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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Love in the Library

What could be more romantic than the fall season? The changing foliage invites us to take long walks through the park. The cool weather calls us outside to enjoy dinners on the patio. The football schedule demands we binge-eat greasy food and yell at the television. Yet, during this season of amore, some people still struggle to find a compatible mate. Well, if you find yourself in the loveless category, it’s time to get off the couch and let the Mississippi Library Commission help you get your groove back.

Some people may not think of the library as a place to find love, but we have plenty of resources that can help you unlock your inner Romeo or Juliet. First, we have Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving. Fromm is famous for his essays and books on Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche and if you know anything about those guys, you know they were all considered Doctors of Love. Here’s a short excerpt:

“Man is gifted with reason…this awareness of himself as a separate entity, the awareness of his own short life span, of the fact that without his will he is born and against his will he dies, that he will die before those whom he loves, or they before him, the awareness of his aloneness and separateness, of his helplessness before the forces of nature and of society, all this makes his separate, disunited existence an unbearable prison."

OK, so, maybe that was not the best example. Anyways, let’s take something lighter, like Merle Shain’s Some Men are More Perfect than Others: A Book about Men, and Hence, about Women and Love and Dreams. I’m sure Mr. Shain will provide a more positive attitude toward love:

“We say we marry for love in North America, but many a man thinks yelling, ‘Is dinner ready?’ is the same as saying ‘I love you.’ And lots of women who really want love and communication ask for a mink coat instead. There are libraries full of books about women who sold their souls for romance and got instead dishpan hands, and bars filled with men wondering why the more successful they become, the worse their marriages become as well.”

Well, uh, I’m sure it picks up after that. How about we try Kenneth S. Pope’s book On Love and Loving? Pope’s book was published in 1980, that magical year before Reaganomics and Gordon Gekko forever changed our idea of romantic love.

“The first stage of the love cycle is early courtship -- the pre-falling-in-love stage. In this stage, the lovers-to-be are on their best behavior. They size up each other as sources of direct gratification, asking themselves if the other can meet their needs for affection, nurturance, attention, or even limit-setting. They also assess each other as sources of indirect gratification, looking to see what can be admired in the other. Each measures his or her emotional and physiologic responses to the other but also finds himself or herself inexplicably drawn toward the other.”

Leave it to a therapist to take the fun out of a perfectly good “love cycle.”Maybe it’s best to take the subject of love away from the doctors and philosophers and allow those who are best equipped to describe this tricky emotion do their work. In Jean Garrigue’s book Love’s Aspects: The World’s Great Love Poems, poet W.B. Yeats offers this example of love’s endurance (I think) in his poem The Folly of Being Comforted:

One that is ever kind said yesterday:
‘Your well-beloved’s hair has threads of gray,
And little shadows come about her eyes;
Time can but make it easier to be wise
Though now it seems impossible, and so
All that you need is patience.’
Heart cries, ‘No,
I have not a crumb of comfort, not a grain.
Time can but make her beauty over again: Because of that great nobleness of hers
The fire that stirs about her , when she stirs,
Burns but more clearly. O she had not these ways
When all the wild summer was in her gaze.’

O heart! O heart! if she’d but turn her head,
You’d know the folly of being comforted.

Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1956. p. 8
Shain, Merle. Some Men are More Perfect Than Others: A Book About Men, and Hence about Women, and Love and Dreams. New York: Charterhouse Press, 1973. p. 63
Pope, Kenneth. On Love and Loving: Psychological Perspectives on the Nature and Experience of Romantic Love. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1980. p. 121
Garrigue, Jean (Ed.) Love’s Aspects: The World’s Great Love Poems. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975. p. 228

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