Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Friday, 16 December 2011

I love you


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If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?  ~ Author Unknown




I love you. Yes, you, the person reading this just now. I love you. I know, I know, we’ve never met and the odds are we never will but what has that to do with anything? It’s quite possible I don’t know your name, at least not your real name or what you look like now (assuming the photo you have online is you now and not you twenty years ago). But I still love you.

How can you possibly say that with a straight face. You’re joking right?

No, I’m deadly serious: I love you. Do you love me?

I’m sure there are many people you love and have loved and have yet to love, people and things and places and activities. And when you say you love them you will mean it every bit as much as I do just now.

I don’t fancy you. I mean I might fancy you if I met you. I’m sure there are a number of people who read my blog who I might conceivably fancy. There are a number I’m sure I could never fancy – all the blokes for starters (sorry blokes) – but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them. I’m expressing my love right now. I’m giving of my time and (limited) expertise and I’m doing it for you. I’m not doing it for me. I know all these things I’m talking to you about. No, I’m doing it all for you . . . and the couple of hundred other people who will read this blog today and the several hundred who might eventually end up reading it if I leave it up here long enough.

Raymond Carver wrote a short story collection entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. I don’t think we know what we’re talking about. And yet we can’t stop talking about it. And writing about it. The following just concerns itself with the States:

By the 2000s, romance had become the most popular genre in modern literature. In 2008, romantic fiction generated $1.37 billion in sales, with 7,311 romance novels published and making up 13.5% of the fiction market. Over 74 million people claimed to have read at least one romance novel in 2008, according to a Romance Writers of America study. Nine point five percent of romance readers identified themselves as male, and the study reported that romance readers were more likely to be married or living with a partner. Of the entire American population, 24.6% read at least one romance novel in 2008. – Wikipedia

Love is complicated. In some respects it’s very simple. It’s easy to do but hard to explain. There have, of course, been times when I’ve thought I was in love but it wasn’t real love; it was a crush, infatuation, but it felt like love at the time and I’m not entirely convinced that it wasn’t love. Love is not an on/off switch and if it’s not reciprocated it can wither and die. Unless it’s a certain kind of love, the kind that exists for all people whether they’re your enemies or not. I’m talking about agápe love, principled love, the kind of love the Bible is on about when it says that God is love.

So, you’re some kind of religious freak? Should I be worried?

No, I gave up all that religious nonsense years ago but it’s the easiest way I can think of to explain what I’m on about. The Bible uses four Greek words for love: agápe (principled love), philia (brotherly affection – think Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love), storge (familial love) and eros (erotic love). I don’t what word the Greeks used for love of Nature or love of pets or love of a certain kind of food.

I have loved a number of women in my life but I’m not convinced that the love I felt for each of them, even the ones I ended up marrying, was the same thing. I still feel I love certain women I never married, never got even close to marrying, and haven’t seen in many years. To my mind I love each and every one of them uniquely. And it is impossible for me to communicate exactly what I felt for each of them. Utterly impossible.

I think we sometimes forget just how badly language does what it is supposed to do. Much of the problems are because we aren’t very good with words, any of us. We do our best, most of us, and we rely on the abilities of those we’re addressing to be able to decode what we have encoded. But always, always, always something is lost in the translation.

You don’t know what I mean and I don’t know if you know what I mean because no sooner do you try and explain back to me what I’ve just said to you, using your own words, the waters get muddied even further. C S Lewis famously said, “We read to know we are not alone,” but I say that we read to know we are not alone in being alone. A man in a prison cell is so much happier when he learns that there’s another man in the cell next to him even if he cannot communicate in any meaningful way. Why would he be happy that another human being is going though what he’s going through? Well, that’s not it. But somehow it still helps. He can focus his attention on the other and not on his self. He knows what a rubbish time he’s having in his cell and although logic dictates that his fellow detainee is having an equally miserable time it does help to know that he’s not going through this alone even though for all intents and purposes he is going though this alone.

