The month of February has many interesting celebrations, among them are Groundhog Day, Presidents Day, Jello Week, African-American History month and the Winter Olympics. The most renowned celebration among them all is Valentine’s Day, when “love is in the air.”
Every generation has its collection of songs and poems and stories about love that inspires the mind, warms the heart and emboldens the will. Love stirs the deepest level of the human spirit. Among the best of writers in our Western culture who has stirred the heart-strings of love in readers and theater-goers is William Shakespeare.
Very little is known about Shakespeare’s own love life. He did marry and had three children. But, was it a loveless relationship? He spent most of his time away from the family in London with his theatrical family. Evidence is circumstantial as to whether or not he had a homosexual relationship, visited the brothels or had a mistress. The movie Shakespeare in Love developed an entertaining though fictional account of the possibilities. The BBC commissioned a full-length movie drama, based on a particular reading of his 154 sonnets, titled “A Waste of Shame.”
All this said, there is one sonnet (116) that stands head and shoulders above the rest that speaks to us of profound insights on the nature of love, regardless of one’s marital status or sexual orientation.
“…Love is not love/which alters when it alteration finds/…O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,/That looks on tempests and is never shaken;” Love is the disposition of the soul towards another person that is the gift of committed relationship despite the “warts and all” in the other. Love’s throne is not the sexual organs, but the soul. This means that one can love even a scoundrel; it means that love can root deeper, even when the sexual blossoms have fallen off the flower; it means that love can grow in the midst of devastating circumstances; it also means that one can love the one with whom living in a marriage relationship is no longer viable and changes must be made. Love does not mean one has to “like” others or even do what only “feels comfortable and cozy” in relationship with others.
“Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/Within his bending sickle’s compass come;” Love does not alter the beloved; it alters itself. People change over the course of years: in simple terms, in their appearance, their health, their interests, their abilities. Love learns the art of changing with the beloved—though rosy lips turn wrinkled and pale. Love is a dance that continually learns new steps based on the movements of the beloved. The longevity of a healthy relationship depends on this.
One may question the veracity with which to hold these insights without questions or provisional circumstances; yet, they do indeed challenge us to explore the depth of our own understanding and devotion to love—as they call us to delve deeper to discover that passionate fire that warms our breath. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (paleontologist priest) has written: “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.”
(Mark J. Molldrem is a writer, community volunteer, and daily host of Joy in the Morning on WBEV. He lives in Beaver Dam with his wife, Shirley. WordPowerSolutions@gmail.com)