What It Is, What It Isn’t

…human love, I mean.  (And in this post and in the poem I’m going to share, human love,  not divine, love, transcendent as that may be, is at issue.)

This is Edna St Vincent Millay’s Sonnet XXX ( no, I know! Too funny!)  about how love isn’t everything, it’s the only  thing.  If you’re familiar with her life you know she lived for love, with emphasis on the romantic adventure, but a healthy balance of friendship, family and marital love. (An exchange on my earlier post prompted this.)

 

”Love is not all; it is not meat nor drink,/Nor slumber, nor a roof against the rain,/Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink/And rise and sink and rise and sink again./Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,/ Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;/Yet many a man is making friends with death/Even as I speak, for lack of love alone./ It well may be that, in a difficult hour/Pinned down by pain and moaning for release, /Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,/ I might be driven to sell your love for peace,/ Or trade the memory of this night for food.

It well may be.  I do not think I would.”

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10 thoughts on “What It Is, What It Isn’t”

  1. Not exactly on the topic of love, but on the topic of Edna St Vincent Millay, there’s a poem of hers that was very comforting to me after a romantic breakup in my youth.

    I shall go back again to the bleak shore

    And build a little shanty on the sand,

    In such a way that the extremest band

    Of brittle seaweed will escape my door

    But by a yard or two; and nevermore

    Shsll I return to take you by the hand;

    I shall be gone to what I understand,

    And happier than I ever was before.

    The love that stood a moment in your eyes,

    The words that lay a moment on your tongue;

    Are one with all that in a moment dies,

    A little under-said and over-sung.

    But I shall find the sullen rocks and skies

    Unchanged from what they were when I was young.

    It worked out all right for me eventually- really well in fact- and the poem no longer “speaks” to me the same way but it was powerful at the time.

    I enjoy your poetry offerings, they always seem to stimulate some dormant brain cells. Thanks.

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  2. The definition of love is wonderful topic. I hope I can add some wisdom to it.

    I often use an exchange in a prior post to start a new one. It is a great way to explore things in more depth.

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  3. edit:  Hmm, it occurs to me that this post is not What Is It, but What It Is…  I’ll move this along to a post, as really, this is just about part two of my Less Than It Appears thread.

    [snip]

    How do I love thee?  Let me count our common haplotypes*.

    * Yours, mine, and those of our (potential) child.

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  4. Love is a bit of an ink blot test. People see so many different things and define it subjectively.  It often depends on age on how people relate to it.

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  5. I like this topic Hypatia because I dated consistently (4-5 times a week) in my early-mid twenties, had a blast (!) and then went out to dinner one night with my husband-to-be and fell in love in a NY minute. We moved in together 6 weeks later and have been married for 28 years.

    Love, in its truest form, just happens instantaneously- ok, I’m a true romantic- but compatibility and commonly shared values help keep it alive. I certainly can’t express it as eloquently as St Vincent Millay but I believe in this, the greatest of all human connections.

    But… one has to be able to let down one’s guard to allow it in and many young people appear to be undeniably defensive.

    Je ne sais pas pourquoi cela se produit.

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  6. 10 Cents:
    Which love is stronger?

    Parental?

    Romantic?

    Fraternal/Military?

    Spiritual/Religious?

    I’m not a parent, but if I were, I’d guess maternal. For me, it is obviously marital.

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  7. “Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/Within his bending sickle’s  compass come./ Love alters not with his  brief hours and weeks/But bears it out e’en to the edge of doom.

    If this be error, and upon me proved,

    I never wrote, and no man ever loved.”

    W. S.

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  8. 10 Cents:
    Which love is stronger?

    Parental?

    Romantic?

    Fraternal/Military?

    Spiritual/Religious?

    Depends.  Here’s how I see it, and lemme see if I remember my hormones here…

    Parental love is oxytocin.  Romantic love for men is largely testosterone and adrenaline in the beginning.  As testosterone fades A) due to tolerance buildup to stimulus and B) due to age, male romantic love becomes more oxytocin-based, leaving sweet, rotund, balding husks of men where warriors once stood.

    Fraternal/Military love and religious love are less tied to specific hormones, arising instead from what are incidental processes in the more genetically important forms of love.  That is, these mental states must still compete with other motivations, but do not (by default) have super Matrix powers to just win that fight without trying.   However, sufficient conditioning can replicate nearly any available behavior pattern into other states.

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