CHAPTER ONE Generic Love: A Many-Splendored Thing To love deeply in one direction makes us more loving in all directions. Madame Switchine I do love I know not what; Sometimes this and sometimes that. Robert Herrick There is only one kind of love, but there are a thousand different versions. Francois de la Rochefoucauld Love, it is said, is a many-splendored thing. The various experiences of love, as well as the effects of each experience and the interplay between them, give love its claim to splendor. There are a variety of loves, but they all have the same spirit. The selections in this chapter suggest that this spirit is the generic ingredient in every type of love. Love's splendor is most obvious in its effects, in the way it moves us out of our narrowness to another level of existence. Love, like the stories, poetry, and songs that proclaim its joy and its sorrows, does not lend itself to rational, scientific analysis. Why do two people fall in love? Why is it that a beautiful sunset can dispel the frustration of a rush-hour driver headed home after a busy day? Why does a teenage boy, given to monosyllabic answers and careless dress, suddenly become concerned about his appearance and sound a bit more civilized after a certain young woman smiles at him? Why is it that the birth of a grandchild turns staid, mature adults into euphoric grandparents? Why is it that when we are loved we begin to open ourselves to heretofore-undreamed-of adventures? Why do memories of certain places stir glad feelings? Why does the concern of a friend during a time of trial lighten our burden? Why do all these things happen if not because just even a hint of love arms us against our need always to be on guard, fearful of a loss of self. True love, no matter what its focus, entices our spirits to move out of the constricted confines of self. It impels us to sing a song that encompasses not only our own souls but also the soul of the other, be it a spouse, a child, a neighbor, our community, our neighborhood, the stranger, all humanity, the universe, and beyond. The narrow circle widens each time we feel we are loved as well as each time we allow ourselves to love something or someone. At times the term love is misapplied. People are said to love everything from fame, fortune, power, and prestige to the latest fashion, movie, television show, rock star, or novel. These are false loves when they are based in a compulsion or a sense of greed. Compulsion and greed focus our energies on the acquisition of things as a means of satisfying the ego. We are shaped by what we love, even when these are false loves. The circle narrows. The spirit withers. The dichotomy between our expressed desire to love and be loved and our actions to protect us from what we imagine to be a loss of self sets up obstacles to our participation in the feast of love. Yet, when properly nourished, our ability to love grows. We work our way up to participation in the feast of love when we explore the various love challenges and love opportunities available to us. The spirit thrives. When the spirit thrives, both individuals and communities are open to the splendor of the varieties of loves. When we are mindful of love's possibilities, good things happen. We have a hint of what it means to be real. * * * We seek to understand what it means to love, thinking that once we have the wisdom we will conquer all life's obstacles. Unfortunately, like the he-mouse, we want things our way. Our self-centered desires often make it difficult, if not impossible, to recognize love when it is waiting for us to embrace it. * * * Love took up the glass of Time, and turn'd it in his glowing hands; Every moment, lightly shaken, ranGreeley, Andrew M. is the author of 'Book of Love A Treasury Inspired by the Greatest of Virtues', published 2005 under ISBN 9780312878382 and ISBN 0312878389.