It’s February; Let’s Talk About LOVE

It’s February; Let’s Talk About LOVE
by Ron Steelman

Humanism is a philosophy for those in love with life. And there’s no better time to think about love than February. The famous Humanist orator, Robert Green Ingersoll, said it nicely:

Love Is…
Love is the only bow on Life’s dark cloud.
It is the morning and the evening star.
It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb.
It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher.
It is the air and light of every heart — builder of every home, kindler
of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality.
It fills the world with melody — for music is the voice of love.
Love is the magician, the enchanter that changes worthless things to Joy,
and makes royal kings and queens of common clay.
It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that
sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts;
but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods.
– Robert Green Ingersoll, Orthodoxy (1884)

A live Italian Cupid statue

A live Italian Cupid statue

In a masterful mistaken-identity-and-spy-on-your-lover-plot, Valentine in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona finally gets the right girl at the end of the play. I prefer to cite Shakespeare’s Valentine, not St. Valentine, nor that Cupid twit (who was really just a voyeur). I like a man of real action, a guy who truly gives his heart away, rather than that elusive naked cherub who flits about shooting tiny arrows into the unsuspecting. And thus, when in doubt, always look to Will for something illuminating.

At the end of the play Shakespeare’s Valentine has just learned an extremely valuable lesson: love is what makes the world go round. What great excitement! Love ignites such exuberance in the young. Remember? The following lyric was written long after Shakespeare, yet it expresses Valentine’s joy in Broadway musical terms:

Rodgers & Hammerstein – “State Fair”
It’s a grand night for singing,
The moon is flying high,
And somewhere a bird
Who is bound he’ll be heard,
Is throwing his heart at the sky!
It’s a grand night for singing,
The stars are bright above.
The earth is a-glow
And, to add to the show,
I think I am falling in love!  (with emphasis)

Yes, I’m a romantic rapscallion.

At some point after you’ve fallen in love, if you’re lucky, you look at your lover and say to yourself:  “YIKES! SHE/HE LOVES ME. Am I lucky? Yes, very lucky! I need to love her the way she loves me.”

That feeling is captured in the next set of lyrics from the 1928 song, She’s Funny That Way, with music by Neil Moret and lyrics by Richard Whiting. It’s a gentle ballad. I discovered that various vocalists selected just some of the lyrics, and many have even re-written some of them. I have pieced together what I think is the whole song (maybe not exactly). I’m including it all because it’s like a short story as our hero contemplates his relationship with his lover.

She’s Funny That Way
Once she dressed in diamonds and pearls, Owned a Rolls Royce car
Now she seems quite out of place, like a fallen star
While I worry, plan and scheme, over what to do,
Can’t help feeling that it’s a dream. She’s just too good to be true.

I’m not much to look at, I’m nothing to see
I’m glad to be livin’ and lucky to be
I’ve got this girl that’s crazy for me
She’s funny that way.

I ain’t got a dollar, can’t save a cent
She doesn’t holler she’d live in a tent
I got girl who’s mad about me
She’s funny that way.

Tho’ she loves to work and slave for me ev’ry day
She’d be so much better off if I went away.

But why should I leave her, why should I go
She’d be unhappy without me I know
I got this girl crazy for me
She’s funny that way.

She should have the very best, Anyone can see
Still she’s diff’rent from the rest, satisfied with me.
While I worry, plan and scheme, over what to do
Can’t help feeling it’s a dream, too good to be true.

Never had nothin’; no one to care
That’s why I seem to have more than my share,
I got a woman, crazy for me,
She’s funny that way.

When I hurt her feelings, once in a while,
Her only answer is one little smile,
I got a woman crazy for me.
She’s funny that way.

I can see no other way and no better plan,
End it all and let her go to some better man;
But I’m only human, coward at best
I’m more than certain she’d follow me west,
I got a woman crazy for me,
She’s funny that way.

family sculptureIn the arc of life it might take a while for the next level of understanding to set in. When that magic moment materializes, and hopefully it comes well before you die, the reaction usually is: “Of course, it was right in front of me all of the time.” This next level of understanding is one of the great secrets of life: love is a priceless treasure that makes life worth living. It’s something that must be exalted. This reminds me of a Sondheim song from his Broadway musical, Company (I left out the recitative parts his close friends interject throughout, encouraging him and supporting him with their love).

Being Alive
by Stephen Sondheim

Someone to hold you too close
Someone to hurt you too deep
Someone to sit in your chair
To ruin your sleep
To make you aware
Of being alive

Someone to need you too much
Someone to know you too  well
Someone to pull you up short
To put you through hell
To give you support
In being alive
Being alive

Someone you have to let in
Someone whose feelings you spare
Someone who, like it or not
Will want you to share
A little, a lot

Someone to crowd you with love
Someone to force you to care
Someone to make you come through
Who’ll always be there
As frightened as you
Of being alive
Being alive
Being alive
Being alive

Somebody, need me too much
Somebody, know me too well
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive
Make me alive

Make me confused
Mock me with praise
Let me be used
Vary my days
But alone is alone
Not alive

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I’ll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive!

Sondheim sure knows how to hit an intimate button. He proves through his music and lyrics that the love of family and friends is definitely one of the “secrets” of a happy life.

That makes me turn again to the truth in Shakespeare and the many ways he looks at love. I like the usual suspects,  Sonnet 116 – “Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments,” or, Sonnet 18 – “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” I’d like to close, though, with this one line from Twelfth Night:

“Love sought is good, but given unsought better.”   – William Shakespeare

Kiss Sculpture

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2 thoughts on “It’s February; Let’s Talk About LOVE

  1. Thank you for for being a role model for Humanism,
    Thank you for exposing me to poetry, ideas, your musings,
    for your faithfulness, and dedication, for enriching my life.
    See you Sun.

  2. I am just catching up with your wonderful blog and want to thank you for putting so many of your interesting ideas about important topics of the day online for all your Humanist friends to read and reflect on,.
    . Love, Death, Belief, Happiness – my mind is in a whirl! Thanks for getting my” little grey cells” going.
    Irma

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