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The Philosophy Of Love Post by :ozchris Category :Essays Author :Myrtle Reed Date :November 2011 Read :2474

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The Philosophy Of Love

(Sidenote: The Prevailing Theme)

A modern novelist has greatly lamented because the prevailing theme of fiction is love. Every story is a love story, every romance finds its inspiration in the heart, and even the musty tomes of history are beset by the little blind god.

One or two men have dared to write books from which women have been excluded as rigorously as from the Chinese stage, but the world of readers has not loudly clamoured for more of the same sort. A story of adventure loses none of its interest if there is some fair damsel to be rescued from various thrilling situations.

The realists contend that a single isolated fact should not be dwelt upon to the exclusion of all other interests, that love plays but a small part in the life of the average man or woman, and that it is unreasonable to expand it to the uttermost limits of art.

Strangely enough, the realists are all men. If a woman ventures to write a book which may fitly be classed under the head of realism, the critics charitably unite upon insanity as the cause of it and lament the lost womanliness of a decadent generation.

If realism were actually real, we should have no time for books and pictures. Our days and nights would be spent in reclaiming the people in the slums. There would be a visible increase in the church fair--where we spend more than we can afford for things we do not want, in order to please people whom we do not like, and to help heathen who are happier than we are.

(Sidenote: The Root of all Good)

The love of money is said to be the root of all evil, but love itself is the root of all good, for it is the very foundation of the social structure. The universal race for the elusive shilling, which is commonly considered selfish, is based upon love.

Money will buy fine houses, but who would wish to live in a mansion alone! Fast horses, yachts, private cars, and the feasts of Lucullus, are not to be enjoyed in solitude; they must be shared. Buying jewels and costly raiment is the purest philanthropy, for it gives pleasure to others. Sapphires and real lace depreciate rapidly in the cloister or the desert.

The envy which luxury sometimes creates is also altruistic in character, for in its last analysis, it is the wish to give pleasure to others, in the same degree, as the envied fortunately may. Nothing is happiness which is not shared by at least one other, and nothing is truly sorrow unless it is borne absolutely alone.

(Sidenote: Love)

Love! The delight and the torment of the world! The despair of philosophers and sages, the rapture of poets, the confusion of cynics, and the warrior's defeat!

Love! The bread and the wine of life, the hunger and the thirst, the hurt and the healing, the only wound which is cured by another! The guest who comes like a thief in the night! The eternal question which is its own answer, the thing which has no beginning and no end!

The very blindness of it is divine, for it sees no imperfections, takes no reck of faults, and concerns itself only with the hidden beauty of the soul.

It is unselfishness--yet it tolerates no rival and demands all for itself. It is belief--and yet it doubts. It is hope and it is also misgiving. It is trust and distrust, the strongest temptation and the power to withstand it; woman's need and man's dream. It is his enemy and his best friend, her weakness and her strength; the roses and the thorns.

Woman's love affairs begin in her infancy, with some childish play at sweethearts, and a cavalier in dresses for her hero. It may be a matter of affinity in later years, or, as the more prosaic Buckle suggests, dependent upon the price of corn, but at first it is certainly a question of propinquity.

Through the kindergarten and the multiplication table, the pretty game goes on. Before she is thirteen, she decides to marry, and selects an awkward boy a little older for the happy man. She cherishes him in her secret heart, and it does not matter in the least if she does not know him well enough to speak to him, for the good fairies who preside over earthly destinies will undoubtedly lead The Prince to become formally acquainted at the proper time.

(Sidenote: The Self-Conscious Period)

Later, the self-conscious period approaches and Mademoiselle becomes solicitous as to ribbons and personal adornment. She pleads earnestly for long gowns, and the first one is never satisfying unless it drags. If she can do her hair in a twist "just like mamma's," and see the adored one pass the house, while she sits at the window with sewing or book, she feels actually "grown up."

When she begins to read novels, her schoolmates, for the time being, are cast aside, because none of them are in the least like the lovers who stalk through the highly-coloured pages of the books she likes best. The hero is usually "tall and dark, with a melancholy cast of countenance," and there are fascinating hints of some secret sorrow. The watchful maternal parent is apt to confiscate these interesting volumes, but there are always school desks and safe places in the neighbourhood of pillows, and a candle does not throw its beams too far.

