The last time I traveled by boat was in 2002 from Bohol, Philippines to my hometown. I was with a new friend then. We were just getting to know each other, and he was really nice. So even if it was very dark, star-less night at midnight as we hung out on the stern of the ship, and all I could see was the white foam on the big waves, I didn’t want the evening to end. (I always find it interesting looking back how when I was younger, I was not easily scared by dangerous situations — bombings, typhoons, big waves — for as long as I was with a guy I liked! How silly was that?!)
These days I would rather travel by plane than be on a ship, especially if I have to travel in the evening. I don’t care if Bradley Cooper is on the same ship, I would never travel by boat at night.
Northern Mindanao, Philippines
Don’t get me wrong. I love the sea, the ocean. See, I made this watercolor because I really like this view of a boat sailing on the sea. When I made this, I was imagining myself being on that boat watching the horizon. But now several months have passed, and I look at this again, I’m thinking that can’t be me. I’d never get on a boat alone.
That time of year thou may’st in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou see’st the twilight of such day, As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by-and-by black night doth take away, Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by. This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
There has been much debate on the meaning of this sonnet, particularly the last couplet:
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
What is the young man supposed to eventually leave before long: his friend or his own youth?
I will not join in the debate, but I am quoting the sonnet here because I was reminded of it (and John Donne’s Sonnet 10) twice today: first, when I read this poem by John White called Laughing about it ; second, when I read Temple Grandin’s tribute to Oliver Sacks, who also wrote a moving article reflecting on his relationship with his Orthodox family and the Sabbath.
Whether the speaker meant that the young man had to leave his friend or his youth, to me, is not the point, rather that the knowledge that one is leaving something valuable makes one appreciate it or love it even more.
My first real understanding of this line happened one summer day when my best friend and I stood in a forest, listening to the sound of the leaves of the trees as the breeze was passing through, and I said it was beautiful I wish it could last forever; and he said it was beautiful simply because it was not going to last.
(Not long after that my best friend left, and for a while, that memory always made me cry. But with time, I have learned to call on that memory, and it just brings a beautiful feeling.)
If we truly love someone or something –a place, a person, a pet or life itself — the knowledge of our imminent leaving of it/them will make our love for it/them even stronger.
Perhaps it is the best way to live every minute of our short life here: to always remember that we won’t be here forever, that we are always about to leave. Perhaps then we can love wholeheartedly, not only for a minute or an hour or for a day, but for a lifetime.
“All my life, as soon as a person got attached to me, I did everything to distance them. The first person whom I loved and I was faithful to escaped me through drugs, through betrayal. Maybe many things came from this, from vanity, from fear of suffering further, and yet I have accepted so much suffering. But I have in turn escaped from everyone since and, in a certain way I wanted everyone to escape from me.”
“I sometimes accuse myself of being incapable of love. Maybe this is true, but I have also been able to select a few people and to take care of them faithfully, with the best of myself, no matter what they do.”
– Albert Camus as quoted in Camus, A Romance by Elizabeth Hawes (I bought a hardbound copy of this book years ago, but I saw the book again yesterday as my husband and I were sorting books to throw and to keep!)
Camus was a known womanizer, he talked about loving the many women in his life in the love letters he wrote them, yet in his journals he wrote of distancing himself from them. He sometimes wondered if he was incapable of love, yet admitted to “taking care” of a few people faithfully the best he could no matter what these people did.
I am not writing to justify nor excuse Camus’ womanizing, but rereading this quote from him reminded me of how simple it can be to love somebody, truly love somebody, anybody; but people, especially men like Camus make it so complicated. To me, he WAS capable of love, and indeed he loved those whom he faithfully took care of no matter what they did.
You cannot choose who to like or dislike or be physically/sexually attracted to, it’s a feeling. But you can definitely choose whom you give your time, energy and yourself (body and soul) to – and that’s love.
You cannot choose your biological family (not yet, anyway, perhaps with technology it will be possible), but you can choose to love or not love your family. You may like your family, but you may not love them. (“Yeah, they’re alright. They’re cool. I haven’t heard from my folks for a month!) You may not like your family sometimes, but you may love them because you take care of them, you provide for them, and make sure they are all right.
Now I can totally understand when young people make the mistake of “falling in love” with someone who everyone thinks is the wrong person, because as recent findings reveal, the brain, particularly the pre-frontal cortex responsible for regulation of emotions, does not reach full maturity until mid-20s. Young people may not be able to “think ahead” and “make mature decisions”, and it’s perfectly understandable because neurologically speaking, they are not of that age yet.
But if you are a “typical” (I no longer like using the word “normal” because, really, what does it mean these days?) adult, you should be able to think and choose whether or not to invest in a person or a relationship. If a part of you is doubtful whether you should give more of your time, energy (and money) to be with a person who doesn’t seem to give the same to be with you, you don’t need to pray to the gods or ask your friends over and over again whether this person loves you or not. Get that pre-frontal cortex working and figure it out yourself. It will be good exercise for your brain. 🙂
My fave coffee shop needs no advertising, so I’m using this photo instead which I got from this site
She decided not to ask him to meet up with her this time. No pressure. She knew he was busy. She would just wait for him to ask her out. And it happened on a Sunday morning. He invited her to have coffee with him. She was walking down the road going to the coffee shop when something told her to look behind, and sure enough, he was pulling up to let her inside the car.
She thought she had changed, that “it” was no longer there. Yet, as she sat next to him, and watched him drive, she realized, “it” was still there. That high-school-girl feeling of actually sitting next to the guy you really, really like. And she just sat there, not flirting, not trying to be cute, just enjoying the feeling of youth and excitement.
And that felt good. To know that even though she was now with somebody else, and he was with somebody else, and they could never be what they used to be, share what they used to share, that she could still feel like this when she’s with him .
She didn’t see him again after that Sunday coffee. Yet it was enough. She had her fill.
It is a great mystery that though the human heart longs for Truth, in which alone it finds liberation and delight, the first reaction of human beings to Truth is one of hostility and fear! -Anthony de Mello