That Grubbiest, Smelliest, Slimiest Word: Love, 1

In the category of my favorite movie-opening voice-over monologs, there is, of course, the one from "Bull Durham": “I believe in the church of baseball....” I love the connection between baseball and religion, and the cleverness of it.

I think, though, that the one I like even more is the one from “Love Actually” – which isn’t clever, but beautifully simple. The movie opens with shots in an airport – Heathrow Airport in London, we’re told, but it could be any airport. And what we’re seeing is what you’ve seen in airports, people arriving, finding the people who are waiting there for them and hugging each other in greeting. Over these shots of airport smiles and hugs, laughs and even tears of joy of reuniting, we hear Hugh Grant’s voice saying:
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling that you'll find love actually is all around.”
View the scene on Youtube: CLICK HERE.

As the film illustrates, sometimes love is . . . lovely. And often it’s messy. The ups and downs of romance get most of the movie's attention, but the devoted love and tender care of a sister for her mentally ill brother – and of a man for the 11-year-old step-son of whom he finds himself the single parent – and of friends for each other – are equally key manifestations of the love that actually is all around.

It’s all around, yet our hearts yearn for it. It begins with noticing. Notice that love that is all around us, plunge into it, let it awaken joy.

I know, I know, Tina Turner calls love "a second-hand emotion" and "a sweet, old-fashioned notion." Aldous Huxley said,
“Of all the worn, smudged, dog’s-eared words in our vocabulary, ‘love’ is surely the grubbiest, smelliest, slimiest. Bawled from a million pulpits, lasciviously crooned through hundreds of millions of loud-speakers, it has become an outrage to good taste and decent feeling, an obscenity which one hesitates to pronounce.”


As Huxley then acknowledges: “And yet it has to be pronounced, for, after all, Love is the last word.”

We use the word “love” in so many different ways. We love a spouse, a child, a friend, a neighbor. We might speak of loving Jane Austen’s novels or Emily Dickinson’s poetry, or Vermeer’s paintings or Vivaldi’s string quartets or chocolate or yoga or a favorite chair. Is the word that we use to describe the depth of soul connection to a life partner with whom we have committed our whole lives to share bed, board, budget, and the burden of our humanness really the same word we should use to describe our relationship with cheese?

The different forms of love don’t have a unifying essence, but they have a unifying end. All the forms serve to connect us with life, with joy.

I remember a story about boyhood remembrances of a grandfather. The grandfather had come from to America from Europe, spoke broken English. The boy remembers a scene he witnessed. He heard a noise in the middle of the night from the kitchen. The boy goes to take a look. And in the kitchen light he sees his grandfather, with a beatific expression on his face, lifting up a loaf of bread, turning around with it, beaming at it. “Pan!” [Bread!] exclaims the grandfather. And he kisses the loaf and holds it too his chest and spins around again.

Sure that’s love. It’s that intensity of gratitude and connection, and what we are loving in all the various forms of love is ultimately life itself: life, in the form of the romantic beloved, life in the form of a child, life in the form a stranger, life in the form a friend. When we love the beach sand on our toes, or a mountain, or woods filled with snow, or the stars at night -- as well as when we love a spouse, a child, or a friend -- we are loving this life, this opportunity to be aware amidst this the wondrous universe.

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This is part 1 of 4 of "What's Love Got to Do with It?"
Click for other parts: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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