The books in which the love scenes are most violent possess unfading charm. A hero who says "darling" every time he opens his finely-chiselled mouth is very near perfection. That fondness lasts well into the after-years, for "darling" is, above all others, the favourite term of endearment with a woman.

Were it not for the stern parents and wholesome laws as to age, girls might more often marry their first loves. It is difficult to conjecture what the state of civilisation might be, if it were common for people to marry their first loves, regardless of "age, colour, or previous condition of servitude."

(Sidenote: Age and Colour)

Age and colour are all-important factors with Mademoiselle. She could not possibly love a boy three weeks younger than herself, and if her eyes are blue and her hair light, no blondes need apply.

There is a curious delusion, fostered by phrenologists and other amiable students of "temperament," to the effect that a brunette must infallibly fall in love with a blonde and vice versa. What dire misfortune may result if this rule is not followed can be only surmised, for the phrenologists do not know. Still, the majority of men are dark and it is said they do not marry as readily as of yore--is this the secret of the widespread havoc made by peroxide of hydrogen?

The lurid fiction fever soon runs its course with Mademoiselle, if she is let alone, and she turns her attention once more to her schoolmates. She has at least a dozen serious attacks before she is twenty, and at that ripe age, is often a little blasé.

(Sidenote: The Pastime and the Dream)

But the day soon comes when the pretty play is over and the soft eyes widen with fear. She passes the dividing line between childhood and womanhood when she first realises that her pastime and her dream have forged chains around her inmost soul. This, then, is what life holds for her; it is ecstasy or torture, and for this very thing she was made.

Some man exists whom she will follow to the end of the world, right royally if she may, but on her knees if she must. The burning sands of the desert will be as soft grass if he walks beside her, his voice will make her forget her thirst, and his touch upon her arm will change her weariness into peace.

When he beckons she must answer. When he says "come," she must not stay. She must be all things to him--friend, comrade, sweetheart, wife. When the infinite meaning of her dream slowly dawns upon her, is it strange that she trembles and grows pale?

Soon or late it comes to all. Sometimes there is terror at the sudden meeting and Love often comes in the guise of a friend. But always, it brings joy which is sorrow, and pain which is happiness--gladness which is never content.

A woman wants a man to love her in the way she loves him; a man wants a woman to love him in the way he loves her, and because the thing is impossible, neither is satisfied.

(Sidenote: The Strongest Passion)

Man's emotion is far stronger than woman's. His feeling, when it is deep, is a force which a woman may but dimly understand. The strongest passion of a man's life is his love for his sweetheart; woman's greatest love is lavished upon her child.

"One is the lover and one is the loved." Sometimes the positions are reversed, to the misery of all concerned, but normally, man is the lover. He wins love by pleading for it, and there is no way by which a woman may more surely lose it, for while woman's pity is closely akin to Love, man's pity is a poor relation who wears Love's cast-off clothes.

There are two other ways in which a woman loses her lover. One is by marrying him and the other by retaining him as her friend. If she can keep him as her friend, she never believes in his love, and husbands and lovers are often two very different possessions.

A man's heart is an office desk, wherein tender episodes are pigeon-holed for future reference. If he is too busy to look them over, they are carried off later in Father Time's junk-wagon, like other and more profane history.

All the isolated loves of a woman's life are woven into a single continuous fabric. Love itself is the thing she needs and the man who offers it seldom matters much. Man loves and worships woman, but woman loves love. Were it not so, there would be no actor's photograph upon the matinée girl's dressing-table, and no bit of tender verse would be fastened to her cushion with a hat pin, while she herself was fancy free.

(Sidenote: Gift and Giver)

All her life long she confuses the gift with the giver, and loving with the pride of being loved, because her love is responsive rather than original.

(Sidenote: The Forgotten Harp)

She demands that the lover's devotion shall continue after marriage; that every look shall be tender and every word adoring. Failing this, she knows that love is dead. She is inevitably disappointed in marriage, because she is no longer his fear, intoxication, and pain, but rather his comrade and friend. The vibrant strings, struck from silence and dreams to a sounding chord, are trembling still--whispering lingering music to him who has forgotten the harp.

