Love, Actually

Every time Corinthians is read at a wedding, the ruined and weathered and broken romance novelist that I am, I can’t help but think of the entire catalog ever recorded by the Ramones, including the tracks about glue-sniffing. It’s the run to litany, I think, and the certain and passionate authority that Joey Ramone and the apostle Paul share, their dogged shoulder into the definitions of love and what it is what its action is, how it works on us, how it always, always, always, how it wanna, wanna, wannas. If I do not have love, I have nothing, Paul writes, moved by grace. I just want to have something to do, begs Joey Ramone, moved by his lower brain and the baffling Sheena.

Corinthians is meant to get underneath us and lever out of our hearts what we look to for love, even as we live our lives in envious and boastful and angry ways. Even as we have felt nothing but the restless cruelties of four angry chords played in limited variation on a second-hand guitar held over the thrusting pelvis of pain and unfulfilled desire. It never fails, insists Paul. Gimme gimme shock treatment, cries Joey. Faith, hope, and love, Paul tells us, and Joey, actually, agrees, is tenderized, because after all, he wants you around. He does. He says so, over and over and over.

You should know I am not a cynical person, either, but a hopeful one, because my ruin and weather have softened me inexorably, it seems. But I still think of the Ramones when Corinthians is read and I want to tell the couple not to be afraid of the restless cruelty of love and if they haven’t faced that, to anticipate it as a shadow to bring into relief this moment when they are standing in front of each other with the solemn revelation of what they are doing, which is choosing a sanctioned connection to another human being for the rest of their lives. Before this, connections have been mostly chosen for them by the accidents of birth and college roommates and cubicle arrangements.

Here’s the thing—love isn’t anything. It does nothing, it is evidence of nothing but our basic humanity. It is incapable of action, of engendering change, of movement in any direction. Faith, hope, and love, and Paul needn’t have gone farther, even to tell us which one was the greatest.  We so want to make love capable of action, we want to work out what love is, or what love isn’t, we want to sing or scream about it, and we want to submit it for evidence for the choices we make: because I love him. Because I love her. I do this for them because I love them. We can have faith, we can hope, but the greatest impulse we might have, we think, is to love, because it can do something, because it is something, because when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. Faith asks too much of us, to anticipate death, even, hope has us crying into the ocean, but love completes us.  It gives something back. Faith and hope are exercises in the activity of grace, which is not guaranteed, but love is just for us. To give and to receive, to redeem the inevitable failures of grace when we are curled up on the beach, high from glue, certain we are forsaken.

I’m starting with the plea to stop impossible actions of love, and to submit to our failure to define it, and to cease in presenting it as a reason.

I think more of love than that, you see.

What if love is truly ineffable, without description, incapable of anything, anything at all, but hopeless enigma, but it is still something we want, and want and want unendingly? Corinthians also says of love that when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me, but what if love was the irrational and tenacious and inexplicable want of a child, and always would be, and by loving, we are reduced to children, without choices or reason or anything but the native want of love?

What if all we came with, into this restless and cruel world, were our bodies and the want of love? We do, actually, and love is not promised, even then. The only promise of life is death, so what if, what if, the only want of life was love? I wanna be your boyfriend, sings Joey. Over and over and over. Because there is nothing else to say.

In the poem Twigs, Taha Muhammad Ali writes:

Neither music,

fame, nor wealth,

not even poetry itself,

could provide consolation

for life’s brevity,

or the fact that King Lear

is a mere eighty pages long and comes to an end,

and for the thought that one might suffer greatly

on account of a rebellious child.

 

My love for you

is what’s magnificent

 

There’s more, but I want to stop here for a moment, and talk about Lear. The tragedy, not the history, I think, because I’m planning on taking us pretty far down before I turn the lights back on. Lear has it all, doesn’t he? Fame and wealth, music and poetry. His kingdom is so vast he can consider its division without grief. Lear is an example of Paul’s caution, however, Lear speaks to vast audiences, has knowledge, faith, possessions for the poor, and life in his body, but we learn that he believes he does not have love which reduces what he has to mere clanging cymbals, nothingness, and wandering without a single companion but a fool. Suffering. It’s not until the bodies are piled on the stage in front of the old king that he is able to consider what he was given without reserve and for no reason, what it was he was in want of and that love’s not love when it is mingled with regards that stand aloof from the entire point.

