Sunday, July 23, 2006

What Is Love? ...

Ah, there's nothing like an easy-to-tackle topic on a Sunday night.

Love.

I spend a lot of time thinking about it. It spends a lot of time eluding me.

You know what I mean. There's a lot of love in my life. My niece called me tonight to ask if I'd like to have dinner at the Kujawski Restaurant. She and one of my nephews are spending the night at my parents' house and they like playing "restaurant." I can relate. When I was younger, I wanted to be a waitress. On Sunday mornings, I'd make little menus with check boxes next to each option, and my parents would check boxes and I'd gather whatever they wanted (I don't think there was ever any actual cooking involved) and I'd take it to them on a tray that one of my brothers had made for them in Boy Scouts.

So I went there tonight and they played their parts and it was sweet. After dinner (as mom and I bussed the table and put food away and did dishes - it's not a full-service restaurant, theirs), they took successive showers and curled up with us on the couch as we watched "Emeril Live." That's love. And it's love that I love. I love them to pieces. It was arresting, when my first nephew was born, to realize that I would literally die for him.

And I love the rest of my family and I love my friends. But love love. That love. That's what's missing. That's what's so hard to find.

In working on the screenplay, writing a scene, I started to think about what love means. Not that I don't ponder the notion at other times, but this particular thought came to me in the context of the movie, and it's this: Love is helping someone become a better version of themselves. Love should enhance a life lived. That's not to say that a person is incomplete without another. If I never meet the man with whom I want to share my life, that does not make me less whole. I am, in each moment, enough. But there's always room to grow. And someone who loves me will, by their very presence, make me become an even better version of myself. More caring, more creative, more loving, more kind. More than enough. Setting a new standard every day, and surpassing that standard every night. Becoming more fulfilled, and being able to fulfill another.

So does that mean, if a relationship exists in which I am not bringing out the best in someone, if I am, instead, causing them to in some way be less true, is that the absence of love? In "The Seat of the Soul," Gary Zukav writes that there is only love and fear. Anything that is not one is the other. Which means they cannot co-exist. Or can they? Can I love someone and be afraid at the same time? Not afraid of them, but afraid of circumstances? Afraid of being entirely vulnerable? Afraid of being entirely true? If I am holding back, is it really love?

Romantically, are there degrees of love or is love an absolute? If I am holding back, I must be holding back out of fear, and in the presence of fear, is love truly there?

People ask me what my movie is about.

"It's a love triangle we haven't seen before," is all I'll say.

But can love exist between three people? No, says the voice in my head. Of course not. Not concurrently. Not fully. Someone will always suffer. Actually, all three suffer. You cannot give away pieces of your heart. It should not be spread so thin.

Love is strong, but fear makes it fragile. Fear is a plague. A cancer. Destructive.

And it takes courage to face fear. To overcome it. And love is the reward.

But how many of us cower on this side of the stream? And cower alone? A mist of mystery floats over the water and we cannot see the other side. So we stay rooted to the assuredness of our bank. Unhappy, perhaps, but sure of the ground beneath our feet. But the reward is on the other side, waiting with literal open arms for those who are brave enough to cross, who step into the water with nothing but faith to guide them.

Faith in love.

And there may be many, many starts. We may turn back many times. But love is always on the other side. And someday, the fear of never knowing it overtakes the fear of the unknown and in we wade.

In "Moulin Rouge," truth, beauty, freedom, and love are the pursuits. But it all comes down to love. The other traits enable love or embody love. But love is the core.

"All You Need Is Love," The Beatles sang, in which they also sang: "Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be."

The search continues.

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