I am in a cell. It’s a pretty decent cell as far as cells go. It has computers and a widescreen TV and nice things to eat in the fridge and the freezer and a comfy bed to sleep in but apart from the bird (who’s more interested in his reflection than me) I am alone. Carrie is in the States. There’s just me . . . and you. And the nearest any of you is to me is about twenty miles away. Most are hundreds if not thousands of miles away. And all we have is this wee slot to express ourselves through. But it doesn’t really matter. Even if you were sitting across the table from me in a nice local café (or at least the best of a bad bunch in the case of where I live) we would still have to resort to words to try and communicate. We could hug. I could hold your hand. But in my experience taction contact is as unreliable as verbal communication. It’s open to interpretation. People hear what they think/expect people are going to say and don’t listen. I bet you’re not listening right now. You just can’t wait to have your say in the comments. Or you might be wondering what I’m really saying. You know what I’m saying – no big fancy words there other than ‘taction’ and I’ve used that a number of times in blogs – but what am I really saying? That’s the thing about words; they don’t always contain the meanings one might automatically expect them to. Like I love you.

But there are other Greek words applicable to this topic: pragma (pragmatic, expedient love), ludus (playful love, and also joyous love), mania (in which the lover is possessed by being in love, unstable, highly emotional—what in Western culture is taken as romantic love, courtly love, obsessive love).[1]

Ignoring philial affection for some odd reason (which he lumps together with storge), these six form the basic love styles as defined by the psychologist John Alan Lee in his article ‘A Typology of Styles of Loving’:

This particular general theory posits three primary love styles: (a) eros, which is romantic os passionate love, (b) ludus, which is game playing love, and (c) storge, which is friendship love. Lee suggested three secondary styles are formed as compounds of the primary styles: (d) mania, which is a compound of ludus and eros, (e) pragma, which is a compound of storge and ludus, and (f) agápe, which is a compound of eros and storge.[2]

I find it interesting how he redefines some of these words but psychologists have been doing that for years.

When I was first getting to know my first wife I said to her at one point, “I’m in like with you.” It’s cute-sounding but it makes an important distinction. There are people we love and people we are in love with. So why not be ‘in like’ with someone? Makes perfect sense to me.

Why just ‘in’ though? There are about 150 prepositions in English, in fact the prepositions of, to and in are among the ten most frequent words in English so why don’t we have ‘of love’, ‘to love’, ‘at love’, ‘by love’, ‘for love’? To say that someone is ‘in love’ with someone suggests polar states – ‘in’ and ‘out’ – you are in love or have fallen out of love.

Levinger observed that there are five phases in personal relationships: (1) acquaintance, (2) build-up of an ongoing relationship, (3) continuation (couples commit themselves to long-term relationships and continue to consolidate their lives), (4) deterioration or decline of the interconnections, and finally, (5) ending of the relationship, through death or separation.[3]

We talk of falling in love but no one loves at another person. We can talk to someone but we can also talk at them. Would loving at someone not be an expression of manic love?

Do you love me? Love is too weak a word. I lerve you. You know, I lo-ove you. I luff you. There are two "f's." I have to invent... of course I love you. – Woody Allen, Annie Hall

AnnieHall2I hadn’t seen Annie Hall when I told that girl I was in like with her. I probably saw it with her in fact a couple of years later by which time we were married having decided were actually in love although I have my doubts whether that was ever the case; sexually attracted, yes, but so many people confuse sexual longing and actual love. Of course all of this is easy to say with twenty-twenty hindsight.

Broadly-speaking what is love? It is attraction to something, plain and simple. The closer we are to that person or thing the better we feel. It could involve anything from holding hands to ingesting (as in the case of chocolate). We entrust our feeling of wellbeing to someone or something else. Of course we’re social creatures (even people like me who like to think they’re not) and company is good for us, even virtual company seemingly, so in what ways can I become attached to people? Psychologists have identified three primary attachment styles:

  • secure,
  • avoidant
  • anxious/ambivalent (later renamed anxious/resistant)

Secure adult attachment was characterized by trust and a desire for closeness without the need to merge completely with another. In this group, the self was considered worthy of care and the partner was esteemed and expected to be responsive.

