Friday, March 15, 2024

Speaking of Love

 The following article was first published in my column for the Scunthorpe Telegraph (27 Feb 2014):

Love is the Most Powerful Emotion

I have previously referred to the writings of Kahlil Gibran, a late 19th century, Lebanese poet and philosopher. He is arguably most famous for his powerful and mystical work, The Prophet. In that book, he speaks to the reader of many experiences from across the rich spectrum of human emotions, drawing out the central essence of each individual sentiment and passion.

The ability to portray emotion is one of the most fundamental traits central to the concept of being alive, conscious, knowing and having a sense of self-identity. Whilst not alone within the animal kingdom, as human beings we are driven by our feelings; perceive a mental stimulus and our bodies respond accordingly. It is a well-known fact that a positive state of mind can bring health benefits, whilst a negative or pessimistic outlook can be detrimental to health.

Next to its antithesis anger, the sensation of love is arguably the most powerful of emotions, imbued with a depth and richness of nuance that is hard to satisfactorily reflect in the written word. Thousands of artists, writers and poets over the centuries have chased after its elusive form and meaning; only some have come close to succeeding. The problem is not for the lack of a choice of descriptive words in the thesaurus, or hue of colours on the artist’s palette. The real issue is that love in its purest and truest form is an awesome, irresistible and overwhelming force that has the power to dominate a person’s every waking moment. It is not the same as lust, which is harsher and fleeting in nature. Love has a vastness of strength that overcomes all obstacles; bonding the human spirit to that of another, regardless of distance or time. In the words of his letter to the Corinthians, St Paul tells us, ‘love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things; love never ends.’

It is, therefore, perhaps not surprising that the death of a loved one truly has the power to ‘break one’s heart’. In this column in March 2011, I related the story of an elderly lady who was in hospital and seriously ill. She remained alive for months beyond medical expectation, purely because of the strength of the relationship between her and her husband, who unfailingly visited every day. One day he had a stroke, was admitted to hospital, and died a few days later. The news was gently given to his wife the same morning, and that afternoon she died.

Kahlil Gibran advises the reader thus: ‘When love beckons to you, follow him, though his ways are hard and steep. Think not that you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course’; though he also warns: ‘And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation’. A truth many a bereaved person knows only too well.

[In Memoriam: Winifred Gertrude Jaggs-Fowler SSStJ (1931 – 2014); for whom three months of separation after 72 years of love was beyond her heart’s endurance.]

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