Talks About Love
LOVE! How talk concisely about anything so big, so vital, so all‑absorbing, about a thing which takes such an enormous place in, the world?
I am of course speaking of human love, of love between man and woman, of that love which is the kernel of every story eve written, the turning-point, the glory o tragedy of every life, and more often glory and tragedy in one.
There is of course that other in a way greater love—that all-pervading love the abstract, the love the Bible speaks of the love "that suffereth long and is kind envieth not, vaunteth not itself, thinketh no evil, is not easily provoked"; the love "that beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
But though there is no end to what might be said about that love, it is not the one I am going to speak of here; but o that disturbing and yet wonderful element which spares none of us, be we ever so or ever so humble, that love that comes to us when least we expect it and leaves us just as stealthily.
For every mother it is a tragic moment when she sees love beginning to stir in he, child, be it boy or girl; she knows the danger, the delusion, the pitfalls, but she also knows the glamour, the illusion, the irresistible attraction, the exultation, the changing moods of ecstasy and depression
For son and daughter equally she dread that moment when some obscure yearning towards the forbidden fruit, towards Oh secret of life, of humanity, begins to stir ii the young brain and blood.
But love manifests itself differently for boy and girl. The boy is generally eager to see, know, enjoy. The girl is also full of curiosity, but her heart and imagination play a far bigger part; she envelops tin budding emotion in poetry, mystery. Every young man becomes a hero to her a being to be adored, trusted, idealized, served.
I am of course not speaking of the cynic of those who are born old and tired and whom no flame can stir, but I am speaking of the boy and girl born in healthy surroundings and to normal conditions. Nor, I must confess, do I quite know the real modern girl developed during and after the war. I feel in no wise competent to describe her.
I have a young daughter still at home, but though giving her plenty of liberty, I have brought her up to respect the things we were taught to respect.
I have not kept truth from her, I have not fed her upon legends about imaginary places whence storks carry the little babies, dropping them, oh! so comfortably into the happy mother's arms, but I try to guard her from unnecessary, ugly revelations; I try to keep warm in her heart the flame of hope, beauty, trust and belief.
But just as it makes me sad to see my boy get furtive, inclined to prefer other houses to his home; see him want to come back late at night and see him look me less fearlessly in the eye; so it makes me sad to see my girl spin a wonderful veil of magic around a really very ordinary male mortal, and again and again the cry comes to my lips, "O Nature, why must you trap us thus!"
But there it is—love! That great enemy and that divinest of human joys—love! And we must accept it as the biggest thing in life, the one we must all submit to as we submit to birth and death.
Love is the great problem in woman's life, and as from the beginning of things nature seems to have signaled her out to be the burden bearer, neither laws nor morals nor the exigencies of society have ever been able to solve that burning question for her.
Kick as she may, revolt, live beyond right and wrong, there is some fundamental law which hems her in, which brings her back, which cuts down her liberty, which makes of her the one who cannot be utterly free. Nature has fettered her by tae work she has destined her for, and so as to make her unable to throw off her chains she has also given her a heart—or call it instinct if you will—which eternally keeps urging her to do things for others instead of for herself. Therein lies both her strength and her weakness. Nothing, herself least of all, can free her from that something within her which urges her to share, to do things for others. She finds no happiness in doing things selfishly for herself. The most self-centered, egotistical woman, the one who believes that she has cast off all bonds, will one day or another find herself doing things for others, or anyhow for one other if not for more. From the beginning, nature has designed woman to be the sacrificed one, the one who, as the French say, "pays for the damage done."
Formerly she was but a slave, a drudge, a mate in the lowest sense of the word. Civilization has changed much of this. In some countries, more especially in England and America, woman has reached to a tremendous position. She is no more looked down upon; her value is admitted, her rights acknowledged, her usefulness recognized; and yet in the great question of love she will never be able to stand up and hold her place alongside of man.
Never will nature allow her to love and pass on as she allows man to do. The modern woman will try to. She will try to crush her natural instincts; the medical science of today will give her dangerously efficient means to help her free herself of motherhood; but for all that I believe that nature and instinct are stronger and that we shall never, thank God, live to see the day when there will be no mothers. We may live to see the day of "free love" recognized, whether for better or worse I do not feel competent to judge.
I, for one, believe in family, in that great force of order and decency it represents. A happy home is certainly the ideal form of living; but I also know that many homes are hell, that children who live under the rule of quarreling parents are miserable. Yet the child who has no home is not a happy child, either.
If free love were ever officially sanctioned the children's part, it seems to me, would be pitiable. But then I am not quite a modern woman. I recognize duty and obligations and they have made me grow in strength.
My children were everything to me and worth the sacrifices made for them; they were my very reason for existence, and unbearable to me would be the thought that they should become homeless because I want to be free.
To love and pass on seems from my woman's point of view a very low conception of things. I do declare, though, that from the earliest times women have been unfairly treated in a way that must not and cannot be tolerated indefinitely. But love reduced to pleasure alone I cannot imagine. If we bring it to that I certainly think that we will be crushing all ideals, all poetry, all beauty out of the world to make out of it a cynical, ugly place.
Let love remain our brightest goal, let it be the ultimate desire of our souls, but do not let us drag it down, tarnish it by reducing it to lust.
Love has been the inspirer of all great deeds, the leader towards every ideal: love of God, love of man, love of woman, love of child, love of country, love of life. It wings our feet, doubles our courage, our energy. It throws light into darkness, spreads glamour over the meanest world.
Love lies in all things: in the silence of night, in the fires of dawn, in the great waves of music, in color, sound and harmony. Love lies at the core of every faith, every hope, every ecstasy. Love banishes fear and makes a hero out of the coward; love understands and forgives, hopes, believes; love has tender hands and gentle lips; a word of love can turn the wicked back from his sin, can open out a vision of light to the man who was hopeless.
Ah, but I am being carried away and I find myself suddenly talking of that greater love, of the one I started by calling "the love the Bible speaks of"; and I see that I cannot separate one from the other, for if the love man for woman contain none of that greater love—then I for one would have none of it!