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That Four Letter Word

Updated on March 20, 2015

"All you need is Love."

Now there's a catchy phrase. Well, there's nothing like a good slogan to get you through the hard times:

“Workers of the world, unite!”

“Make love, not war!”

“See the U.S.A in your Chevrolet!”

Well, maybe not so much that last one which was part of a rather successful advertising campaign in the early 1960s. As with the best popular songs, most everyone recognized the melody and could la-la along from start to finish, but it was a rare person who knew any of the words beyond the hook line which, unlike the popular song model of the day, was the first thing you heard. Nothing beyond those six words mattered. Saying or hearing the words “I love you” works much the same way. What else is there to say? What else can you say?

The mere utterance of those three simple words – at total of eight letters in three groups with two spaces - changes everything to such an extent that pretty much everything else gets kicked to the curb. Kurt Vonnegut said essentially the same thing in his book Palm Sunday: once love is introduced into the equation, it doesn't matter if the sky is black with flying saucers. Everything before that moment is gone for good. It's a whole new ballgame, kiddo, with a new set of rules.

Understand now, I have nothing against love. The very idea of falling in love gives me chills. The heightened sense of anticipation of seeing your beloved is like nothing else in the world. It's too bad people have different ideas of what “love” and “being in love” mean. Even people in love can be hard-pressed to agree on a definition and believe me I know whereof I speak. I've got a string of ex-wives from here to there and back again and about the only time we agreed on the subject of love was when, like Elvis, it had left the building.

Something I do know: “flurries of passion followed by extended periods of gettin' it on” (to quote noted sage and love machine Homer Simpson) aren't necessarily what Love is all about. “Perhaps not, but the physical aspect is an important part of Love.” Yes, but then what are we to make of The Letters of Abelard & Heloise? If you are one of the ever-diminishing number of people who don't see reading a book as a complete waste of their oh-so-precious time, I respectfully suggest you check it out.

(In support of the previous paragraph I can say without fear of contradiction there have been three women in my life whom I truly loved despite the lack of a physical relationship. Given time, such intimacy might have come about but circumstances and events – and occasionally other people – got in the way. It happens. I didn't love them any less for the lack of it and don't believe I would have loved them any more than I already did had we spent our spare time doing the horizontal bop.)

All that being said, the word - “It's so fine, it's sunshine” sang John Lennon – doesn't carry the weight it used to among the general populace. I mean, people have tossed it around, applying it to everything from desserts to television shows to the point where it has become synonymous with “like” and that ain't the way it s'pozed to be. “Like” may be a couple cuts above “tolerable” but it's not even in the same galaxy as “love”. Something you like may sate your appetite, but love will take your breath away, make your heart skip a beat, even if the sky is black with flying saucers . . . so accept no substitute, don't settle for like. To quote John Lennon a final time, it's only love, and love is all you need.


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