“I’m trying not to use the word love,” he clarified to the class in what could only be described as a bit of a tangent, and even more of an overshare. The inflection present at end of his sentence implied that an explanation would be to follow, so the class remained quiet, attentive.
“I’m trying to be more intentional about how I use that word. I want to reserve it for my wife, and my kids, and not my favourite flavour of icecream, if that makes sense.”
Probably a handful of students awwed at the sentiment, but to me it didn’t make sense. I certainly didn’t considerate it anything to be awwed at, I mean, call me non-traditional, but why would loving icecream ever detract from loving your wife? Surely the differences between a relationship bound by holy matrimony and a pint of rocky-road were explicit enough, as it were?
Alas, we were in the Deep South, and the concept bore a reasonable degree of similarity to that of saving oneself for marriage — a commitment my 12 year old self would have bet money was also an emphasized detail of this particular teacher’s philosophy.
They love to self-impose and restrict the best parts of life here, I thought, and so I really should have expected it.
However, something about putting love into a tiny box, only to be opened on special occasions in the presence of very particular company, just didn’t sit right with me.
Isn’t it the entire point, that love is a non-zero sum value? That giving it freely to one person, place, or thing, doesn’t remotely detract from its depth and sincerity when given elsewhere? That its infinite and unrestricted nature is precisely the thing that gives it the most meaningfulness and power?
“If ever you fall in love, do so without reservation, or rather, if you should fall in love simply give no thought to any reservation.” — Vincent Van Gogh
I decided this teacher had missed the point entirely. I almost remember deciding to use the word even more often just to spite him and his stupid love logic, but perhaps I’m just making that up.
In hindsight, I think the comparison between saving sex until marriage, and limiting the subjects of one’s expressed love was a good one, with the same set of downsides upon which I form the basis of my rejection.
For one, just as it’s natural to presume that if you were to wait until sex to have marriage you may not be very good at it the first time around, I believe that withholding love in any capacity, for any duration, must result in a similar degree of inexperience with the concept.
How can you be good at anything you haven’t practiced, after all? How am I supposed to understand the different types of love — and the vast range of emotions to accompany it in its various forms — if I’ve made up my mind so as to never love anything below a certain calibre of meaningfulness?
It strikes me that one ought to practice loving rocky-road icecream and obscure mid-western surf-punk bands before one attempts to grapple with the more complicated and potentially wounding sort of love. This is what makes sense to me most.
In fact, research has even shown that people who express stronger opinions — i.e. saying you ‘love’ something instead of only just liking it — are perceived as being more attractive and warm. In this sense, you could say that loving more things might even help more things love you.
Love is light.
Love is life.
Love shouldn’t be expressed only to your wife.
Overwhelmingly, it seems to me that loving things abundantly and without reservation or stipulation is an awful lot like a superpower — and that’s a philosophy on love I can love.
In conclusion, I hope you find more things to love in every facet of your life. I hope you love the silly things just as intensely as the big things, and I hope you love loving them while you’re at it.
Alexandra Walker-Jones — December 2020