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And In the End…

and in the end

The Beatles were one of the great rock bands of all time, and they are a band I listened to throughout my life. Most of those who are familiar with me personally know that John Lennon is one of my all-time heroes, but it is surprising that the single lyric that I believe is the most beautiful and most important written in the 20th century was penned by Paul McCartney. It’s from the Abbey Road album and is simply put “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” What a beautiful sentiment. Even now, nearly forty years after I first heard it, just listening to McCartney warble it is enough to bring tears to my eyes. Of course, I’m an old softie in that regard.

And it is wrong. It is as hopeful a line as ever written but for most of us, there is an imbalance. Some of us take far more love than we make. Now, I don’t view this as referring to the act of making love; I believe it refers to love given and love received. Now, there are plenty of people who are close enough to balanced to make the line true for most, but when you think of Donald Trump, do you think he has given as much love as he has received? Or Mother Teresa? Or Ellen de Generes? Or even John Lennon?

Lennon was far from perfect. He wrote a song as hopeful as “Imagine” but on the same album  he excoriates McCartney with “How Do You Sleep.” The preaching of love and tolerance on one hand doesn’t mix well with the savaging he gives his old writing partner. I guess it’s easier to love people in general than people in particular.

Still, the sentiment is one to be admired. When I go out, I would like to have given more love than I receive. It’s not a desire to be a martyr or anything like that – trust me, I get plenty of love – but the world needs love, as Burt Bacharach – and John Lennon – have written. These days especially. Love seems to be in short supply. We may mock the hippies for their “peace and love” attitude, but I have to tell you they weren’t wrong on that score. Not that I’m ever going to embrace patchouli oil – that stuff stinks!

And I know, it’s so much easier said than done. I’m guilty of growling that people suck when I see them behave selfishly on the road, or elect another Republican to office. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration, particular in an era when it feels like selfishness is encouraged and selflessness ridiculed. When being generous and kind is made fun of as a sucker’s game, we’re in trouble as a species.

That’s why we all need to take a step back. I don’t know if you believe in karma, but I do believe that the attitudes we send out are reflected back to us by the world. If you believe the world is out to get you then it likely is. If you believe that the world is a beautiful place then so it is. Sure, that’s not going to insulate you from getting burned – no matter how much love you send into the ether there will always be those who return harm. That’s the nature of the game folks. None of us are exempt from emotional hurt.

And yet what defines us is how we react. Do we lash out and say “Screw everybody, I’m hurt and now I’m going to hurt others instead of getting hurt” or do we get back on the horse and send out our love? Which one do you think makes the world a better place?

And that’s what it boils down to. Do we want to make the world a better place or do we just want to bitch about what a horrible hard place it is? It begins with us. We can’t force others to open the hearts and send good feelings into the world; we can only do it ourselves. We can’t legislate compassion but we can experience it. Rather than blaming the poor for their troubles, we can find ways to make their lives better, either through education or finding them work. Instead of getting angry at climate change deniers, we can take steps to reduce our own carbon footprints. Instead of complaining about politicians, we can actually go out there and find a candidate who is worthy of our support and go out there and vote for them. Talking the talk isn’t enough in this day and age; we have to walk the walk.

And in the end, we can show our love in all sorts of ways, using the skills and talents we are given. Singing a song out loud can brighten the day of someone who needs a pick-me-up; taking out some ice cold sodas to a bunch of guys working out in the summer heat is one way of spreading good karma even if you don’t believe in it; trust me, the act of doing someone a solid is enough to make you feel good for hours.

Lennon did write “All you need is love” and like McCartney he was wrong in that assessment; we need more than love. But we do need love, all of us. We crave it; we wither without it. A kind word or gesture can be as healing as medicine. Hugs can be the stuff of wonderful memories and can color our perception of life and the world around us. Some people write off serial huggers as kooks, but I think that I’d rather be kooky than rational in that regard.

The ills of the world are many and I don’t have any illusions that giving out more hugs and being kinder in general is going to cure many of them, if any. Maybe it’s just a karmic version of shouting into the abyss but by God I’d rather shout into the darkness than cower at it. There is far too much fear and anger and not enough love and compassion. I have to believe the world would be a much better place if we all just made the attempt to be sure that the love we make is at least a little more than the love we take. Isn’t it worth a try? The other way doesn’t seem to be working.


