“Like lost children, we live our unfinished adventures...”
- Guy Debord
You can be in love with so many things in this lifetime. Love of knowledge and wisdom is philosophy. However, wisdom (especially in its Buddhist translation) is largely about common sense and the utilization of experience. Our modern experience is further inserting communication into our daily lives, but removing us from the artful communication that has ignited, maintained and destroyed love in the past. This Valentine’s Day, along with flowers, candy and the exquisite dinner, why not try a heartfelt handwritten note? Here is our Whitman’s sampler to help draw inspiration.
The most quaint notes have traversed great distances and even in the darkest, nights to keep that ember of love alive. Abigail Adams wrote her husband, John, who was overseas in a diplomatic morass the simplest note. “Should I draw you the picture of my heart it would be what I hope you would still love though it contained nothing new.” After 20-plus years of marriage, Abigail, hinging on doubt, takes comfort in the foundation of their friendship.
The notes of Zelda Sayre to F.Scott Fitzgerald capture the breathlessness of it all, as her entire love note struggles to complete its sentences. Her dashes are present for you to catch your breath as she longingly looks forward to the first sight of his coming home. However, once she is confronted by the reality of their never spending another night apart she quantifies, “It’s like begging for mercy of a storm or killing Beauty or growing old.” Later, as she returns to reality from both zenith and nadir, she casually inserts that she is “inanimate” when he is gone.
What about the silly, ribald and more revealing side? Look no further than the flirtatious correspondence between “friends” Ernest Hemingway and Marlene Dietrich. For 30 years, this pair documented a series of near misses (“Victims of unsynchronized passion”). Here is a man who rewrote the ending of “A Farewell to Arms” 47 times, writing in broken thoughts that all seem to lead to the hopeful physical connection. However, worldly circumstances place all their efforts in a fantasy world where they worked in a nightclub - she as the singer and he as the bouncer.
“We indestructibles should keep good contact. I am an old indestructible and you are a young one. But we know different from the others.” Always leaving with the promise of the next letter, Papa signs off, “I love you as always.”
A good love note needs some statement to emphasize it and not embellish too much. Frida Kahlo in writing Diego Rivera is hopeful there will be no more arguments or disagreements, nothing left between the pair but love. To further prove her point, she ends with, “I adore you more than ever.” While the wordsmith Orson Welles writes Rita Hayworth almost factually (“I suppose most of us are lonely in this big world, but we must fall tremendously in love to find out”). Welles tries to stay level-headed, but eventually gives in to the very thought of it all beckoning “hurry up the sun! – make the days shorter until meet.”
Love unrequited is the most painful beast of them all. Listen to Eric Clapton strain for the words on “Layla” or even how Duckie tries everything to make Andie notice him in “Pretty In Pink,” and you get that ache that has been transferred pain-fully from generation to generation. Clapton and Duckie both at least achieve some kind of release and the cosmos blesses them with a conclusion. However, that conclusion is often the worst part of unrequited love.
And what of simply loving one’s self? In the film “Blue Is The Warmest Color, “confronted by the slings and arrows of love with her new friend Emma, Adele dances alone in the crowd until her moment is the one that unknowingly inspires freedom and release in those all around her. Remind yourself as Whitman professed “I am large. I contain multitudes” or to travel further as W.E. Henley wrote in “Invictus,” “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” Maybe just write a note to yourself.
Let me start with these words from the late Mary Oliver and her poem “Wild Geese.”
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees for a million miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
This is a poem about understanding that you have nothing to prove.
Mik Davis is the record store manager at T- BONE's Records and Cafe and a GED instructor.