Love: “Variations on a Theme”

Sometimes a poem always comes to me. One which has been a favorite since I first read it thirty years ago. A poem which always reminded me of myself even before I understand what it fully might mean, and after I’ve have frenetic times of passion, violence and love.

The Lady of Shallott (1888) by John Waterhouse
The Lady of Shallott (1888) by John Waterhouse

The Lady of Shallott by Lord Alfred Tennyson
(in portion)

“There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad
Goes by to tower’d Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.”

How is it when you love someone?  When it is not a matter of touch, or shared goals or sex and such things? How is it when it is pure ideal?

I read a review from an incredulous female reader who discounted the possibility or likelihood of men who were attracted to each other still staying apart and never truly interacting for years. That person obviously does not know the possibility of gay relationships or those who are involved in them.

I love someone. I’ve loved him a long time. Almost ten years. Such if the nature of people who’ve made choices and then respected them. The men who had questions or had loved other men but did choose to marry a woman and naturally have children and keep a life together. You still may love someone else, or fantasize of same sex love, but you respect the bond you’ve made, the partner you’ve allied yourself to. You don’t cheat on them even if in your mind and heart emotionally you are more connected to someone else, another man.

That is what keeps two people apart who continue to respect the lives they had previously chosen and been a part of. For many love is never easy and relationships can be pure hell.

And so I romanticized myself as “The Lady of Shallott”, not withstanding I wasn’t a “lady”. I knew what it was to either love someone and they didn’t love you in return, or seeing someone and falling helplessly into a passionate connection to them which cannot be fulfilled. Loving someone who loves someone else…that is indeed an exceptional agony.

So this connects to my writing. Sometimes people have a difficult life or personality which has the need to create a happily ever after ending no matter what, but that is something for which I have no ability or need to emulate although I can well understand.

Maybe because I’ve been buffetted emotionally (among other things), seen, observed, experienced and survived so much in my own life plus my cultural heritage and personality….that a HEA is not something which in anyway seems logical or believable even if in a fiction genre. It is neither satisfying or enjoyable most of the time. The ability to overcome and/or learn something for a situation or relationship, even if it was not successful, is what is highest to me. The continuation of growth. The zen of unlearning and continual learning which sees nothing as static or defined. It sees nothing as expected or intentional. One is always learning.

Some people read fiction to escape. I read fiction to experience the variety real people can create in a fictional setting of what is real and utterly the complexities that is life. I do not accept formulas as rote. I do not regard those who limit themselves to one minimalistic ideal or perceived reality.

Love has no one definition, nor a thousand or a million. It is different for people, every single one, even if we sometimes agree on a certain representations. That is the same of what some term as “gay love” or “hetero love”, or any other intergender or transgendered reality.

Loss is loss. Pain is pain. Agony is agony.

Those who say they cannot identify with a plot or theme of love just because it involves two men or two women in comparison to a man and a woman, has not truly understood what love is.

Love has no gender or bounds. It has no formulas. It has no “should be’s” or “shouldn’t be’s”. Those who compartmentalize love, lovers and living in such ways have not understood or truly experienced love because they still possess the ability to discount or scorn the possibility of it in others who simply love a different way.

8 thoughts on “Love: “Variations on a Theme”

  1. I’ve actually pondered the nature of love with my father, speaking to him specifically about how true love has to exist because he disagrees with me on this topic (never having found it in his life). I told him that the strongest evidence I had to the contrary was the existence of Shakespeare’s sonnets…obviously written to someone. That kind of inspiration doesn’t just “emerge” on its own but I believe has to have a catalyst for the release of Oxytocin (considered by scientists to be the “love” chemical).

    1. Honestly I don’t see how someone could discount or disbelief an emotion simply because they’ve not experienced it themselves. There is powerful evidence otherwise, whether that true love is of a romantic type between adults or that experienced by a parent towards their child, or vice versa. Poetry is poetry to be sure, but neither someone’s expression of their feelings through poetry would be evidence to me that true love exists.

      I think people overthink love and several things besides. Some try to point to some tangible thing or words or chemical which explains what stimulates love, when by it’s very nature love is intangible and undefineable, or defined in so many different ways that there is no definitive meaning.

      I am a psychology major and so have studied, and will continue to study, the various effects of chemicals in the body and brain which affect emotion and emotional expression, but that’s a clinical reality and finding which isn’t necessary for love. Thousands of years ago people loved, powerful devotion, attraction and commitment, and expression….yet they didn’t know of the scientifically based results we have access to today.

