Friday, December 30, 2016

Touching hearts

My first serious girlfriend in college was impressed when she first saw me.  I was carrying a book by one of the founders of the Menninger Clinic titled "Love Against Hate"  That was years ago and the book has not stayed in the forefront of my mind.  As I remember, it was not as helpful as another book on love that I had read earlier, Blanton's "Love or Perish".  I have been interested in love for a long time and reading about the subject.  I am more interested in what science and history and logic can say about love than just in the poet's verses about how he longs to look into her eyes.  

I was impressed by the remark in "Our Inner Ape" by the primatologist Frans de Waal.  He wrote that the other great apes had not done as well as the humans in number or longevity and he emphasized the part monogamy had played in human lives.  He wrote that the other apes took sex and reproduction far more casually than humans.  

The other day, I saw a video listed on YouTube called "You Could Love Anyone." That idea is news to many young people who are in the grip of what I consider biological markers of a particular shape, smooth skin with a nice glow, a good bright personality and other such indicators that that person would produce good, healthy children.  Even people who are in the last quarter of their lives are often in the grip of the same attractors that guided them toward partners in the first quarter of their lives.

I have been considering that as we age, as a marriage or partnership or a friendship continues, there are inevitably times when one or the other person in the relationship drops the ball, is rude, or thoughtless or selfish. The old marriage ceremony text that specifies "in sickness and in health, til death do us part" foresaw a time in a relationship when affection and devotion would be the main engine of continuance.

I thought it was touching the other day when I read about young women being close to men through email and texting.  I guess a person could pay for a writing companion, a person to write to and who would at least sometimes write back.  Any such arrangement seems to me to clearly show the heart in a relation, whether or not skin or orgasms are involved.  

As a young married man, I wrote to my mother but she rarely responded in any way.  My father asked if I was falling off in writing to her and I complained that she never wrote back.  He told me to just write regularly.  He didn't actually say to ignore her responsiveness or lack of it but I suddenly saw that I could simply write and I did.  Still, I would have been much closer to my parents if they had found the energy and imagination to respond a bit more.  When I think of the people I have felt close to throughout life, I can see that those who talked to me were the ones that mattered.

I have read Menninger and Blanton and others but the best discussion of the ways of love I know is C.S.Lewis' "The Four Loves".  He didn't marry until his 60's and then under odd circumstances but he was a hell of thinker and writer. He nails affection for animals, for friends, erotic love and Godly love.

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