Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How Do I Love Thee? If I Can Count the Ways, Is It Still "True Love"?

Have you ever really loved a woman -- or a man? (Yes, love again -- but I never really tire of one of my favorite topics.)

And if you've been in love -- if you're still in love, or recently fallen into it -- could you, can you explain why?

I'll never forget what my sister asked me years ago when I told her, to quote Morrissey's "Break Up the Family" (which, unfortunately, I didn't actually do), "I'm in love for the first time, and I don't feel bad."

"Why?" she wondered. "What do you love about this person that wasn't present in any of your other relationships? Why are you in love?"

That was a lot of questions for so early in the morning, and I didn't really know how to answer them. But I came up with a few reasons anyway. I wanted to satisfy her curiosity and my own youthful need to have an answer for everything. But I didn't really believe what I said as much as I believed (and still believe) in love. True romantics never die. They just keep getting disappointed.

I'm still not sure how I feel about being able to explain why we love someone. On one hand, I'm a big advocate for practical value-for-value love (and doesn't the use of the word "advocate" there just reek of value-for-value pragmatism?), but on the other, I love the idea of getting caught up in the rapture of crazy, supernatural love. It's just another one of my many contradictions: I'm a idealistic realist, a health-conscious bon vivant, a romantic pragmatist who loves being all alone in the big city full of millions of people.

In all my various forms, I've always loved the sound of "unconditional love," though I'm not sure I've ever really experienced it as either the lover or the loved one. But if we can readily come up with a list of reasons why we love someone, doesn't that automatically make it conditional? In the end, my pragmatism wins, because I do believe that all love is conditional, even the shameless, inexplicable love that Kate Bush sings about in "Why Should I Love You?," one of many great songs on her 1993 album The Red Shoes. (My favorite line: "Have you ever seen a picture of Jesus laughing?/Do you think he had a beautiful smile/A smile that healed.")

But my hopeless romantic side likes dreaming about unconditional love, which, in my hopeless romantic heart (or at least in that particular chamber of it), equals true love. It's the kind of love that great and not so great pop stars sing about, the supernatural kind.

But here's the thing about that ole devil called supernatural love. If it's like a virus, a foreign body that randomly injects itself into a host, infecting his or her mind, body and soul, then no wonder it causes so much pain, why it's sometimes so hard to shake, why it sometimes suddenly vanishes with little warning, and why, if we're truly unlucky in love, it can be fatal.

Thank you, Kate Bush (with a lot of help from Prince), for giving me something to listen to and think about while running around Lumpini Park so early on this Hump Day morning.

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