“He who dares loses his footing for a time. He who dares not, loses himself.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard
Who hasn’t gotten lost in pursuit of a great love only to be found again in a different time and space?
I once read under certain circumstances a person could love even a rattlesnake if it meant getting to exercise our love muscle.
True enough. I even have the scars to prove it.
As the poet Walt Whitman observed,
“It seems the loving fibre in us all simply cannot remain inert forever…and as hard as it may seem even deep in the heart of the most hardened egotists you’ll find a little flower hidden under a fold of his soul.”
Love asks we protect its every whim, pamper it through its stumbles, and patiently wait until it makes up its mind, all the while demanding we remain exposed, vulnerable, and powerless.
So when I came upon a 1958 letter American novelist John Steinbeck wrote his teenage son after he’d fallen in love I thought it would be well worth sharing.
Steinbeck’s words are warm, compassionate and infinitely wise. They might call to mind your own first tender experience when your heart was lit up with feelings for another.
We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course your mom from hers.
First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.
Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.
But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.
Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.
The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.
If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.
Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.
Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.
And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
Imagine when you were young and in love for the first time, and hearing such words from your father.
“The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.”
Yes! Yes! Love does call out our best because we so deeply desire to have it returned. The adage,“You only keep what you give away” was born out of the first great love affair.
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply, gives you courage.”
Truly, doesn’t love keep us from falling when we’re precariously perched between the devil and the deep blue sea, and aren’t we at our best when our love does the same for our beloved?
Papa Steinbeck was right about love.
“Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.”
Just a thought…
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