09 August 2010

Love is Ridiculous

This is an excerpt of a toast I gave yesterday. (Or, more accurately, what I thought I might have said.)

No one likes to admit this - particularly at weddings - but love is ridiculous. It is inconvenient. It is demanding. It makes you lose sleep and makes you think it is a privilege to do freely what no stranger could ever convince you to do for cash.

Love will end badly. That’s a given. And it does end. Even if you make it to the death do us part, one person has to … well, there is no graceful exit from love. You’d have to be a fool to say yes to love when it shows up at your door.

Actually, it doesn’t really show up at your door, like a package from UPS. It’s more like a baby crying in the middle of the night that you suddenly have to get up to tend. And one way it is like a crying baby is that you don’t respond because you think it’s convenient; you respond because not responding to love and all its consequent complications is to choose to be less human. You have to be foolish to answer love's cry but you have to be inhuman not to.

People have this belief that love makes you happier. They are not mistaken. It’s true, but it is only part of the story. Love doesn’t just make you more happy – it makes you more sad. It does make you more content but it also makes you more frustrated. Love is just like life only more so. Sure we choose love partly because it makes us happier. Mostly, though, we choose love because it makes us feel more alive.

Simply to be alive is to be inconvenienced. Think how much time we spend getting places, eating, sleeping, cleaning up … So, it sort of follows that if you are going to be more alive, you are going to be more inconvenienced. Love is ridiculous, demanding, inconvenient, unreasonable, and absurd. Which is to say, love is like life only more so.

It's also true that love is something that both happens to you and that you create. It is universal and also incredibly unique.

What is Stendhal’s line? "Heloise speaks to you of love and some ass speaks to you of his love, don’t you sense that these two things have nothing but the word in common?"

Two people can pretty quickly agree that they’re in love. It takes the rest of the relationship to define just what they both meant by that.

I think that when people fall in love, what they fall into is universal – the obsession, the delight, the stalking. But from there, what each couple creates is unique. And I think it mostly comes out of a dialogue. “Sure, you said that we were in love. But what did you mean by that,” is something we continually find ourselves asking when our mate does or says something unexpected. And it’s not a bad thing that we’re surprised. It just means that forgetting to engage in dialogue does to love what forgetting to water does to plants. Keep talking.


Gypsy at Heart said...

Nicely done Ron. Great toast. May the couple you gifted your speech with, have absorbed all the distilled wisdom of your words.

On a related note, my own parents celebrated 42 years of marriage today. On toasting the achievement, my mother smiled and said: I deserve a Nobel Peace Prize! To which my father countered: And I should be sainted! Then they hugged and kissed each other with that special understanding in their eyes that has seen them through the good, the bad and a large portion of the last few decades.

Personally, I've come to the conclusion that falling in love is a temporary madness and, that loving someone is a lifetime's worth of work. Sometimes easy work, sometimes hard work but, there is no doubt that you have to keep at it no matter what. That belief I think, coincides nicely with your watering the plants metaphor.

Someday, I hope that my husband and I might get to that 42nd anniversary ourselves. I expect (pray) that if we do manage it, that there will be something similar to that settled-in look that my parents evidenced today. Theirs is an ongoing dialogue that has evolved into something quasi-telepathic after all their years together.

I couldn't even begin to explain how it heartens me to think that if they and others have been able to manage longevity in their loving, then I and my husband can too.

Happy examples we can aspire to marriage-wise are as important to a couple starting out, as are all the wise words on what one might expect after entering the state of matrimony.

My parents have it right - after such a long time in partnership, Nobels and sainthoods are indeed in order because, loving well takes having common goals, continued goodwill, vast reserves of patience, and a sure to be tried capacity to withstand together in the face of adversity. Managing all that and still remaining together in relative happiness is an accomplishment deserving of all the best recognitions.

Ben said...

I'm happy I read this.