taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Monday, April 11, 2005

Our topic today is the word "love." A meaningless word, threadbare from overuse, much like "interesting" or "nice." The kind of word that good writing teachers will tell you not to use because its very ubiquity ensures its meaninglessness. And yet we use it all the time: I love you. I just love ice cream. Hello, love. I'm in love. He loves bacon. Or, in the immortal words of Johnny Cash, "Love is a burning thing..."

Break it down into its constituent meanings, though, and love means nothing at all. Fondness, desire, attraction, infatuation, contentment, appreciation--as vague as they are, when you hear these nouns you can imagine an actual feeling, empathize with an emotion. But love? My love and your love may be qualitatively diferent. In fact, it's almost certain that they are.

We venerate love, as a culture; we imagine that it's the pinnacle of our human experience. The love between a man and a woman, a parent and a child, a person and his or her God--abstractions of specific relationships--become the ultimate unattainable goals. You imagine that at some point in your spiritual development you will be capable of that pure emotion, Love, the light of it so blinding you that all else drops away. "But I LOOOOVE him," women on Jerry Springer wail, after their hairy-backed boyfriends run off with their sisters or their mothers, as though the word itself might lift them out of their doomed existences. As though the word itself changes everything, the specifics of circumstance, the fact that they are sitting in a television studio, being jeered at.

To some degree we all do this, though mostly without recognizing our own absurdity. Love is a cloak for other, more real emotions. The word itself allows us to keep trudging from here to there, through marriages and parenthood, through family dinners and diapers. How often are we actually feeling that love? And what does it feel like when we do feel it? I have my own definition, you have yours. We might agree, momentarily, on a beautiful spring day when all feels right with the world, that we feel the same thing & call it Love. But when the night comes and it grows colder, and there's work to do and children to take care of, what do we feel then? We say it's love. We say it's love because saying it makes it real, the word a talisman that protects us from the insults of daily existence, the unfairness and impossibilities of our adult lives.


At 12:17 PM, Blogger The Cybrarian said...

I love to love my lover's love-hammer.


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