So when Ali evokes Lear, at the beginning of this poem, and laments that no matter how many times you read it, it will always end, we are asked to consider perpetual loss, first, as the primary argument, and what’s more, by evoking Lear, Ali has summoned the complete and utter misapprehension of love and the tragedy this misapprehension sets into motion. Then Ali tells his lover, that it is his love, in the face of all of this, unending loss and terrible blindness, that is magnificent.

What is the action of this love? What does it do? If Lear is blind and there are no consolations in a short life of restless cruelty, what of the evocation of magnificent love?

Perhaps Ali can elaborate:

but I, you, and the others,

most likely,

are ordinary people.

 

My poem

goes beyond poetry

because you

exist

beyond the realm of women.

 

And so

it has taken me

all of sixty years

to understand

that water is the finest drink,

and bread the most delicious food,

and that art is worthless

unless it plants

a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.

 

Which brings me back to what we come into the world with, which is the want of love and our bodies, because when are born, we’re not born hungry or thirsty or tired, not yet. In fact, when we are first born we are not even yet air hungry, not until the first waft of oxygen on chemoreceptors starts a physiological chain reaction that literally shifts the pressures of our heart. In this margin, we are want of nothing but our mothers. Of her body, of the reassurance that this life where we can already feel the threat of breath is not a lonely one. Not every baby cries at birth, but babies takes their first breaths easier with arms around them, some basic approximation of love—this is not some poet’s fancy, either, a newborn’s vitals are stronger, its physiologic stress lessened, in the arms of another.

Our bodies, and a want of love.

Then, as Ali tells us, our hungers come. We are thirsty and hungry in as an unending a cycle as Lear is read and finished. Hunger and thirst are tricky things, too. Part of the problem is that they are unending. Surely, we think, if I feast, I won’t need to eat again. If my glass is empty, I’ll never need it filled. Then it’s all frustration, these unending needs. We’re hungry, but instead of eating we consume and consume and consume. Instead of drinking when we’re thirsty, we dull our senses until water is no longer satisfying. If we’re lucky, we grow to understand that we are, in fact, ordinary, and that all our bodies required was bread and water, after all. And, of course, a woman who exists beyond the realm of women, and splendor. Our bodies, and the want of love.

But I started with an argument against love as an action, as a redemption, as anything definable at all, and so why is it that we want it? Who is it that we give love to? How can we give and receive something that is both ineffable and without theological or narrative muscle? Also, I promised you that I thought more of love than love as an action, or evidence, or a reason, or a redemption. My audience, too, are those that write and read about love above everything else. My intention isn’t to strip away from love anything of value, even as we’re left, here in an empty room. With nothing but love between us.

This is where I say that while I am ruined and weathered and broken, I also love, and I am loved. It has nothing to do with my worth, or the worth of those I give my love to. I love people who don’t love me, who may never have loved me, who have hurt me, and who continue to hurt me. My love does not change them, it does not reason with them, it does not redeem the pain they visited on me. I love them. Not in spite of them, not because of anything but the fact of them and the tenacity of my own life, the fact that my body continues to hunger and thirst. I am loved, and there are those that love me that I have treated shamefully, and their love hasn’t redeemed or changed me. There are those that love me that I can never love in return, and their love is simply the fact of their love.

My love for you is what’s magnificent, in other words, has the quality of magnification, of ordering the world so that everything else comes after love. If we come into the world with our bodies, and the hunger and thirst of our bodies is satiated, the first order is love. This order then, can be without relationship to the work of grace and its complexities. Paul wants us to believe that if we do not have love, we have nothing, but we do have our life. We have our body, our hunger, our thirst, we also have whatever work we choose or is chosen for us. Perhaps this is where my argument fails, because perhaps life with nothing but life and the work of living it is, in fact, nothing, but something else love requires is another, and mutual love is something else again.

Love’s not love that’s mingled with regards that stand aloof from the entire point, writes Shakespeare, and if he is arguing with Paul, this is heresy. When love is mingled with patience and kindness, when it protects and trusts, when it completes us, it is better, I cannot argue that. But I also can’t believe that a patient and kind love, even a love that is protective, can save someone. Or should. Because when love is mingled with these regards, these considerations, the impulse is to withhold love, and while this may be sometimes wise, it is not usually possible. If it is our first want, the fact of living inside our bodies, then we will be as greedy as children in love, as unaware of the sacrifices necessary to sustain love as children are.

