My family is very much in my mind these days, for various reasons. Perhaps it’s the end of the year – beginning of the year combination of nostalgia and anticipation – memory and hope. A reminding of love and affection.
My generation speaks of love carelessly, and we assign the word to a number of more precise emotions that we can’t be bothered to say. The word slips as easily from us as pennies to a pocket. We say it like we’re saying hello or goodbye. We say we love these things – generally speaking, in no particular order and incomplete: cars; hockey; certain movies; our hairdressers (if we’re lucky); autumn; all dogs and/or cats; chocolate; certain or all music; traveling; our computers; nice little Pinot Noirs: great big Cabernet Sauvignons; shoes; cheese; colours; reading; pajamas; certain or all Beatles. In short: we say we love most everything we like a lot. I’m loathe to use the word in songs but some songwriters…well, they love to use it.
I don’t doubt that in some of these instances the love is true if we, in the words of Rainer Rilke, define love like this: love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other. When I sit to play a certain guitar, for example, I truly love it. My guitar and I are two solitudes. I protect it and it protects me (although it could probably not stop a bullet – it’s my hope that I am never shot at one stage, but one can never be certain). I touch it and it touches me. Very tactile. I greet it, and it greets me, although sometimes it seems to be saying “Yeah, hi, but keep your hands off of me”.
What, though, is love? This is where Rilke’s words shine. Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other. Can’t top that, but let’s throw in forgiveness for good measure.
How lucky are we who learned that, now know it and live our lives accordingly – or try. Not every family has earned or deserves this, but especially blessed with fortune are we who have that, despite woundings and old scars.
So I think of my family today with that in mind. How lucky I am, and how careful I’ll be.