A Celebration to be Shared

There are many who call Valentine’s Day a Hallmark holiday, an excuse to improve the bottom lines of the chocolate, greeting card and flower industries. It is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, and a bonanza for retailers that sell jewelry and lingerie. To the cynical, Valentine’s Day is more about the love of money than anything else.

While I concede that the commercialization of the holiday has meant that there’s a certain pressure to spend money, I can’t agree that the day is about making profits than making love. More men propose marriage to their girlfriends on Valentine’s Day than any other day of the year. There are more kisses, more hugs and more secret smiles exchanged than any other day. For my non-financial bottom line, that tips the balances quite a bit.

We are quite stingy with our love in many ways. We are told from birth that we give love only to our families and maybe a few selected friends. We allow only limited access to our hearts – very often we deny it even to ourselves.

I personally think that’s an unhealthy thing. Love is a gift meant to be shared, and the more that it is shared, the greater it becomes. Love is an exponential emotion; when you give it, it grows at a staggering clip. Burt Bacharach had the right idea when he penned “What the world needs now is love” and that is still true today. Our world is filled with selfishness, greed and frustration. Kindness and forgiveness are in short supply but there’s plenty of rage to go around. Anger, like love, is also and exponential emotion.

I’m not suggesting we all daub ourselves with patchouli oil and run out to the nearest public park and make love to the first person we see. Free love can be tragically expensive in a world of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases that can have devastating effects on our lives. However, I think that we should allow ourselves to love more broadly. Give people the benefit of your heart and you will receive the benefit of theirs.

Valentine’s Day can be a difficult holiday for many who are alone. There are those who are acutely reminded of that fact on a day that celebrates romance. There are others whose relationships aren’t what they would like them to be who spend the day wondering if they are with the right person, or sure that they’re not. Some of them feel trapped by their circumstances, while others simply are too terrified to be alone. The loneliest place to be in the world is in a bad relationship; it’s like buying the car you always wanted only to discover that the brakes don’t work. You sit at your window, your useless vehicle parked in your driveway while others whiz by in their working models.

Love is something we all crave. We need it as surely as we need oxygen. The touch of a human hand can make us feel better, even the touch of a stranger’s hand. In many ways, we spend our lives chasing it and sometimes fruitlessly. Often we look for love by pursuing sex.

Sex is wonderful and terrible at the same time. It is the most pleasurable thing we can do and yet the consequences for doing it can be severe. We have a tendency to use sex as a love substitute, knowingly or not. Making love is not the same thing as love, but it can be a close second when you don’t have that life partner that we all want and need so desperately. Still, sex is wonderful; we spend a lot of our time thinking about it and talking about it. Because of our physical urges, we are forced to confront our needs; we ignore them at our peril. If we can’t find satisfaction in our relationship physically, we may turn outside the relationship to get that relief, even though every other aspect of that relationship may be fine.

The secret to good sex is simply a willingness to do whatever it takes to satisfy your partner. Sometimes that may mean going outside your comfort zone, or accepting that the things that turn them on may be different than the things that turn you on. A balance needs to be struck as in anything else so that both partners get what they want. Ladies that may mean doing things that are distasteful to you and for you gentlemen that may mean actually listening to your partner and making sure she gets what she needs even after you’ve gotten what you do. It means submitting to your playful side and being creative; it means exploring, trying new things and being adventurous. Good sex can cure a lot of what ails you.

Sex isn’t the whole enchilada, however – it’s just the tortilla that wraps around the stuffing. Most of us order our enchiladas based on the stuffing and it is the stuffing that ultimately gives us the most satisfaction. We simply can’t make love to everybody – it’s not realistic. We can, however, hug everybody. We can kiss everybody. We can tell them that we care, that we love them and that they aren’t alone so long as we’re around. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be a day just for your lover; it should be a day that celebrates love itself.

By all means, get the dinner reservations, order the flowers and eat the chocolates. Ladies, put on your lingerie and gentlemen go out and buy the jewelry that expresses how we feel in ways that words can’t. Celebrate the love that you feel for the love of your life – just don’t stop the celebration there. Make sure that you tell everyone you love how you feel, even the people who don’t know it yet. Call a friend and catch up, or hug a stranger.

Love is a commodity more precious than oil, and even more necessary to our ability to survive. It’s a commodity that is rare in that it increases the more you use it, and the more you use it the more precious it becomes. Let’s use this Valentine’s Day as an excuse to share that commodity with as many people we can, and when the day is over, keep sharing it. Treat every day like Valentine’s Day and you may find that when all is said in done, you’ve had a wonderful life.