I wanna be your boyfriend, then, becomes as pure of a declaration as I can possibly imagine. So does I will, I do. We are helpless to the declaration, in fact, once it has come over us. Once we love, our impulse is to mingle its regards, to explain our actions by it—because I love him, because I love her, I do this because I love you—and to insist that it is a source of our faith and hope and redemption, the change we see in the world. Love makes the world go round, love is all around, love is the answer, love is patient, love is kind, love is blind—we believe all of this because why else would we be overcome with a declaration that is so often unreasonable and so often unrequited and so often painful?

Ali:

After we die,

and the weary heart

has lowered its final eyelid

on all that we’ve done,

and on all that we’ve longed for,

and all that we’ve dreamt of,

all we’ve desired

or felt,

hate will be

the first thing

to putrefy

within us.

 

I am not writing about hate, though love is defined in its negative, in our hopeless scrabbling to define life, but this poem ends with an argument against the persistence of hate, even at the moment of death, it suggests that something endures for some moments, or longer, after hate has weakened its hold. So if in this margin, there is something of life, there is likely something of love. It is magnificent, order above all other things, for no other reason than our want of it.

I find, too, that it is difficult, still, to abandon the canon of love. I want the regards, I want love to be the greatest of these, over faith and hope, and then my faith and hope would power my declaration with a feeling without dishonor, or evil, or distrust, or prevarication, and my love’s return would be unfailing and it would complete me where previously I was parts, it would mean nothing less than I am fully known.

Though, I think it is untethered, love. I think we know this when we send love away from ourselves and into a void or in the direction of another, or sometimes, sometimes, in safekeeping. I think we know that love is hopeless, and faithless and largely unrequited and that redemption is almost impossible.

But we say it, bent and ruined and broken with wanting. I love you. In this declaration there are no definitions or regards. There is no real action. I love you. That’s all. We don’t even, perhaps, know what it is to love. What it is we are saying, not really, we have reduced the expression of the ineffable between two people, with nothing but love in the middle—I love you. None of this that I have said is even truly an argument, but a surrender, even as we write as many songs as we can manage, even as we listen with an ear to God. Even as we say it, I love you. I love you. I love you. Even as we know it’s the first thing, and it’s the last thing, the bookends of our short and restless lives; even as we know it’s simply the life in our bodies, fed by bread and water, that have forced the declaration as the next impulse after breathing—I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

 

About Mary Ann Rivers

Mary Ann Rivers writes smart and emotional contemporary romance. Read more >
This entry was posted in Writing Wonkomance. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Love, Actually

  1. Doren Cassale says:

    This is just…brilliant. Brilliant, and beautiful.

    And I agree with most of what you’re saying. But I am going to assert that love does, in fact, “do” something. It provides us with a way of describing things that makes us continue to want. To continue the search for, and perpetuation of, love. If we were to accept that love takes no action on any object, then we would need to boil down our motives to much less romantic descriptions. “I have set up a home with you and I kiss and hug you daily because you are physically attractive to me and you are a good provider and I enjoy having discussions with you.” versus “I pledged my life to you because I love you.” can mean – in their most fundamental form – the same thing to a lot of people. And yet, they don’t.

    So if we didn’t have the word love, or the act of loving, what would we have that compels us to live a certain way or to do certain things? It is possible that it would just be named something different. Or we would be much less wanting people. But somehow, I don’t think so. Perhaps that is only a sign of my inferior mental capabilities, but I’d like to think (and perhaps that is a sign of my hopeless simplicity) that love is capable of something, which is to serve as a more beautiful symbol of the individual realities that comprise the complex, ever-changing, always different, love.

  2. Mary Ann Rivers says:

    No I think you’re right. I think love is both a sign and a signification of what it is to be human. I think my argument isn’t finessed enough to encompass or to explain well that the compulsion of life is to love and to be in the receipt of love and so yes, almost everything that is done after is a signification of love.

    And simplicity is never hopeless, only perhaps unnecessarily complicated by essays like this one.

    • Doren Cassale says:

      I think the essay was perfect. It forced me to think hard, to question my own perception of love, and – most relevantly to my point here – to frame my thoughts in response to yours. That, in my mind, is the ultimate success of a well-researched, thoughtful post like this one; namely, to enable a dialogue that is defined by the terms you have created. This was so well done.

