That is actually a title of a book I have been dragging around and meaning to read. It is sort of a memoir of a table leg and all it witnesses at breakfast after breakfast in each household that owns it.
Sometimes, it is in looking at the simplest things in life that reveal our complexities and hidden dramas. I read another book, The Autobiography of a Flea, which was on the same lines – only this one turned out to be Victorian pornography. I was so shocked, I read the whole thing in one sitting to make sure that is what it really was about.
Ok…hours have now passed…I am trying to shift gears back to whatever I was thinking this morning. I started writing this morning at 5am and actually had coherent thoughts. Now it is gaining on 5pm and I am a bit scattered.
The other day I actually managed to see the news on TV. An oddity for me that still holds charm. At the end of the news show, they had one of those feel good segments, this one about a doctor who was 100 years old and still lively, engaged and practicing. They kept saying he was going to talk about the secrets of good health and a long life. He is a specialist in the treatment of arthritis.
My friend and I engaged in mutual eye rolling every time the teaser for the segment came on. It promised to be yet another round of magical elixirs or rituals to stay eternally young. Neither of us intended on actually watching long enough to see what the segment actually had to say.
But watch it we did, and what he had to say was surprising and downright refreshing in its honesty.
He said that the secret to a good, healthy and long life was to find someone you loved and marry them and something you love and go do it. They asked him about exercise, diet, and vitamins and he responded, “More people have lived longer and healthier lives without any of those but with a good marriage than those without.”
And he is right.
Love is a peculiar thing. It is, in essence, one of the most sublime forms of prayer that exists. When we love, we find the immortality of life within the person that we love and in worshiping that, we discover it in ourselves through the reflection we see in their returned love. There has been case study after case study that has scientifically proven that prayer and the presence of love are more capable of restoring or sustaining health than any other medicine or regimen available. Love can do what man cannot understand. It is an expression of faith, a fulfillment of promise, nourishment that sustains us through even the worst because we have hope for the future. A future we find through our beloved.
Vicktor Frankl wrote a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning” and in it, besides outlining the basis for his approach to psychotherapy (called Logotherapy) he recounted his experience of being in a concentration camp in World War II. He found then, and after thorough investigation, that the people who survived – who were less damaged in mind, body and soul – were people who had a deep and loving commitment to someone else. And he was not talking about a brotherly love or a universal love or an unconditional love – but a powerful intimate, committed and romantic love. These were the prisoners whose bodies managed to survive the worst kinds of malnutrition and abuse, whose minds held against the worst tortures, and whose sense of humanity survived intact no matter what level of despair they were exposed.
Love is the ultimate recognition of the self. It is the understanding that in this brief time that we are here, we are not only important, but a part of something larger. Intimate love is unique. It is blessing and it is curse for the greatest of romantic loves also holds the most powerful promise of grief.
In modernity that has been distilled and cushioned into the mantra that the way to keep a relationship fresh and lively is to always imagine that it will end. In reality, the end lies in losing the loved one to death or even, to just imagine life (itself, not bound to you) without their existence. This man, Dr. Ephraim Engleman, has never lost sight that it is our greatest potential for sadness that also grants us the greatest potential for living.
We strive with our diets, our exercises, our promises, contracts, compatibility tests, vitamins, surgeries, medicines and polyamory to put from our minds the greatest source of our despair and the greatest source of our joy. We shorten our lives spiritually and emotionally when we try to avoid their reality. We shut down our potential for meaning when we place our most meaningful relationships into the category of “replaceable.” We lose when we fore go the risk of commitment and make none of our intimacies unique to our emotional relationships. We become machines that function without souls, capable of performing the physical feats of the young – but withered and dried within an empty age.
For what is the good of being able to walk, if you have nothing to walk toward? What does your love mean, if it can be given to anyone or divided among many? How present can you be in life if you are unwilling to be there for all of its potentials?
By the way, Dr. Engleman just celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary. When was the last time you heard of that?
c.2011. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.