Avoidantly attached adults reported discomfort with closeness and an expectation that the partner would be unresponsive. They found it difficult to trust and depend on others and so dismissed the importance of the relationship in order to keep emotions at low levels of intensity.

Anxiously attached people, on the other hand, had a desire to merge with another. Their relationships were characterized by clinging and neediness, as the partner’s responsiveness was uncertain. Self worth was low and the partner was often idealized.[4]

Attachment theory is meant to describe and explain people's enduring patterns of relationships from birth to death.

I am separated from my loved one at the moment. (As I mentioned earlier Carrie is in the US visiting her parents.)

When a human or non-human primate infant is separated from its parent, the infant goes through a series of three stages of emotional reactions. First is protest, in which the infant cries and refuses to be consoled by others. Second is despair, in which the infant is sad and passive. Third is detachment, in which the infant actively disregards and avoids the parent if the parent returns.[5]

Every day we share a phone call. It usually lasts about ten minutes during which time I report what I’ve written, eaten, watched, received in the post and so on. Also what the bird’s been up to. Today he’s been very noisy and has been chastising various mirrors for the last two hours. The last time Carrie came back the bird’s response to her was interesting. For the first few days he treated her like a total stranger, wouldn’t fly to her and if I took him over to her on a stick he’d fly off. Does our bird love us? No idea. But we are his flock and he most definitely suffers from separation anxiety. It’s quite possible that all the noise he’s making today is him calling Carrie.

There have, needless to say, been a number of various theories about the nature of attraction. The Love Schemas Scale, for example, includes six categories of love:

Those who are interested in romantic relationships were said to fall into one of four types: The secure (who are comfortable with closeness and independence), the clingy (who are comfortable with closeness but fearful of too much independence), the skittish (who are fearful of too much closeness but comfortable with independence), and the fickle (who are uneasy with both closeness or independence). … Those who are relatively uninterested in relationships might fall into one of two categories—the casual (who are interested in relationships only if they are almost problem free), and the uninterested (who are not at all interested in relationships, problem free or not).[6]

In 1986, a psychologist Robert Sternberg proposed a simple way we can look at relationships via a triangle. Our experience of love is held together by three aspects:

  • Intimacy – the friendship element of love, sharing and bonding
  • Passion – the romantic or physical element of love including sexual attraction
  • Commitment – the basic decision to love another person - and the longer term part of keeping that love going

The "amount" of strength of each of these components in a love determines how that love will be between two people. From these three basic components he extrapolated eight states:

Intimacy

Passion

Commitment

Non-Love

     

Liking / Friendship

Yes

   

Infatuated Love

 

Yes

 

Empty Love

   

Yes

Romantic Love

Yes

Yes

 

Companionate Love

Yes

 

Yes

Fatuous Love

 

Yes

Yes

Consummate Love

Yes

Yes

Yes

What he does say is that over time we all come to define love in our own unique ways, the bottom line being that no one knows how much or in what ways I love my wife, my daughter, my siblings, the bird or the box of chocolates in the fridge . . . probably not even me, not in any way that I could possibly communicate to you or to any of the above.

There are nine love instruments – methods of determining/assessing/ quantifying/qualifying/defining love – and you can read about them all here from the Rubin Love Scale to the Passionate Love Scale. Love is a multidimensional construct that has proven difficult to define and, consequently, challenging to measure. Jung got it right when he called it “a mystery”[7].

Is it any wonder that so much has been written and continues to be written about this one subject?

Of course all the above conveniently ignores the fact that there is as arguable a basis for love being nothing more than a chemical reaction. The three core stages of attraction all involve chemistry:

Strange that pheromones don’t get a mention. For more read The science of love.