      • Mary Ann Rivers says:

        Thank you–and I think, too, this is a kind of necessary intellectual exercise. If I’m spending my time writing about love, deconstruction of love, even if the deconstruction itself doesn’t find its way to truth, opens up more insight that does, then, motor narrative and action. We want that moment where our characters send love away from their selves to be absolutely armed with everything that is in our own hearts. Thinking this way is just one way, I know, but I find that love, actually, is a lifelong project. We’re adding to its canon even now.

  3. Ruthie Knox says:

    This is a beautiful essay. I am sending it to my mother.

    I don’t think I have anything to add, but I read it aloud, and it’s lovely.

    • Ruthie Knox says:

      I will add this — that my favorite part is the image of the newborn, equipped with a body and a need for love, or for its approximations. I had never thought about love quite like that before. And there is a sense in which as children grow older they are constantly separating themselves from that love. My son is only four, and he’s so firm about his rules. No kisses. Few hugs. Cuddling only when he says so, because he needs it. Of how I was the same way, and I remember the period from about twelve to sixteen as this long era of not allowing my parents to touch me or love me, and yearning, yearning for love.

      • Mary Ann Rivers says:

        Yes–it’s as if we have to test the upper limits of this thing we came equipped with from the start. In the same way a growing child has to test its legs and its heart and everything, it must test this other thing, too. How far it can stretch before the yearning is to sharp.

  4. Your essay is lovely.

    You use the word giving in connection to love many times. Is love a gift? Corinthians, to me, implies love is a gift bestowed upon us, by, a believer would say, God. You write love is a gift we, willingly or not, bestow. Are we destined to love or is it simply what has the most powerful pull on us?

    As I read your essay I kept hearing the words sung by Chrissie Hynde, “It’s a thin line between love and hate.” I’m not convinced love and hate are opposites as much as each is necessary for us to understand the other.

    • Mary Ann Rivers says:

      I think you’re right about hate, or that love is something that the thinner we try to slice it, to see through and understand–well, the more pieces we have. This is what happened, certainly, as I worked my way through this imperfect piece.

      And that the thing–we’re compelled and powerfully pulled to risk the understanding of something, to talk and write about love, that I think is truly a gift, in the sense of the original idea of a gift. It’s so difficult, I think, to imagine that we’re even capable of giving love away like we do. I’m not a believer, actually, but for lack of a better word, it’s a grace we just *have.* It makes essays like this a kind of grinding exercise, but I enjoyed trying because, of course, I think a lot about love and the why of it and what is passive and what is choice and how to turn those things on their head to explain something about people.

  5. Shelley Ann Clark says:

    I am a little too raw and tender to comment coherently, but this line: “What if all we came with, into this restless and cruel world, were our bodies and the want of love? We do, actually, and love is not promised, even then.”– made me realize that I have essentially devoted my career to righting this, to fighting the idea that there can be a person, a child, who isn’t loved.

    And so I sit here and try to give kids ways to see themselves reflected, and try to take away the loneliness that comes from feeling unloved, and sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing and yet, often it’s all kind of futile. Love itself may not make a difference, really, or it may just be too little, and I also have had a very hard time knowing when filling the world up with love is something that expands us all and when filling the world up with love has emptied me out.

    And now I’m going to go cry in the breakroom some more.

    • Mary Ann Rivers says:

      I do think that children like those that you work with really understand that they need love and to seek it out. I think it is often an imperfect quest, and there is so much heartbreak in their searches, in their so many unrequited attempts. At least for awhile, in that early childhood when they encounter you, I think they still know what they need. I know they do. I was a child like this–and this is how I found love, in people like you.

  6. Noelle says:

    I read this early this morning and wanted to comment then, but I just didn’t have time enough to digest it. I’ve been thinking of it all day, though! These are such beautiful, evocative reflections – thanks so much for writing and posting them.

    I started writing out a tangent about how I don’t think Paul in Corinthians and the rest of the NT is that far away from your reflections here (except, for course, that for him the reason for this innate hunger to love and be loved in humans is because we are created in the image of a God who is love embodied), but it ended up being tangential and unhelpful as a response to your lovely essay so I gave up.

    I will just add that I think there’s something potentially helpful in the idea that, while love is not and cannot be an action, we only know we love or are loved through action (I’m including communication as action). I think that might be why we always want to see love as “doing” something, when it is really us doing something, trying to live out love – which is really what Paul is saying too in Corinthians (there, I got back to him after all!).

    • Mary Ann Rivers says:

      Yes, you are very right.

