What is Love?

 

“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”

-Sophocles

 

As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we may better be able to answer this eternal question. After the lust and attraction of youthful desire somewhat diminishes, the true meaning of love may be better understood.

 

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

-Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version

 

Before his marriage, our oldest son came to me and asked a question that momentarily caught me off guard. He wanted to know at what point I knew for certain I loved his mother. After a moment, and wanting to answer his serious question honestly, I said, “Sometime between our second and third year of marriage.”

 

“True love is rare, and it’s the only thing that gives life real meaning.”

-Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle

 

As seniors, I’m sure most of us probably look back and believe the complexities of romantic love, especially at a young age cannot truly be understood. Emotions, hormones, peer and family pressures, and societal conventions all converge to confuse youthful decision-making. In fact, most of us probably believe romantic love does not conform to nor does it lend itself to logic and rationale decisions.

 

“The heart has reasons which reason knows not.”

-Blaise Pascal

 

Like most people, as I’ve grown older I’ve come to realize that love is not the mystical and tingling feeling that one experiences at the mere sight or touch of another, but is the conscious desire and actions to be the best and do the best for another person with whom you share your life, interests and values. Long term romantic love such as marriage requires that each person in the relationship continue to have and demonstrate these desires and actions, as well as the capacity to change and age with their loved one.

 

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

In other words, romantic love is not the often expressed feeling of “being in love,” but is an active term that requires us to give rather than expecting something from another.

 

“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to  give.”

-Katherine Hepburn: Me: Stories of My Life

 

 

Before his marriage, son number two came to me with a similar question as his older brother. I told him that we can never truly be sure, but try to imagine your life without her. Where romantic love is concerned, there are never any guarantees.

 

“Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn your house down, you can never tell.”

-Joan Crawford

 

You might wonder what has put me in such a reflective and philosophical mood to be pondering the meaning of love. There are two reasons. First, this has been an equally wonderful and emotionally trying year. New lives and love have come to me in the form of new grandchildren and new friends. For this I’m blessed. I have also lost more friends and family this year than I’ve ever previously experienced. I suppose it’s part of the price of a long life, and I’m grateful for knowing and loving them all. 

 

“When someone is in your heart, they’re never truly gone. They can come back to you, even at unlikely times.”

Mitch Albom, For One More Day

 

There is another reason for my reflective demeanor. In a few days my wife Trisha and I will share another wedding anniversary. Fifty years ago I met this young woman whose beauty and charm mesmerized everyone she met. But she was much more than a pretty face. She was smart, kind, and a genuinely warm person with  strong moral and spiritual values. She was, in a few words, too good to be true. Now, so many years later and to my daily amazement, we share a loving family and a wonderful life together. What is love? It’s all the things mentioned above and more. It’s mystical and tingly, risky and complex, challenging and rewarding. and the greatest single gift we can give and receive.  

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.”

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 

Trisha Parker

Trisha Parker

 

 

 

Trisha Parker

Trisha Parker

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I’m sure you all remember the late comedian George Carlin. One of his comedy bits really hit home with me. It’s  the one about people having too much stuff. He made fun of the fact that many of us have so many clothes we don’t wear most of them and have acquired so much other “stuff” in our lifetime we have to pay for storage containers to house it. Sound familiar? How many of us are spending money on storage for objects not worth the rent we pay to store them? After our last move, my wife and I finally got it down to one smaller storage space and that’s now a work in progress.

The point is, this is our retired life. A time to keep it simple and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Having too much stuff to manage can cause lots of stress and make us miserable. Of course there are the possessions that have sentimental value and we should pass those things along to loved ones. It’s all the other things we’ve acquired and will really never use that create a problem. Let’s all take a vow right now: Give the stuff away or throw it away. There is somebody out there right now that could really use and appreciate your stored items. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better and save a few dollars in the process.