today and did some small unasked for thing for this dear person, something that would ease the afternoon or make the night a more inviting place? I could make the dinner or pick you up after work or take the garbage out or check to see when the swimming pool is open. Imagine that.

Imagine the ten thousand tiny ways we can say, “I love you,” in deeds remembered or forgotten. That doesn’t matter. What is important in Love is that they are done.