When a woman once tells a man she loves him, he regards it as some chemical process which has taken place in her heart and he never considers the possibility of change. He is little concerned as to its expression, for he knows it is there. On the contrary, it is only by expression that a woman ever feels certain of a man's love.

Doubt is the essential and constant quality of her nature, when once she loves. She continually demands new proof and new devotion, consoling herself sometimes with the thought that three days ago he said he loved her and there has been no discord since.

As for him, if his comfort is assured, he never thinks to question her, for men are as blind as Love. If she seems glad to see him and is not distinctly unpleasant, she may even be a little preoccupied without arousing suspicion. A man likes to feel that he is loved and a woman likes to be told.

The use of any faculty exhausts it. The ear, deafened by a cannon, is incapable for the moment of hearing the human voice. The eyes, momentarily blinded by the full glare of the sun, miss the delicate shades of violet and sapphire in the smoke from a wood fire. We soon become accustomed to condiments and perfume, and the same law applies to sentiment and emotion.

(Sidenote: The Lover's Devotion)

Thus it seems to women that men love spasmodically--that the lover's devotion is a series of unrelated acts based upon momentary impulse, rather than a steady purpose. They forget that the heart may need more rest than the interval between beats.

(Sidenote: Attraction and Repulsion)

If a man and woman who truly loved each other were cast away upon a desert island, he would tire of her long before she wearied of him. The sequence of attraction and repulsion, the ultimate balance of positive and negative, are familiar electrical phenomena. Is it unreasonable to suppose that the supreme form of attraction is governed by the same law?

Strong attractions frequently begin with strong repulsions, sometimes mutual, but more often on the part of the attracting force. A man seldom develops a violent and inexplicable hatred for a woman and later finds that it has unaccountably changed to love.

Yet a woman often marries a man she has sincerely hated, and the explanation is simple enough, perhaps, for a woman never hates a man unless he is in some sense her master. Love and hate are kindred passions with a woman and the depth of the one is the possible measure of the other.

She is wise who fully understands her weapon of coquetry. She will send her lover from her at the moment his love is strongest, and he will often seek her in vain. She will be parsimonious with her letters and caresses and thus keep her attraction at its height. If he is forever unsatisfied, he will always be her lover, for satiety must precede repulsion.

No woman need fear the effect of absence upon the man who honestly loves her. The needle of the compass, regardless of intervening seas, points forever toward the north. Pitiful indeed is she who fails to be a magnet and blindly becomes a chain.

The age has brought with it woman's desire for equality, at least in the matter of love. She wishes to be as free to seek a man as he is to seek her--to love him as freely and frankly as he does her. Why should she withhold her lips after her heart has surrendered? Why should she keep the pretence of coyness long after she has been won?

(Sidenote: The Old, Old Law)

Far beneath the tinsel of our restless age lies the old, old law, and she who scorns it does so at the peril of all she holds most dear. Legislation may at times be disobeyed, but never law, for the breaking brings swift punishment of its own.

Too often a generous-hearted woman makes the mistake of full revelation. She wishes him to understand her every deed, her every thought. Nothing is left to his imagination--the innermost corners of her heart are laid bare. Given the woman and the circumstances, he would infallibly know her action. This is why the husbands of the "practical," the "methodical," and the "reasonable" women may be tender and devoted, but are never lovers after marriage.

If Alexander had been a woman, he would not have sighed for more worlds to conquer--woman asks but one. If his world had been a clever woman he would have had no time for alien planets, because a man will never lose his interest in a woman while his conquest is incomplete.

The woman who is most tenderly loved and whose husband is still her lover, carefully conceals from him the fact that she is fully won. There is always something he has yet to gain.

(Sidenote: A Carmen at Heart)

After ten years of marriage, if the old relation remains the same, it is because she is a Carmen at heart. She is alluring, tempting, cajoling and scorning in the same breath; at once tender and commanding, inspiring both love and fear, baffling and eluding even while she is leading him on.

She gives him veiled hints of her real personality, but he never penetrates her mask. Could he see for an instant into the secret depths of her soul, he would understand that her concealment and her coquetry, her mystery and her charm, are nothing but her love, playing a desperate game against Time and man's nature, for the dear stake of his own.