      Similarly, as a private chef I am aware of culinary science and how the consuming of certain foods similarly cause a release of chemicals in the brain relating to pleasure. It is very interesting and amazing in it’s way, yet just the same, when it comes down to it: you like what you like. If it has a pleasing appearance on your plate, it heightens your enjoyment. Some foods give a superlative feeling of satisfaction and joy. It’s simply a part of life, whether you know the internal equations or not.

      1. With all do respect to your profession Red, psychology is not an exact science. Because of this, the hard thinkers will have a difficult time in grasping the idea of love especially when it has eluded them all of their lives. Everything that we are is chemical. If you deny this, then you are turning your back on facts. You may “like what you like” but this in and of itself is more complex than you realize. Take for example Body Image Disorder or B.I.D. In a now famous case study, a man who wanted very much to have his leg amputated was refused this operation because there was simply nothing wrong with his healthy leg. Yet he insisted that it didn’t belong on his body. Scientists at UCLA hooked him up to a machine and measured unusual responses in the limbic system center of his brain. Shortly after that, he took it in his own hands and amputated his leg and has experienced nothing but joy since. However, these same scientists believe they are on the verge of creating a drug that will alter how the limbic system processes joy. The ultimate implication of this is that they may be able to change exactly what you find attractive with a mere chemical. Deny it if you want…but this is coming down the pipe in another couple of generations. Too late for us, but a new generation of people are going to discover vastly different perceptions of love and pleasure through drugs.

      2. First and foremost, in nothing I said did I suggest turning ones back on facts. Additionally, you attempt to inform me as if I do not know what you are referencing. I have studied both the emotional and hard scientific research and facts, as well as the medical and scientific aspects of being human. I am replying by way of explanation for I do not need to justify to you or anyone else the basis for my post or my initial response to you.

        My trademark quote is “I welcome questions. I hate assumptions.”

        You made the assumption that I thought psychology was an exact science, as well as that I possibly didn’t know that all things we experience from sexual stimulation to the enjoyment of food is based on chemical reactions. You also assumed that I was not aware of the studies you mentioned, nor the research which is taking place.

        I usually am objective in interacting with someone because I realize they don’t know me personally, and you do not know me at all….but your comment is full of conjecture, condescension and a total lack of comprehension on what I stated and why.

        I did not deny anything so I find it almost incredulous that you made the statements: “If you deny this, then you are turning your back on facts,” and “Deny it if you want…but this is coming down the pipe in another couple of generations.” Are you serious? Did you even step back to think what you were saying was totally without knowledge on the individual and would come across almost in an insultory manner? Whether you did or not, that is how it came across Kavrik.

        You didn’t bother to ask for clarification, you simply assumed what you thought I was saying and that it was your place to correct my supposely erroneous position. “You may “like what you like” but this in and of itself is more complex than you realize”? You don’t know what I realize and couldn’t possibly, so that is yet another statement which is incorrect.

        I do not have to use complex terms or ideas to get my idea across to anyone. I am writing a blog posting for a general public. I am not writing a dissertation or an article for a journal of medicine or psychiatry to be reviewed by my peers, although I do, do so as required. I find your response to be the epitome of a kind of educated superciliousness which is completely unnecessary and derogatory, though perhaps not intentionally so. I simply find it pointless to possibly alienate someone with conjecture as if you know everything, than simply asking them a question before jumping to far wrong conclusions, which is in no way scientific.

  2. Red, I apologize if I came across as condescending. I thought we were just having a discussion and I didn’t think that my words were coming across like that at all. The only reason I added a comment to your post was because I find you an extremely intelligent and thoughtful person and wanted to chime in on this thought-provoking topic. But I meant no offense. I think in re-reading my post, my use of the word “you” which wasn’t necessarily directed at “you” but rather at “people” in general may have set the wrong tone.

    1. I have noted that in the English and more specifically in the USA, some choose discussion styles include word choice and format which seems to be designed to attempt to place someone on the defensive by using projective phrases which are incorrect or questionable.

      Although English isn’t my first language, I am aware of the variances of the use of “you” in the plural sense both in English and the language I speak which incidentally is a culture and society which thrives on discussion, debate and even arguments at times. I am quite used to discussion, but also to a kind which doesn’t utilize assumptions. Asking questions is simply more expeditious and keeps misunderstandings to a minimum.

      I’ve only been mad twice in my life, so honestly, nothing anyone could say or do online could provoke that.

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