Love in the Time of Tears

Heart and a scribble

It’s a funny word, love. It’s supposed to be this nice and happy thing – the definition of happily-ever-after, in fact – while at the same time we all know just how destructive and miserable and mis-applied it can be. Rulers are brought down because of idealized expectations of what love should and shouldn’t be, people use the excuse of not being loved enough to justify murderous rampages, love of various versions of god, country, or ideology have led people to do horrendous things.

Really, when you think about it, love is a pretty destructive factor in our world. Why haven’t we done something about it? The answer, of course, is that doing something about it from the external side – legislating love – is almost always met with even more disaster (Kim Davis is a recent example of just how wrong things can go).

But internally, on a person-by-person basis, we can work on clarifying our idea of what love is. I think I started doing that seriously back when I first picked up Leo Buscaglia at the recommendation of a girl I liked (thanks, Dawn!) and I really never stopped. Thomas Moore, Cheri Huber, Emily Dickinson, Robert Heinlein, Sheri Tepper, Thomas Aquinas, Sappho, e.e. cummings, Lee Harrington, Richard Bach, these are all people whose writings on love – their own, their characters, or as a part of the human condition – helped me get past that initial fantasy of love as an altogether good thing.

Love hurts. Love destroys. Love also builds and nurtures. It’s an organic thing, and as any gardener will tell you, at the level of plant, insect, and animal things get downright violent. Love – a whole, complete love, not one where you pretend that the hard parts don’t exist – is going be full of cycles of passion, boredom, joy, fear, longing, satiation, and laughter and tragedy. It’s messy.

It’s important to remember and (as Mike Rohde puts it) “embrace the messy” during the times when tears are falling and everything seems to hurt. That’s a part of love, too. It’s not the only part, it’s hopefully not even a major part – but if you’re going to enjoy the deep rapturous connection that comes with love, you’re going to have to accept the price as well.

“…anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.”

– Francis Ford Coppola

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