I’ve just realised that I’ve got all the way down here and never yet mentioned Platonic love:

plato_bustIn short, with genuine platonic love, the beautiful or lovely other person inspires the mind and the soul and directs one's attention to spiritual things. One proceeds from recognition of the beauty of another to appreciation of beauty as it exists apart from any individual, to consideration of divinity, the source of beauty, to love of divinity. – Wikipedia

I suspect though it has been a long time since anyone has used the expression and meant that.

I don’t write much about love these days. I wish I did more because it would make my wife happy and it never hurts to make ones wife happy, let me tell you, but I find it hard to say anything meaningful about love anymore. But I’ll leave you with my last one, and, yes, that is a nod to Larkin at the end:


You


I am not in love with           you.
I am in love with           the idea           of you.

I hope
that is
okay
with you.

You are flesh and bone,           merely
a holdall for aches           and painful memories

but that
is not
how I
see you.

You are a voice           in my head.
You are never           very far away           and so

when your
body
is gone
what will

remain of you           will be this:
an idea.            That is what love truly is.


6th December 2010

Now I think about it I probably don’t love you. Just ignore everything I just said.

bvdx2bu


FURTHER READING


Love Measures



REFERENCES


[1] Art Durkee, ‘Erotica vs. Pornography’, Dragoncave

[2] Bruce Thompson, Donna Davenport, Rebecca Wilkinson, Lee’s Topology of Love Styles: A Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Hendrick-Hendrick Measure with Implications for Counselling, p.2

[3] Elaine Hatfield, Theodore Singelis, Timothy Levine, Guy Bachman, Keiko Muto, and Patricia Choo, ‘Love Schemas, Preferences in Romantic Partners, and Reactions to Commitment’, Interpersona, 1(1), June 2007, p.3

[4] Julie Fricker, Susan Moore, ‘Relationship Satisfaction: The Role of Love Styles and Attachment Styles’, Current Research in Social Psychology, Volume 7, Number 11, 9 May 2002

[5] Attachment Theory, Great Ideas in Personality

[6] Elaine Hatfield, Theodore Singelis, Timothy Levine, Guy Bachman, Keiko Muto, and Patricia Choo, ‘Love Schemas, Preferences in Romantic Partners, and Reactions to Commitment’, Interpersona, 1(1), June 2007, p.2

[7] Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.353

21 comments:

Accidentalwriter said...

Hi Jim. I really enjoyed this post for a number of reasons. Firstly, the pressure was off in terms of understanding/relating to everything you said. What I can say is that the ideas/impressions the words created in my mind were ones of a type of familiarity - which in itself gave me a sense of connectedness. There was also an element of the journey of life and the experiences which come with that - once again; not something I can articulate - simply a feeling. I couldn't help but think about the spectrum on which love sits - no idea of either beginning or end - and yet a sense that we have probably touched down on a number of reference points over the years. Saying 'I love You' is a lot like writing - sometimes we have absolutely no idea of what it actually means - and yet our connection to the emotional aspect is palpable. Thanks once again. Jeff.

Tim Love said...

I think some stories deal with transitions between these states. Can a long friendship ever turn to love? In a story I've just read (in Best American Short Stories 2010) a long-standing work relationship at a ranch between the male boss and female ranch-hand is upset by a visitor. What might transform a one-sided dependency relationship into a more equitable one? How might "empty love" (an arranged marriage?) turn into something else? Do kids provide the "glue"?

Jim Murdoch said...

That’s the thing about love, Jeff, everyone has an opinion about it and I bet most people have revised that opinion as they have grown older even when it comes—or, perhaps, especially when it comes—to the ‘in love’ variety. I most certainly have. Your comparison of saying, “I love you,” to writing is a fair one though, I think.

