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Guest Column

Love proves indescribable, especially when you're in it

By JACK BRAY
Published February 14, 2007


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"What is this thing called love? This funny thing called love. Just who can solve its mystery?"

Seventy-eight years ago, Cole Porter wrote those lyrics for the Broadway show, Wake Up And Dream. We still ask that question and, in fact, always have since we first felt a strong, emotional attraction to someone.

Today is the day that we celebrate love with the feast of St. Valentine. Across the country, candy, flowers, cards and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in his name.

According to one legend, Valentine was a third-century priest in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform secret marriages for young lovers.

When Claudius learned of this, he ordered Valentine to be put to death. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with a young girl who visited him. Before his beheading, the story goes, he wrote her a letter which he signed, "From your Valentine." It became a tradition for Roman men to give those they admired handwritten messages of affection signed the same way.

Nice. But what is this thing called love?

It is one of the most used and, I have to believe, misused words in our language. We say, "I'd love to smack you" as easily as, "I love you." We sing that love is a "many-splendored thing," we freely throw around phrases such as "love makes the world go round," "love is in the air," "love is everywhere" and "love is never having to say you're sorry." But, what is this thing called love?

No one really knows. Oh, we know when we are in love, we know the pain of losing love or someone we loved. (The 13th-century Catholic theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, defined hell as the absence of God's love.) But we cannot define that emotion, that feeling. (Interestingly, we have the capacity to hate as much as to love. But that's for another time.)

But if we had to define love, I believe St. Paul said it best when he wrote to the Corinthians more than 2,000 years ago, "Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."

In the end, I suppose, it really doesn't matter that we cannot put our intellect around the concept of love as if it were something to hug. What matters is that we can love, and when we have loved or been loved, it was, well, indescribable.

So, here's to having love in our lives. Say those wonderful words, "I love you," to that special someone.

And, guys, don't forget the flowers.

Jack Bray is a retired broadcasting executive who lives in Dunedin.

[Last modified February 13, 2007, 23:21:13]


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