February 2018: What Is Love?

February 2018 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

What Is Love?

Monday, February 19, 2018
7 – 9 p.m.
Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

In the Eagles’ song Take It Easy the protagonist is standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona with seven women on his mind: Three that want to own him, three that want to stone him, and “one says she’s a friend of mine.” Bursting in on his reverie is “such a fine sight to see — a girl (my Lord!) in a flatbed Ford, slowin down to take a look at me.” He begs her “don’t say maybe” because “I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me.” Carnal pleasures possibly ensue.

Is this how love works? Some seek domination, some have hostile intent, some falsely offer friendship, and some just want to hook up? Or is there the hope of salvation through true love? Or do we overthink the process of love? (The song’s refrain is, after all, “take it easy” and “don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”)

C.S. Lewis in Four Loves divided love into storge (empathy), philia (friendship), eros (erotic & carnal), and agape (unconditional & God-like). Yet none of these aspects of love imply owning — or stoning — your loved one, so how does that happen? The first verse of Amanda McBroom & Bette Midler’s song, The Rose, notes that some say love is a river that drowns the tender reed, a razor that leaves the soul to bleed, or a hunger — an endless, aching need. But the verse ends by saying love is a flower and we its only seed — and to not to fear love, or assume it’s only for the lucky and the strong.

Raymond Carver in his story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, described the bloom of love’s beginnings — but also a dark, obsessive passion ending in suicide when love was denied. Dragging a woman across the floor by her hair while demanding affection seems the opposite of what most mean by love, but doesn’t this happen? The story, performed as a play within Michael Keaton’s Oscar winning movie, Birdman, ends with a gunshot — from which Keaton’s character literally (or figuratively?) flies away from his troubles. But don’t loved ones really just want to sing Silly Love Songs as advised by Paul McCartney’s band, Wings? Or don’t we all just think, I Want to Hold Your Hand, as recommended by The Beatles? Or offer advice to our young sons to “Let her into your heart” as in Hey Jude? Are we both drawn to Elvis Presley’s plea to Love Me Tender, and persuaded by his desire to be “a hunk, a hunk of burning love”? Do Eminem’s apparent homicidal urges towards his wife also reflect love’s reality?

Who DID write the “Book of Love?” Is love’s instruction manual the Bible, or the Qur’an? The sex techniques manual of the Kama Sutra? The tale of first (and last) romance in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, or of the green-eyed monster, jealousy, in Othello? The Hallmark movie channel on cable? Is it in neuroscience research articles of the effect of the neurohormone, oxytocin, to engender trust between strangers and love within parents of new infants? Is it the Jesus’, Gandhi’s, and MLK’s philosophy of loving one’s enemy? Or should we stop searching for an instruction leaflet on love, and instead web-surf puppies and kittens?

Dictionary definitions of “love” speak of “an intense feeling of deep affection,” “benevolent feelings,” and “deep romantic attachment.” So why do we read about murder-suicide pacts in the news? Can we speak reasonably — or feel rationally — about love? Can love be “chaste”? Is love a state into which “fools rush in” while “wise men” never seem to fall? How do we distinguish love from the porn-star payoffs, aggression and sexual harassment scandals of current headlines? Do our different beliefs give us diverse views on what love is? (What happened to the “Saint” in “Saint Valentine’s Day”?) And does anyone fully understand love?

On Monday, February 19 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will be searching for love (one hopes not in all the wrong places)! Our agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality are designed to avoid breaking hearts. And being only 5 days after Valentine’s Day, of course we will have treats!