And, Tim, yes, been there, done that—not worked on a ranch (shudder)—but seen the love I thought I felt morph. Crushes are the worst—and I used to be prone to them—because, for me at least, it takes so long before I find myself in a position to assess exactly how I feel. The reason I was drawn to write this post is that I’ve used the expression ‘I love you’ for years as an example of how inadequate language is and yet it’s all we writers have. Not that it’s a competition or anything but I really don’t feel that writing, not even poetry, has any claim to be the highest of the art forms—visual art, perhaps, but I can see music being up in arms over that.

Kass said...

Brilliant! And so perfect that you're focused on love while your wife is away. That says volumes.

The poem really jabbed me because I've been thinking the same thing about reality, love, (anything you can name) and how none of it is real, it's all ideas. Nothing is real until our perception grabs it and sifts it through the complexity of all our experiences and comes up with a label, a memory - something we can hold onto. We love ourselves and project this onto all the ideas or images we deem worthy of our attachment.

I just visited my friend who is dying. I love him. I love him more now that he is dying. The "ideas" I fix to this situation illicit strong emotions when I see him lying in his bed by the window, gazing out at the tree-lined sky. I hold his hand and tell him that even though he can't talk, I hear him. He squeezes my hand so hard I think, "maybe you're not dying." His eyes are saying, "get me out of here." His family is doing heroic, last ditch alternative measures to keep him alive. They sit over in the corner, focused on their latest "ideas" of love and how they're going to keep him alive. His huge blue eyes focus hard on me and I say back to him with my eyes, "With all the will I can muster, I'm wishing you there. I love you."

....all ideas, but made real and powerful by intense brain and endocrine functions.

Great post, especially the poem.

Scattercat said...

+1 for the poem.

I'm unable to talk accurately about love, because the idea of romantic love-at-first-sight soulmates forever-type love is something I think of as silly and unjustifiable. Yet I proposed to my wife two weeks after we met for the first time - and I knew I would as soon as I read the first e-mail of hers (which wasn't even to me, specifically, but to an organization I was a part of). We're still quite happy together almost ten years later, and in fact are expecting our first (and probably only) child in February (the approximate anniversary of our first meeting in 2002.) So I'm basically a poster child for instant and enduring romantic love, which I don't believe in. I'm going to call that irony and go to bed.

The closing image up there just made me think of this, though.

Jim Murdoch said...

Actually, Kass, I wrote this article when Carrie was away not the last time but the time before that. It’s pure coincidence that she happens to be away now. I’m glad you liked the poem. Strange, it matters to me more that you connected with the poem than had anything good or bad to say about the rest of the article. I find myself taking a moment to think about your remark, “We love ourselves and project this onto all the ideas or images we deem worthy of our attachment.” Self-love is a concept I’ve struggled with ever since I read the scripture about no man hating himself—“No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it.” (Ephesians 5:29)—because I have never felt that I especially loved myself: always this duality, the me who is loving and the me who is loved. I always do more for others than I do for myself or expect others to do for me; some reciprocity is nice but I’m generally happy with a token of thanks. Loving other people, even if that love is not reciprocated (even if they are unaware that they are the object of my affection), isn’t an entirely altruistic act; I like the feeling of loving someone but I’ve always considered that a pleasant by-product and not the end in itself. I usually love people without giving the matter any thought whatsoever beforehand and hence have often developed feelings for people who I really ought not to. Why do I look after myself if I don’t love myself? Because the decent side of me wouldn’t see my enemies suffer and so that decent aspect of me looks after the aspect of me he has little time for on a good day and despises on occasion and yet—and this is the strangest thing—thinks of as the real me.

I don’t know if you read my last comment to Lis but if not I would recommend the interview with the television playwright Dennis Potter to you. Here’s the link to part one.

And, Nathaniel, a +1 for the poem! I am delighted. I sent a poem through to Carrie a couple of days ago and she made more of a fuss about it than she normally does which always takes me aback. I thought it was a bit of a meh piece but she really liked it. I have a few more meh pieces I should really work up into real poems. What do I know?

