So today, Tu B’av, 5779 (2019), I want to share some of my reflections on Love that have emerged over the years since 5727 (1966) when Susan and I were married on August 23rd.
The Actual Dance – the play I have written and now perform – is itself a love story. It turns out that even though I wrote the story, the act of performing and repeating and engaging the story has taught me more than I could ever hope about what, in my view, love really means. Indeed, one of the lines in the play is:
“I wonder if two 20-year old kids really knew what love meant.”
Indeed, ever since then I’ve been wondering: “What does love really mean?”
There is no better day to write about Love than Tu B’av. (Okay maybe the secular version, “Valentines’ Day”.)
The story of The Actual Dance is one of facing the prospect of losing Susan to breast cancer during our 34th year of marriage. It is “Our Story” – you can watch Susan and I talk about it here in a short video.
A complicated question, “What does love really mean?”
My journey has me scrambling to understand more and more about love. I have read several books about love over the years. One of the best, if not the best, is Jacob Needleman’s book, “The Wisdom of Love: Toward a Shared Inner Life.” In many ways it affirms both my spiritual perspective on love as well as the practical implementation of love in the physical world.
So, here are some of the thoughts that are provoked today, Tu B’av –
- Let’s though start with Love Story, the book and movie, with the mantra of “Love means not having to say you are sorry.” I would argue that love means the opposite. Love means being sorry and saying so and showing you are when appropriate. I get the idea that love transcends momentary indiscretions and mean actions. I think that Love means having to say: “I love you and I’m sorry” as often as necessary, and to behave in relationship to that person in ways that give meaning to those words.
- Jacob Needleman argues that Love really means enabling our life partner to realize their spiritual and essential fullness. Love really means being a strength in your partners journey to full actualization of their own spiritual fulfillment.
- There is a line in the play, The Actual Dance, that captures for me the idea of what love really means:
This line attempts to capture the idea of a spiritual interconnection – that combining of breath and soul between two individuals. It happens. It is as is anything existential, inexplicable. Rather it is sensed, felt, or known. In the poem “US” that I have written it is said this way:
“Life exists in each of us as a form of the divine. A tangible essence of who we are. Love is when our essence became entwined, each an equal half of the other.”
I have come to understand that the “ultimate act of love” is being with your partner as they take their last breath. The play imagines a liminal place in the universe between the physical and spiritual world that the two people can occupy for that moment, that instant, holding each other, until the one slips away in a tuft of whiteness into eternity.
I once was at a conference where a group of people were asked onto the stage with the mandate to offer “last words”. Whatever that meant to us. I reflected on this and ended up suggesting my last words would be the words I would say to the person I loved most in the world as they took their last breath:
- I am sorry -- for all that I have done knowingly or unknowingly to hurt you.
- I forgive you -- for anything you may feel you have done to hurt me.
- I love you now and forever.