Love, love, love

I had no clear direction for this post today. I want to write, and at the same time I’m not very inspired. I decided to take pictures instead, and let them guide me through this summer rumblings about love, and that which I love.

I never got those who love Jane Austen, or cats. It may well be as C.S. Lewis, and Erich Fromm say, that love is also an act of the will, but I’ve come to love both Jane Austen, and if not ‘cats’ in the abstract, our cat, Missy.

We tend to think about love as something that has to do with emotion, passion, sexual drive. Love is in the air, we say and some sing. But as we can read in Fromm’s The Art of Loving, and C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves, love is a more complex phenomena. And it’s that complexity that allows for all the cultural and artistic expressions of it we see around.

This picture is part of my oldest daughter room. She recently decorated her room with a blue beach vibe. I ordered these prints for her through winkflash, my favorite online company for prints and any photo products.

We all love music. My adolescent daughters love their generational music, -the one their parents don’t always appreciate, and their children will find outdated-. I don’t dislike all of it. What I, as an older person, dislike, it’s to only listen to certain songs only and always. I need my oldies, and my Bach.

I also love/like lists and planners. This is my latest. I write the dates for a whole month in two opened pages, and write my appointments, etc. I also have pages where I record my short and long term goals.

Love is felt, and love is learned. A few years ago I learned to love poetry. Currently I’m reading this Ten Centuries of Castilian Poetry. I’m half way into it, I’ve reached the XVIII century. It’s swell to see the change in topic and format as years pass by. The focus on nature proper to the XVI and XVII centuries is a nice break and departure from our fast paced times. Love also is linked to nature, to God, idyllic, heroic, fraternal, different to the concept that comes to my mind nowadays.

Also half way into Speak, Memory. One can’t help but falling in love with the way Nabokov talks about his early life. He doesn’t just relate events or describe people, but he conjures the magic of childhood, revives in us the joy of being a child, those states of a budding conscience, a child’s look at grown ups and at life. Moments we all recognize in their universality, the recognition of love, the admiration for a parent, a governess, and the piercing look at their flaws and virtues. The world unfolded. For this, he invents his own language. He juxtaposes adjectives, interjects words and phrases in other languages, he gives us a slice of the world.

I resist the temptation to analyze his sentences, or re-read a lot if the passage was a bit confusing for some reason. I haven’t even checked for the meaning of some unknown words or phrases. I’m soaking in his prose. It’s just a first pass. It’s a different way of reading for me. Some parts full of names, I didn’t spend lots of time there. There’s some sentences and paragraphs I read again because I love them so much. I know I’ll come back to the book after some time. And then I’ll get more of it.

I’ve come to know authors like Nabokov, -Henry James, some Bradbury, Jane Austen, Vonnegut, Ishiguro-, their books reside in a less scientific-straightforward style, they are more poetic, pre-rational, but not surreal or stream of conscience. I’ve heard Ishiguro say he’d be disappointed if his books led us readers to thoughts, impressions, or ideas he’s not put there, you know? They are communicating something real, it’s just that they invent a language, or make a different use of language, and point to things that exist outside the clear cut realm of science, of the material world. They are more poetic than journalistic. Some authors we read. Some create universes they invite us to inhabit.

That’s why I keep coming back to these authors, and reread some of their books.

In Other Words is an interesting title I started to read just yesterday. It’s relatively simple. I enjoy the fact that it’s both in Italian on the left pages, and English on the right. I’m dubbing on the Italian. Sometimes I read that page first, others I go back to it. Unlike Lahiri, -who wanted to camp into the Italian language exclusively-, I enjoy going back and forth and seeing both languages, how they compare, how they feel. As a person who has the blessing of living inside two languages, this book is fun to ‘experience’.

At night, in my head, I ‘wrote’ what I thought was a good analysis of Fromm’s book, comparing it to Lewis’s title. I haven’t finished Lewis’s The Four Loves. When I do, I’ll probably write about it. I can anticipate that Lewis’s book differentiates 4 types of love, while Fromm’s approach presents us also with different types of love, and it’s a bit more ambitious in what he tries to explain and cover. He overlaps with Lewis in many aspects. Major difference I could see was in God’s love. The christian love for God is treated differently.

From both authors, I particularly like when they write about unhealthy expressions of love, or cases that may have love at the base but end up as a perversion of a true expression of love.

I had forgotten how incredible Fromm is. In this book, he managed to pay his respects to Freud and psychoanalysis, but he went beyond and constructively presented us with Freud’s limitations, and provided us with a positive exposition of broader and better founded theories, a better framing of the problem, and more sensible answers that tie well with his observations and his research. Fromm also has a sociological aspect to love he explores without much detail, -since he devoted another book to this topic-.

I gathered much from Fromm’s book, and I’m also learning lots from Lewis’s title. Fromm truly felt like a breath of fresh air. We’re all meant to disagree with him in some assertions and analysis, as with any other author, but here I leave you with two writers very worth reading on the topic of love and loving.

It’s undeniable that loving is part of what makes us human. We’re meant to love and thus be loved. I do agree with Fromm when he says that the more we actively engage ourselves in the act of loving, -which goes for how we live our life-, the better we’d be able to love and be loved.

Towards the end, the book got truly fascinating. Fromm speaks about living life in a conscious way, paying attention, being focused. The other way, -being bored, not listening, not interested on anything, just being entertained in order not to think, work, act, is the truly difficult life. I couldn’t agree more.