Carrie is not my first wife—nor, as it happens am I her first husband—but we’ve been together for about fifteen years now (she’s not here to ask how long and I can never remember) but it feels much longer because I’ve been married for about twenty-five years and she’s been married for about forty-five years just not to the same people. We met online and thirteen months later after millions (I jest not) of words exchanged in e-mails (and one sorry attempt at chat) plus hours upon hours on the phone (four-hour sessions were not unheard of) she stepped off a plane in Glasgow Airport and we’ve been together ever since. Sight had very little to do with it. She sent a few photos, I sent a few photos but you know how that works out. The important thing was that we got to know the person on the inside and the packaging wasn’t all that important. Neither of us is a minger (Glaswegian slang—probably untranslatable) and that helped.

Once she got here I went through the motions romantic love dictated—the surprise gifts, evenings out, yada, yada—but our relationship was never founded on that and now we’re older and can’t be jugged with most of that—woe betide me if I forget Valentine’s day mind—we don’t feel like we’ve lost something.

maekitso said...

This is a fantastic post, Jim. Given the complicated nature of Love I reckon you have put a really strong and consistent discussion piece together here. The biggest problem I am having right now as I try to engage and take part in this discussion is that I can't decide whether to take the academic philosopher route, or the playful poet-type part.

I hope you will write more about Love, Jim. It's one of my favourite issues, and very satisfying when I see it being tackled as thoughtfully as you have done. Just one small thought to leave you with, Jim...

As you have written, according to "the psychologist John Alan Lee in his article ‘A Typology of Styles of Loving’:...storge ... is friendship love". I just found a list of 21 different 'types' of friendship on Wikipedia. I'm yet to properly read through that 'Typology of Styles'. Does it seem to you that John Alan Lee's account of storge takes into account such things as frenemies, pen pals, and imaginary friends? Should it?

Thanks Jim.

Isabel Doyle said...

Fine post Jim. Great poem which said it all I think. All this dissecting and measuring - love, like most things to do with human beings, is ineffable and a mystery.

I was more distressed when you decided you didn't love me any more than thrilled when you said you did love me - my character in a nutshell perhaps.

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to you and your flock
Isabel x

Ken Armstrong said...

You build me up and then you tear me back down (sigh) :)

I just finished a collection of Raymond Carver's collections "Where I'm calling from." I found them amazing and I feel they may have injected something in my own writing which will bleed through over the next period but, gosh, they were unremittingly depressing too. Love does not seem able to survive in Carver's world(s).

I bet you've written about him somewhere. I'm off to search your blog (Is there a search thingie? They're great) and see what I can find.

Ramble over. :)

Jim Murdoch said...

You raise an interesting point there, maekitso. Who is to say that John Alan Lee’s list should be regarded as the definitive one? Psychologists have a terrible habit of creating boxes that we feel obliged to squeeze ourselves into—you’re either an introvert or an extrovert, if you can tick ten items off this list then you’re a psychopath—and you and I both know it’s never that simple. Friendship—any of the friendships listed—is not achieved by meeting certain criteria. There will be penpals who have stronger friendships, loves even, than people who have been intimate in all kinds of ways. It depends on the individual. I disagree with Lee, for example, when he suggests that agápe, is a compound of eros and storge. That makes no sense to me whatsoever. I’ve always seen agápe as a principled form of love, an intellectual love if you will though that’s not to suggest that it is unemotional in any way but what is it one loves?

I have no plans to write more about love for the moment. Of course once one starts writing one can find oneself wandering off on all kinds of tangents. When I find I have something to say I’ll be unable not to say it.