Dumas draws a fine distinction when he says: "A man may have two passions but never two loves: whoever has loved twice has never loved at all." If this is true, the dividing line is so exceedingly fine that it is beyond woman's understanding, and it may be surmised that even man does not fully realise it until he is old and grey.

(Sidenote: The Cords of Memory)

Yet somewhere, in every man's heart, is hidden a woman's face. To that inner chamber no other image ever finds its way. The cords of memory which hold it are strong as steel and as tender as the heart-fibre of which they are made.

There is no time in his life when those eyes would not thrill him and those lips make him tremble--no hour when the sound of that voice would not summon him like a trumpet-call.

No loyalty or allegiance is powerful enough to smother it within his own heart, in spite of the conditions to which he may outwardly conform. Other passions may temporarily hide it even from his own sight, yet in reality it is supreme, from the day of its birth to the door of his grave.

He may be happily married, as the world counts happiness, and She may be dead--but never forgotten. No real love or hate is wrought upon by Lethe. The thousand dreams of her will send his blood in passionate flow and the thousand memories of her whiten his face with pain. Friendship is intermittent and passion forgets, but man's single love is eternal.

Because woman's love is responsive, it never dies. Her love of love is everlasting. Some threads in the fabric she has woven are like shining silver; others are sombre, broken, and stained with tears. When a man has once taught a woman to believe his love is true, she is already, though unconsciously, won.

All the beauty in woman's life is forever associated with her love. Violets bring the memory of dead days, when the boy-lover brought them to her in fragrant heaps. Some women say man's love is selfish, but there is no one among them who has ever been loved by a boy.

(Sidenote: Some Lost Song)

Broken, hesitant chords set some lost song to singing in her heart. The break in her lover's voice is like another, long ago. Summer days and summer fields, silver streams, and clouds of apple blossoms set against the turquoise sky, bring back the Mays of childhood and all the childish dreams.

This is another thing a man cannot understand--that every little tenderness of his wakes the memory of all past tenderness, and for that very reason is often doubly sweet. This is the explanation of sudden sadness, of the swift succession of moods, and of lips, shut on sobs, that sometimes quiver beneath his own.

Woman keeps alive the old ideals. Were it not for her eager efforts, chivalry would have died long ago. King Arthur's Court is said to be a myth, and Lancelot and Guenevere were only dreams, but the knightly spirit still lives in man's love for woman.

(Sidenote: The Lady of the Court)

The Lady of the Court was wont to send her knight into danger at her sweet, capricious will. Her glove upon his helmet, her scarf upon his arm, her colours on his shield--were they worth the risk of horse and spear? Yet the little that she gave him, made him invincible in the field.

To-day there is a subtle change. She is loved as dearly as was Guenevere, but she gives him neither scarf nor glove. Her love in his heart is truly his shield and his colours are the white of her soul.

He needs no gage but her belief, and having that, it is a trust only a coward will betray. The battle is still to the strong, but just as surely her knight comes back with his shield untarnished, his colours unstained, and his heart aglow with love of her who gave him courage.

The centuries have brought new striving, which the Lady of the Court could never know. The daughter of to-day endeavours to be worthy of the knightly worship--to be royal in her heart and queenly in her giving; to be the exquisitely womanly woman he sees behind her faulty clay, so that if the veil of illusion he has woven around her should ever fall away, the reality might be even fairer than his dream.

Through the sombre pages of history the knights and ladies move, as though woven in the magic web of the Lady of Shalott. Tournament and shield and spear, the Round Table and Camelot, have taken on the mystery of fables and dreams.

(Sidenote: By Grace of Magic)

Yet, by the grace of magic, the sweet old story lives to-day, unforgotten, because of its single motive. Elaine still dies for love of Lancelot, Isolde urges Tristram to new proofs of devotion, and Guenevere, the beautiful, still shares King Arthur's throne. For chivalry is not dead--- it only sleeps--and the nobleness and valour of that far-off time are ever at the service of her who has found her knight.

(The end)
Myrtle Reed's essay: Philosophy Of Love

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