Fromm advises us to stray away from the ‘zombies’ around us, -who look alive but are mind dead-, those who only and always practice small talk, those who love themselves egotistically, -which is not truly love but the absence of it-.

Different angle, yet similar conclusion that of Fromm and the life of a christian. Have a life!, and a good one. Be a good person yourself. All good people love, -life, other humans, animals, knowledge, art, science, the Earth they inhabit-, and Christians love God.

I must mention how much I love Vonnegut. The Sirens of Titan is only my second title by him, but I hope it won’t be my last. First, a mention on the cover. Why this cover? I frankly don’t know. I guess it was a different age, and a different style of covers that tried to attract many readers. I’m so stupid I didn’t even look at it until I got to the part where Rumfoord tells Malachi Constant about these three sirens.

This book was funny but serious, happy and sad. It talks about wars, the meaning of life, God, families, and it’s also about love. I never realized this until I made connections between my other two books on this subject, but now I realize how much Vonnegut shows us in this novel what Fromm defended in his book, that love is an act of the will. I believe I’m drawn to how philosophical it is, without being such in your face.

Vonnegut’s fiction always gives me much more understanding of war, soldiers, Post Traumatic Stress, than historical fiction. If I had to pick, I’d choose Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five, and even this, The Sirens of Titan, for world war understanding, not of the events, but of the absurdity and the views the soldier has of war, combat, and his experience after battle.

Which will my next novel be? Not sure. On the fence between White Noise, or a re-read of A Pale View of Hills. Since Mr. Ishiguro is not writing anything new that I know of, one is favorable pushed to reread what he has out there. Which it’s not a bad idea at all.

11 thoughts on “Love, love, love

  1. I have a copy of T.S. Eliot’s book ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ here – you might enjoy it. We love our cat. He’s only friendly in the morning after having a break from us overnight. Low maintenance. Enjoyed your thoughts on love.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Silvia: thanks for a great post; as always it gave me much to think about. I really enjoyed seeing some of the things you love, which was a great way to segue into your philosophical discussion of love in its various manifestations. I haven’t read either C.S. Lewis (really, this is a shocking omission) or Fromm although you make such a strong case for both of them that I think I may add one or both to my TBR list (not that this means they’ll get read anytime soon!).
    Speaking of the specifics:
    Cats: Missy looks like a great cat & certainly has beautiful eyes. I love them myself (I have three).
    Bach! I adore Bach, although my familiarity with his music is mostly limited to his keyboard pieces. Since I don’t have musical training, my understanding of them is pretty shallow but they’re so beautiful at times they’re painful, if that makes any sense. The choral works are certainly beautiful (sublimely so) and one of these years I’ll get around to becoming more familiar with them. Do you have other classical favorites?
    notebooks & stationery: very fond of them and, in similar vein, books with a tactile feel or with gorgeous illustrations. My passion here, however, ranks behind that for the feline!
    Jane Austen: came late to her, but I worship at the shrine. A limited universe, at least on the surface, but everything that matters is there.
    I really MUST check out Nabokov’s “Speak Memory.” As I mentioned before, it’s been on my list for ages but I’ve been a little hesitant; Nabokov for me is a difficult read and I’m feeling lazy these hot summer days. Speaking of which — I’ve much catching up to do on my blog reading!
    P.S. Loved your daughter’s room. What a wonderful idea, with the blue!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Always so many good books to read. I know that I always recommend that which I read and like, but The Art of Loving is a meager 133 pages. It reads fast. Fromm is not one of this complicated intellectuals who likes to show off, or takes upon the subject in a dry way. C.S. Lewis can be more difficult, but not in this title either. Maybe it’s due to the subject and his approach, (he talks about needs and affection, friendship, eros, and charity as his four loves), and I must say that compared to other non fiction by him, this was unexpectedly ‘easy’, and, drum roll, 160 pages only. They were a welcome change to my just fiction pile.

      My youngest found Missy in our backyard, by our shed, when she was not even a week old. We raised her. The four of us, (mainly we three, husband, youngest, and myself, -my oldest loves her, but she was not that involved-) We got a bottle, fed her, -it was unnerving the time until she finally latched, my youngest was in shambles about Missy surviving-. We took her to the vet right away, and my husband jokes that he spends more ‘pocket money’ on his feline daughter than on the other two, 🙂 She made me a cat’s person.

      Like you, not having any musical training, my appreciation of classical music is very precarious. However, I know what you mean, for I find that some of Bach’s Brandenburg concerts are so beautiful that they hurt in their majesty. Only music, (and this type), can take our souls to that place that can’t be described with words. Other classical favorites? Tchaikovsky, Albeniz, I like Gershwin too. What about you?

      Take your time to get to Speak, Memory. And I think I may have scared people unnecessarily. I don’t think it’d be a difficult book for you at all. However, it’s best as you say, to catch up with what you have at hand, and wait for the right moment. It’ll come. The good thing also, it’s that the chapters are autonomous. Though I’m not abandoning it for weeks, I left it a few days to read a first book by Georges Simenon. Light read. One of his Maigret’s detective series titles. I enjoyed it a lot. Perfect summer read.

      Thanks for stopping by. You are a great encouragement to me as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful post Sylvia. Just a joy to read. 😀

    I read the Art of Loving in my 20s and remember really admiring it. I should pick it up again. And Vonnegut. I need to read all his stuff…start with the beginnning.

    Kids and generational music! My nephew (13) was recently complaining about Simon and Garfunkel. I am sure I was equally annoying as a teenager. LOL.

    I did not love cats until I actually came to live with one. Now I am a cat person.

    Liked by 1 person

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