Yes, Isabel, there is fun to be had in picking things to pieces. I never really did that as a kid, dismantled clocks to see how time worked or stuff like that. Abstract things have generally interested me more, words especially. It is the capacity of these incredibly inefficient units of information that gets me. We use words like ‘love’ every single day and we think we know what we mean when we use them, well we do know what we mean but we don’t always use the correct words to covey precisely what we mean, and we assume that other people will understand what, to us, is obvious when really it is nothing of the kind. You have no idea what I’m talking about just now. You’re giving it your best shot but you’re reliant on my ability to choose the most appropriate words to communicate me message and I’m reliant on your intellectual capacity to decode my message. It would be so much easier if I could just give you a hug and then you’d get it.

And, Ken, apart from the odd quote here or there I have read no Carver. He’s on the list and your description does nothing to put me off from wanting to read him, rather the opposite. I’ve added a search box—you’re the second person to comment about my lack of one recently—but I see you coped anyway. Love is a hard thing to get away from. It requires very little to grow and is hardy. It certainly doesn’t require reciprocation although it doesn’t hurt. But classifying it is another thing altogether and sloppy English can only confound those who come along after us thinking we’re wise when actually we’re just a pile of pifflers. (No idea if that’s the correct collective noun but I like the plosives.)

Mairi said...

Wonderful Post. I read your comment on Elizabeth's blog and felt that little tug of connection. Two people sitting in a room with a bird, otherwise alone in the house, typing away to people in cyberspace. I don't know if I love you, but I certainly appreciate much of what you do, not least your kindness in commenting of my daughter's fledgling poetic efforts. You certainly give a lot to your reading public. And I envy you your access to haggis and pies. I'v been craving a scotch pie for months. I broke down and made a dozen steak and kidney pies a few weeks ago, for my father and I to spread out over a few months, and I've been looking for a good haggis recipe, not only because Burns night is fast approaching. But I'm afraid scotch pies are outside my culinary range.
Hope you manage to survive until Carrie gets back. I wish you both a Happy Christmas.

Gwil W said...

Hi Jim,
Amazing that you are 20 miles from the next habitation.

Obviously good to have a love chart to work with. It's a tricky subject otherwise. D H Lawrence's Sons and Lovers is an amazing book - and it's about love. A boy's love for his mother. His Lady Chatterly's Lover is about sex. I don't know how these two love stories would fit into the chart. It's just a gut feeling that I label them as I do.

I've been a great believer in the idea that you have to love yourself as the poet for if you don't then how can you love another. I think it's a spiritual thing but not in a religious sense.

Even though you are a bloke and I am a bloke and I have never met you I must say that love you in my non-religious spiritual way Jim because you are a non-violent, considerate, generous and thoughtful person.

So there.

Jim Murdoch said...

I might not have mentioned, Mairi, that quite often that seemingly idyllic, meditative existence you conjure up in your comment is frequently punctuated by an hour or more of repetitive screaming at various mirrors that I arrange each morning for our bird around his ‘castle’—an assortment of shoe boxes and other similarly-sized cardboard containers that I assemble on top of his cage which he likes to clamber around, poo on and generally tear to pieces. If he is particularly noisy he gets physically removed to the bathroom where he can shout at the shaving mirror to his heart’s content.

I don’t comment so much on your daughter’s blog these days but I still look at every one, as I do with yours. It’s hard coming up with stuff to say—no time—but I do try and pass some helpful comment every now and then. I do feel that of late I have had less to say than I usually have but I’m trying to be a bit more rigorous about working when I’m supposed to be working and not using up my whole day making comments that, yes, make people feel good and win me friends, but also fritter away the hours when I’m most clear-headed.

My parents were English and so, although I was brought up in Scotland, I was a grown man before I ever tasted haggis and I have to say I loved it. We eat it in rather non-traditional ways, our current favourite being with Italian farfalline and sweet corn. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

And, Gwilliam, these two loves are the easy ones—storge (familial love) and eros (erotic love). Spirituality, as I’ve mentioned before, I struggle with. I can cope with an intellectual and emotional appreciation of things but I don’t have any kind of spiritual awareness. I just don’t get it. As for being described as a “non-violent, considerate, generous and thoughtful person”—I can live with that. It pleases me that that is how I come across online although to be honest most people I come across seem like pretty decent sticks. Perhaps we just project.

