Sunday, September 27, 2009

The truth is

I didn't really understand what love meant until I lost Jesse. I don't think I can explain it to anyone in a meaningful way, except to say that you never really know a thing until you've been enveloped in it and then lost it, like water, or air. It's a horrible thing to say, I suppose, to tell people that love is nothing like what you think it is. That's it's a scam of nature. A great, important scam. A dirty trick nature plays on us: you love a person or thing because that's what makes you protect it most fiercely, that's what makes you willing to stand in their place and take whatever comes, past death. You feel the payoff, love makes you feel good, you seek it out, you nurture it. You look for ways to make it even better. But the payoff of love is not entirely for you. You may think it is. You think love is a positive emotion, that it makes you happy, it makes your loved ones happy. You think it's good. You think your bargain with life is that if you love someone and protect them -- if you're good, so to speak, you will be loved and protected too. Those you love will be part of your tribe, support you, that among the people you share love with, there will be some kind of comfort and perhaps even happiness. You don't think about what will inevitably happen. You can't really. If life lifts the veil of contentment (you may not call it that or experience it as that, I'm sure, but believe me, it's a relative term) from your eyes for a moment, and you see what's coming, how will you go on? In a sense, you only torture yourself if you try to cheat nature and see the world for what it really is.

The payoff of love is that some of what we love so flagrantly, heedlessly, intensely, that some of that will survive. Whatever causes us to love doesn't care if not all our babies make it. It doesn't care if we die from losing love. It cares that somehow, love makes some of us survive. It is designed to make us keep loving no matter how horrible and ugly it gets, because love is the bridge between now and tomorrow. It's the only way that human beings, for example endure. You don't believe that, you counter with the example of insects, bacteria, viruses, all these things that live and survive without love and how many more of them there are than us, you think of what propels their races forward. But it's because we aren't those things that love matters most for us. You think it's because we're smarter or faster, or stronger, but it's love that keeps mothers tethered the whole mindless scheme that brought you here, to read these words.

So that trite analogy of humanity to something insectlike, or microbe-like on the planet is wrong, in a sense. We're something else. Think of how the cells in your body all pitch in and divide the labor of keeping you alive, live and die in some forgotten corner of your body, for the sake of you walking around the earth, to whatever purpose you think you chose. Or those parts of you go to war with you and you die.

Human love is nature's way of stepping up the game.

There's a song I can't listen to without crying.. I've had the cd for years, and never knew the words because it's in a Portuguese dialect of Mozambique. I always thought it was a lullabye and you can see why from the sample. I wanted so badly to conquer that reaction of misery to this song, so that I could listen to it and enjoy it without breaking down. So I tried googling it, free translation sites, Web sites that mention the singer and the band, just blindly feeling around for some clue as to the meaning of this song beyond what it means to me inside. Today I read a brief translation of it that goes "Whenever I think of lazy people, I think of Cecilia."


  1. Iso, I'm not sure if it's exactly fair to crack open your readers' chests and then end with "Whenever I think of lazy people, I think of Cecilia." The depth of the laughter that came with that line actually hurt.

    In a good way.

    I would like to have the chance to sit with you somewhere, and just talk for hours or days or whatever and wind through these kinds of conversation about love and family and the world and everything.

    So just wow. This post has sent me into a kind of deep sea dive ... of thoughts about love.

  2. Hmmm, I think you know what I might say about fairness. I'm glad the last line worked. After I wrote it I was thinking, am I the only person that will find my foolishness hilarious?

    I'm pretty sure we'll talk again one day. Not sure you can get me to talk like this in real life, though.

  3. Yeah, I know I know.

    Fair. Conversations. Real life. Time. Etc.

    I choose to keep thinking its all the same thing.

    This *is* real life and the laughter is real, and the pain does sometimes ebb.


  5. OH, NYT, you know what? Nobody stops grieving after 6 months at the loss of a child. There's an emotional ignorance in that article even among the therapists that I find offensive.


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