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love is not all you need

Sorry, John Lennon. You’re Wrong.

This blog could have been entirely about love. It’s certainly a rich enough subject, in all the variations – filial, romantic, sexual, parental, environmental, self-directed, the list goes on. I could have follows the model of Buscaglia and Moore and Sark and just written page after page about the richness of love. But since this writing comes out of the lessons I’ve learned living my own life and sharing the passions of others, there’s one thing I have learned over and over: Love is not all you need.

Love is awesome, in the true sense of the word. The power of love to bring people together, to inspire them, to draw them out of innate self-centered behavior and into higher and nobler pursuits…it’s amazing. But love isn’t all-powerful.

That’s the real problem with the Disney-type mythology. The stereotypes are being overcome – watch “Tangled” or the amazing “Brave” to see just how far the writers have come from the days of “Cinderella” – but there’s still the prevailing idea that if you just have enough love, everything will work out right. The Beatles didn’t help, and Shakespeare seems to have muddied the message: why else would “Romeo and Juliet be held up as a romantic story and not a horrific tale of teen hormones gone wild?

Love is Not All You Need

There is a common thread I hear from people in troubled relationships. After going through a long list of the reasons they are unhappy, from incompatible personalities to financial woes to basic dishonesty, there comes this moment when they get this helpless look, and they say, But we’re in love…

I believe them. The problem is that the real answer to that question is: so what?. Loving my children will not put food on the table, any more than putting food on the table is loving them. Loving a woman won’t make me a man, any more than being a man makes me love a woman. Loving my country doesn’t mean that the leaders I helped elect won’t do horrible things, often in the name of “protecting” citizens like myself.

Kahlil Gibran talks of loveLove can’t fix those things. Love has enough demands and changes and rewards in itself. As a certain prophet said:

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself,
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed:
For love is sufficient unto love.
– Kahlil Gibran

In that book, which many a youth (including myself) took as an early guide to the wonders of love, the passages talk about love as an almost predatory force. Phrases like “if love finds you worthy,” and “Even as love crowns you he will crucify you” come across with a Byronic romanticism.

It seems to me it could also be seen as a cautionary tale. A warning that love will be a powerful force, and like all powerful forces requires a great deal of practice to keep it from destroying the things in your life you hold dear. There are times when the best thing to do about love is to resist it, to weather the storms of emotion and hold fast to your principles.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, and for some of us it’s a matter of unlearning the things we’ve been told all our lives. You need love, yes, in some form in your life.

But before you go sacrificing everything for some tsunami of emotion, whether it’s person, place or thing, try and remember: love is not all you need.

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