Mairi said...

Sounds like your bird is a lot bigger than mine. BB is a celestial parrotlet - the smallest parrot in the world, I think, and presumably with a voice scaled to match. He drives my father crazy when he gets going but the sound would hardly register against the noise made by a "real" parrot. He's good company though, and makes regular profound observations. "Step up" and "Meow," mostly. I'm not sure how to take the "meow." Is he taunting the cat or sympathising? I'm pretty sure there's no love between the two of them though.
You may not -understandably - spend your entire life patting other people's backs but you've spent enough of it spreading positive feedback that your reputation as a loveable guy has been sealed.

Jim Murdoch said...

If you’re interested, Mairi , there’s a photo of our bird here: Our cockatiel loves Woody Allen along with evidence of his destructive tendencies. He’s a small cockatiel and it amazes me that such a small frame can generate such a noise—it’s the car alarms he’s imitating—but he doesn’t talk at least it’s not intelligible when he tries.

Dave King said...

This sounds absolutely fascinating. I'm not sure I fully go along with all the assertions made, but maybe I'll read it and be won over...

Jim Murdoch said...

Not really trying to win anyone over, Dave, just trying to make people think.

Marion McCready said...

I enjoyed that, Jim. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at your and Carrie's courtship...:)!

Jim Murdoch said...

It was an interesting one, Marion, that’s all I can say. All my previous relationships started with physical attraction and for a long time—years in fact—the physical overshadowed everything else so it wasn’t until about five years into the relationship that I could stand back and think, What on earth am I doing with this person? And I have to say getting past the five year mark was a big thing for me. Now we’ve been married fourteen years and I think we’re stuck with each other. It makes all the difference getting to know the person on the inside. If what we feel is true love it’s a far quieter thing than I ever imagined it was going to be going by the books I read and the films I watched. I worry less about labels than I used to. When we were young we’d look at some old couple sitting on a park bench in silence and feel a little sorry for them that they had nothing left to say to each other, at least I did, whereas the simple fact is they had a relationship which didn’t need to be constantly bolstered by saying or doing things. I should really have been jealous of them.

Renee said...

Hey there Jim, You wrote a comment on a post of mine on Petalskilltheflower a while back. Thanks for the response it was nice to know somewhere out there someone is reading what I write, and kinda scary too! but hey ho...

I've moved the posts from that blog to a new one that I have started as I can't sign into petalskilltheflower anymore (hense the amount of time it's taken to get back to you) :( anyhoo take a look and tell me what you think of the few posts that are up there, there will be more to come.

Loving the look of your blog! I'll read through it in more detail in the next day or so. Having read this article though I'm pretty sure it will be a facinating read!
This post is really thought proviking and the inclusion of attatchment theory is right up my street! Love really can baffle and bewilder, defining the meaning of love is something that I'm sure we will still be doing for many many years to come.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog, Renee, and don’t worry about not getting back to me on your blog; I don’t keep a track and half the time I don’t even remember commenting—head’s usually in a spin. I like looking at words like ‘love’, words we use all the time and think we understand—there are so many words that fit that bill—and getting people to take a step back. I’ve been meaning to take on the subject of metaphors again. I keep looking at blocks of text like this and realising that we use expressions all the time that we assume everyone understands, but do they? What exactly do I mean when I say my head is in a spin? It doesn’t literally spin. You think you know what I mean but as you’ve never been inside my head how could you? It’s why I no longer obsess about getting the perfect word in my poems. I used to spend weeks putting in and taking out the proverbial comma and then one day I realised that it really didn’t matter. What mattered was finding the perfect reader and, as I have no control over that side of the process at all, all I can do is my best, make sure that I’ve dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s and leave the rest up to whoever decides to give it a go.

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