      It was sort of bold of me to take on Corinthians, really, but of course, these passages very much inform our cultural consciousness about love, as well as spiritual ones. I think, too, that I might be trying on the idea that humanity is love embodied by the virtue of simple humanity, which isn’t far off at all.

      When I think about the canon, I sort of always think of it as a kind of giant cultural bookmark–like maybe what we dog ear to explain something isn’t right, or doesn’t include everyone, but there is something there, some echo of something we know probably doesn’t have words than can truly approximate.

      Mainly, I wanted to explain that I don’t think that love should be burdened with our attempts to change the other or redeem them, because then, the temptation is to withhold. I think Paul, when we writes that love is “the greatest of these” it really is meant as a reminder that everything else will follow.

  7. Edie Danford says:

    I love this muchly. (love, heh). I’m picturing you as a kind of wedding fairy godmother wherein you would tap all brides and grooms on the shoulders (maybe in the reception line) and hand them some Ramones–”yeah, Corinthians is beautiful and provoking and whatnot but you’re going to need ‘Judy is a Punk’ too.”

    (confession: I have wept while listening to I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend)

    I’m thinking hard now about litanies and their “tethering” function. If we say them enough, hear them enough and they become a part of us, become tied to us (books of hours, rosaries, mantras, chants, our parents’ heartbeats beneath our infant ears, the chainsaw grind of Johnny Ramone’s guitar). If we read enough love stories, see enough romantic movies, fill our lives with our favorite art, fill in those scary, lonely voids, drown out the things that say “it won’t work” and “what you want doesn’t exist”…

    Thanks so much for another thought-provoking piece. Still thinking about the last one, actually. :)

    • Your tethering comment is on the mark for me. My family has a series of things we always say, one of which is “I love my family.” Even when it’s not specifically true, those words continue to knit together the 22 of us. I have bound my children to me by saying the same things to them over and over. Love is so bound up in language and yet it is a thing with no words.

      • God, yes, the catchphrases. The insider language. And you know…your saying that made me realize that since my husband and I separated one thing I really miss is our insider language. Stuff we said so many times to one another that it had almost lost the meaning of the individual words, but we knew exactly what it meant. I think of it as missing the love…but I think it’s also just a practical thing. I miss the sounds because I’m so accustomed to them, they were part of the rhythm of my life. And I miss the functional ease of communicating when you have that verbal shorthand with somebody. Not so much the words, but all the stuff those words implied. Which was…love, I guess?

        • Shelley Ann Clark says:

          Oh god, yes. And what a loss, and a reminder of loss, those inside phrases that families have. And how telling, that Mr. Shelley’s family never had any of those tethers, and how overjoyed he is by the ones we’ve developed together, and how he’s become included in the ones my parents and grandmother and I use.

          Kind of the Nicean Creed or the Lord’s Prayer of pedestrian familial love.

        • Mary Ann Rivers says:

          Yes– I love all of this. Litany and repetition is a great love of mine (clearly), because, as you say Edie, it is so human. We’re designed to pulse and beat and dance and hear poetry.

          And yes, those things we always say to bind others to us–the lexicons we create as a means to explain love, and the lexicons we lose when that love is not longer ours. We can’t help ourselves, we need more to explain what it is we need more of.

    • ”yeah, Corinthians is beautiful and provoking and whatnot but you’re going to need ‘Judy is a Punk’ too.”

      Love. <–I went there.

  8. You had me until you and Doren got into semiotics – I just can’t be having with semiotics.

    But the rest…yes. Ineffability, that’s a concept I embrace for a lot of things. In a way I crave reaching that point where I accept the ineffability of a thing, because it’s comforting to me to not feel I have to understand a thing in order to value it. Some things aren’t actions or emotions or experiences, they aren’t anything to do with us…they just are. Our attempts to pin them down are like trying to pin down air.

    This attitude is anti-intellectual, I suppose, because it means I no longer attempt to clarify my thoughts on these topics. But it also speaks to the pragmatist in me. We can’t define love, so why waste time and energy attempting to do that, to verbally quantify it? What does that effort gain us? In my experience, only the perspective Doren mentions – one that’s depressingly pragmatic even for somebody like me. We don’t like to think that’s all there is.

    I wish I could remember the author or the book, it was a novel I read in the late eighties or so, in which the heroine described her take on the possibility of God/the divine as a general sense that “there’s more to this than meets the eye.” And that was enough for her. It’s always been enough for me. And it pretty much describes how I think of love as well. From a practical standpoint, a relationship is as Doren described it. We are physically attracted to somebody, we share a living space and enjoy activities or conversation with that person. But there can be more to it than meets the eye, and possibly that’s love.

