November 21, 2002 (Ira Pilgrim)

Love: A Lecture for Children

There is only one sort of love, but there are a thousand copies.

François de La Rochefoucauld

I don't have to tell you what Love is; you already know. By now you have had that wonderful feeling about your parents, brothers, sisters, dog or cat. Some people even love their goldfish and chocolate.

What I want to do is warn you against people who will tell you what you should be feeling. They will denigrate the love that you feel by calling it "puppy love" or make it seem trivial by saying that "it's only a kitten" or to make some love objects less worthy than others. They are wrong and the proof of their error is that if your dog or cat dies, you might well cry as much as if you had lost a parent.

It is obvious that the relationship that you have with a spouse, parent, brother or sister, is quite different from the one that you have with a dog; that is, for most people. It is also true that the relationship with the person whom you marry or choose to live with for a long time is different than your first love in the seventh grade. But it is not the love that is different.

My favorite analogy is always with food because it is less charged with emotion. Hunger is hunger and it can be satisfied with a McDonald's hamburger or Tornedos Bearnaise served in a fine French restaurant. Love is love and it can result in a frantic clutch in the front seat of an automobile or a deep and enduring friendship that lasts for a lifetime. While it is true that, when you're hungry, a Big Mac can taste pretty good, there are other levels of gastronomic experience. It is the same with love.

When people try to tell you what you are feeling or what you should or shouldn't feel, ignore them; they are full of baloney. On the other hand, when people who care about you, such as your parents, tell you what you should or shouldn't do, it's a good idea to listen to them. They have had more experience than you and may be able to save you from a good deal of pain. Automobiles, booze, drugs and sex are fraught with hazards and you would do well to at least listen before you leap. Many a youngster has died as a consequence of his or her first experience with all of the above except sex; and with sex, many found themselves with a child or a disease that they didn't want. One of those diseases, AIDS, is a killer. Love, on the other hand, uncomplicated by the above, is a wonderful experience at any age. I think it is worth the pain of separation which inevitably comes to even the best and longest of loves.

Why does there have to be separation? With young people it is because one or both of them may have other things that they want to do, or someone else with whom they want to mate, or none of the above. With old loves, there is always the specter of death. Would you consider not loving your parents because you know for sure that they will die? Of course not! But some people try to turn off their love to spare themselves pain. It doesn't work because, while you can terminate a relationship, the love remains. You can hate someone, but hate is the other side of the coin on which love is emblazoned. I have never been able to hate someone I haven't loved and, somehow, the hate eventually peters out and the love is still there.

Now a warning! There are people who manipulate other people and they do it by using love. Reverend Jim Jones led a mass of people to their death and he did it by capturing their love and directing it into blind obedience to his will. This is the way of charismatic leaders. There have been very few charismatic leaders who have led people to a better life. Most have used the love of people to make themselves wealthy and powerful. There are also people who make others love them without giving any love back. Often, one's first experience of love is with such a person and it can be devastating. If your first experience was such, get up and try again. This time look at their track record before you leap. A man who has had many girlfriends during the past year is a bad risk, as is a woman who collects men. Pick someone who has only had a few. People who have had none may be too frightened to love, but not necessarily.

The best, the gourmet experience of love, is one where both people love each other. It is worth seeking and cultivating. And best of all, there is friendship too, and trust.

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