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February 14, 2009

It’s True–All You Need is Love

“Love, Love, Love” the Beatles sang all those years ago. An appropriate sentiment for the day, but it’s a topic I’ve had on my mind for a while now.  Today seems the most appropriate day to post it here.

Once upon a time, years ago, a writer friend of mine, Mark Goldblatt, wrote a newspaper column on the simple words “I love you.”  I’m relying on my memory here, but I’m pretty sure I’m paraphrasing him correctly.  He said he didn’t really say the words because they are overused.  People love potato chips and TV shows and Jimmy Choos, so the meaning of the word love has been cheapened. He had a point.

Whenever I find myself using the word love a lot, I think of Mark and wonder, am I overusing it?  Cheapening it? I love my family and friends.  I love my students.   I love most individuals.  Too much with the word?

No, and I think I know why.  I don’t love things.  I enjoy them.  I like them, but I don’t love them.  I love people–individuals and groups, but I love living beings.  (Okay, and I love animals, too, but again, living beings.) And frankly, I don’t think we can tell people we love them enough.

My problem is, I’m not comfortable saying the words, really.  So I have to try to let my actions speak for me.  But that’s all on one-to-one basis.  I try to use Love as my prime motivator, but how can Love be all we need?

I think what I mean by this was underscored in the Inaugural address this year.  I mentioned how I cried when President Obama quoted 1 Corinthians 13.  But this term I also taught the inaugural poem “Praise Song for the Day” in class, and what Elizabeth Alexander wrote there sums up what I feel.

Towards the end of the poem, she writes these words:

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Brilliant lines, really.  First she looks at the basic operating guidelines of some major groups–Christians, humanists and pagans and Communists and Socialists.  But really, how different are those creeds?  They all can co-exist quite easily.  And then she asks the perfect question: “What if the mightiest word is love?”

She follows up with the specifics on what she means:

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

Love beyond what we usually have here on earth.  Love that casts a widening pool of light–what an image!  Can’t you just see the light of love widening from each person, enveloping one another in that healing, caring light–the light that drives out darkness?  As Dr. Martin Luther King tells us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.

Love is the defining word of my life.  It’s been used by all the people I consider heroes and it’s the one guiding principle of my life. And as silly as it sounds, the Beatles played a large part in making me think of living a life of love.  I have said over and over that growing up listening to hippie songs warped my view of life, and there’s some seriousness under the joking.  One of the most powerful musical lines in the soundtrack that is my life comes courtesy of George Harrison: “With our love – We could save the world”.  I definitely believe that, and I think that’s what Alexander was talking about.

She ends the poem with these words:

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.

How beautiful!  If we, as a people, as a country, walk forward into the light of love instead of into the destructive dark of hatred, what a world we could have!  And while my brand of love tends to be Christianized, who can’t find some reason to love?

On many levels, I’m not saying anything too different from what my country has believed from its start.  As a nation, we were founded on precepts of Christian or Humanist brotherly love. And we don’t have to be Christians to agree that the definition of Love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is a pretty useful one:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

If we could pull this off as individuals, as a country, that would be amazing.  And using this definition, all we really do need is love.  With this love, we could change the world.

I wish you love.  I wish my country love and my whole world love.  In the spirit of my pop music gurus, especially George Harrison, John Lennon, and Donovan, and with Elizabeth Alexander, I wish we all walk forward to the light of love and change our world.

End Note: Since I hear “All You Need is Love” while reading this, let me paste some of the lyrics here:

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It’s easy.

Nothing you can make that can’t be made.
No one you can save that can’t be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
It’s easy.



  1. you had me there at the title and again at Alexander’s powerful words…(touched with sobbing)

    Comment by Julia — February 14, 2009 @ 8:02 pm |Reply

  2. Lovely!

    Comment by David — February 19, 2009 @ 12:40 am |Reply

  3. The truth is. Love endures all!

    Comment by Stephen Kemper — October 3, 2012 @ 5:29 am |Reply

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