    • Mary Ann Rivers says:

      Ineffability is precisely what I wanted to really argue for, here. Just to see how it felt to really push it forward, that this wantingness will never go away as long as we have breath in our bodies and that is how it should be, because that is us. Impossible to actually say, but we still pile words on top of it, because it is so wonderful, that we might just be a creature made for love.

    • Doren Cassale says:

      Yes! And I should say that, much less than the word “love” having a purpose, my point was more that, I do believe love is actionable. Or takes action? Something like that. Meaning, that is, that love enables and it inspires, precisely because there is an extra, magical ingredient in love that does not exist in the breakdown of verbs and/or descriptions of moments that define our own versions of love. Without that, I don’t find love particularly moving. But when it is love, and not the individual components thereof, I think love does have an effect, and it does cause things to happen. I know this comes across as wide-eyed idealism, but it’s hard to accept the idea that something as special and often so difficult-to-receive as love cannot move us to do great things.

  9. Shari Slade says:

    I cannot add to this or argue with it, not that I didn’t try. I started and scratched out three responses, drafted a poem, earwormed myself with a handful of songs.

    In the end, I can only nod and wipe away my tears (much like I do at a wedding).

    Love is.

    That is all.

    • Mary Ann Rivers says:

      The most wonderful thing you could tell me is that you started a poem, and I hope you’ll go back to the draft of it. We rely on poetry to get to all of this. We rely on romance novels, too. I love crying at weddings. It feels cathartic in a way few things do.

  10. Matt Vadnais says:

    Reading this, and the comments, I suddenly remembered the first time I cheated in school. It was a biology quiz that was peer-graded; we switched tests so that the teacher could go through the ten or fifteen answers once. I had done it dozens of times in that class, without the temptation to alter things one way or the other. And then, after weeks of impartiality, I got the quiz of a girl I really, really liked. Before I knew it, I had given her back two of the questions she got wrong (erasing really carefully). I don’t remember if she made me change them back or what part of our prolonged and awkward sorta-relationship this scene ultimately played.

    My point is that, as Doren says, love (or the sorta equivalent) does provoke action; however, one of the things Mary Ann was on about, I think, is that it doesn’t necessarily provoke ethical actions or make us better people. While good folk might do good stuff when inspired by love, most of us living in the broad middle of the moral spectrum tend to continue doing so, even when called to action by love.

    In any case, this about as thoughtful as internet post-game analysis gets y’all.

  11. Shari Slade says:

    After watching Passion last night with Buffy Club and reading Matt’s response, I’m even more convinced that love doesn’t provoke action. All the other feelings that cohabitate with love do. Passion, desire, greed, affection, hope, loneliness, jealousy, fear…they spur us to act, but love alone–if love can exist alone, after that first intake of breath–does not.

    • I can’t parse love that way. If it is a catalyst for action, is it not part of that action? Take passion: we sense an inherent difference between making love and having sex. Both are physically the same, but experientially different.

      This is a bit like the argument that altruism doesn’t exist, that we always, at some level, are acting in our own self-interest. The argument revolves around viable semantics and yet it never feels true to me.

      I feel that love impels us to act, it inspires us to act.

      It’s not that I think you’re wrong. I think it’s literally about meaning. The word love, to me, is bound up with action. That’s how I experience it. I claim it only for myself. For others, that word spools out differently.

      • Mary Ann Rivers says:

        Oh!

        ” . . . literally about meaning.”

        I need to think about this, but this idea of experience and meaning and self in regards to this discussion pinning down love–so good and interesting.

  12. Matt Vadnais says:

    I agree that it is impossible to parse out where love ends and other, more obviously action-inducing things begin. My thinking is that it doesn’t matter whether or not it induces action so much as we realize that the kinds of actions it produces (either as a prime mover or something that triggers something else that cause action) are not of a higher moral plane: love is the greatest of these, but its works are always bound up in the context of who one is and who (or what) one loves.

    To return this to more obviously literary territory, I understand the original post to be suggesting that the common trope of love as a transformative force is in fact a trope, one capable of (best case scenario) leading to underdeveloped relationship/plot/human context actually responsible for the transformation in which love played a part or (worse case) a perspective notion of what kinds of love stories are love stories.