Anyone who’s been struck by Cupid’s arrow knows the result is messy. Love is made of high emotions: great affection, sexual chemistry, bitter arguments, petty annoyances, and, if it’s to last, painful compromises and endless sacrifice. Do we truly love in this day and age of disposable partners and rich, empty lives?
What is love in our age of melancholy? One way to define love is by what it is not, just as light can be partially described as the absence of darkness. To that, then, though it won’t be easy for either writer or reader.
Love is not the power trip on which misogynistic Saudi men fly, as if on a magic carpet in days of yore, their brutal legalism untamed by human decency. Such cases are often covered up at the source, even by the victims themselves – when they survive.
This happens in America, too. Love is not in the heart of a father who murders his daughter because she refuses to wear a hijab, nor in one who immolates his daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter because the young man isn’t of the proper caste, nor in still another who allowed his brother and a rejected suitor to rape and torture his daughter for 2 hours before she was strangled to death.
There is neither love nor honor in the hearts of such animals – despicable, mindless beasts whose slavish adherence to a primitive, brutal code that should have been discarded ten centuries ago drives them to murder their daughters, the only things that give their lives meaning.
Of course, theirs is by no means the only culture in which the defects of male dominance make themselves felt in unpleasant ways. Five centuries ago, Shakespeare documented them well. In Hamlet, Ophelia said:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
Disposable women have been the hallmark of all history, it seems, in all times and cultures.
Small wonder that radical feminism has reared its jaded, ugly head in our culture, the richest, freest, and most equal that has ever existed. But rejection of men does not spark love in the hearts of feminists. Marriage and children are death for a woman in their eyes. Only independence and lock-step militancy on gender issues like abortion define a modern woman properly. Those who disagree are branded pariahs, as was Sarah Palin.
I won’t repeat the names I’ve been called for writing that abortion should be legally restricted to the first trimester (in itself a tragic moral compromise of the worst order on my part, an ungodly compromise with those who neither ask nor give quarter on the issue) and that a woman should be forbidden to abort the child of a man desiring to compensate her for the inconvenience of carrying his baby to term and to raise it without any obligation on her part. Woman-hating bastard is the least of them, I assure you.
Sad, that, because it’s so far from the truth. But neither love nor logic seems able to cross issue or ideological boundaries in this day and age. Men like me are haters in the eyes of those on the other side of the line, the enemy.
The irony is, of course, that the vast majority of the women I care for wouldn’t bat an eyelash before saying I’m too liberal on the abortion issue.
There is no method of civil disagreement left to us in this sad period. As individuals we are too used to indulging our opinions as if they actually mattered.
Love is not, after all, present in any of the ~1.5 million abortions that take place every year in the United States.
I told you this would not be easy reading. Love, like the absence of it, also be dark. W.H. Auden’s famous poem, Funeral Blues, paints the starkest possible picture of the end of love itself:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Love is, so far as any can know with certainty, for the living. Faith alone instructs us that it lives on after we pass through death.
In either realm, love is both a noun and a verb, entity and action, and it must be nurtured and protected in our hearts. 1 Corinthians, chapter 13:4-7 offers an excellent working definition of love as a noun:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Shape your love for your parents, husband/wife, and children in this way and love the verb will act for the good in your life. In the words of dc Talk:
Hey, tell me haven’t you heard?
Love is a serious word.
Hey, I think it’s time you learned:
I don’t care what you say,
I don’t care what you heard,
the word love – love is a verb
Meaning that while, we receive love the noun, we give love as a verb, by taking loving actions. John 3:16, perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible, reads:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The Christian story is at its core an act of love that no mere man could perform on his own, for our love is not so pure as that, even for those we truly love as best we can. Again, there is the noun and the verb, intertwined, almost indistinguishable unless you seek out the difference.
Each of us has the free will to do as we please. Our choices to love patiently, kindly, humbly, to protect and trust those we love, to hope and persevere define our lives, as do the times when we do the opposite.
Today, choose to act as 1 Corinthians advises. Buy the obligatory flowers and candy on Valentine’s Day if you wish, but don’t stop there. Let’s make our actions toward our husbands and wives and children exactly what they should be today, just for this one day, and see where that takes us. Too hard?
Back in the day there was a man
who stepped outta heaven and he walked the land.
He delivered to the people an eternal choice
with a heart full of love and the truth in his voice.
Gave up his life so that we may live
how much more love could the son of God give?
Here is the example that we oughtta be matchin’
’cause love is a word that requires some action.
Then, tomorrow, let’s do it again.