Tag Archives: Love

Three Paragraphs of Philistinism, Barbarity and Anti-social Behavior

The Russians next door have a new daughter. Wanting to be neighborly, we bought them some baby clothes, but couldn’t bring ourselves to deliver the gift for more than a month. “Once you know your neighbors,” Rose Macaulay writes in Crewe Train, “you are no longer free, you are all tangled up, you have to stop and speak when you are out and you never feel safe when you are in.” I have some hope that our neighbors’ poor English skills will save us from the worst.

Before the Russians there was a Norwegian mother with two children the same ages as our own. The youngest, a girl, had an imperious temper and would storm out at the slightest provocation from my daughter. The oldest, a boy, was always trying to sell us hard candies for a dollar each, or paper airplanes for five. My son was thrilled at having a new neighbor friend, but exhausted too. He never complained when, every night at dinner time, I finally had to throw the boy out and close the blinds.

With her customary charm, Macaulay dedicates Crewe Train to “The Philistines, the Barbarians, the Unsociable, and those who do not care to take any trouble.” I suppose I’m one of these, or I was. I used to like nothing better than to be left alone. Nowadays I consider wife and children necessary society. These are the deplorably civilizing effects of love. You may hide yourself in perfect happiness in a hole in the ground, as Macaulay shows, but love will find some mean way to drive you out of it.

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Marginalia, no.235

Love and Cough cannot be hid.

~ George Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs

Apparently I always think of this when I’m sick. A potion to inspire the one, a syrup to cure the other. From Solomon’s Song to Burton’s Anatomy, love and sickness go hand in hand. The wife and kids have had the flu this past week. It’s my turn now. The muscles in my right thigh ache. There’s a canker sore inside my lower lip. I spend all day blowing Rorschach tests into handfuls of tissue. But someone made a mistake. Love – at least in its more vigorous forms – is out of the question.

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Marginalia, no.227

Is not general incivility the very essence of love?

~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

I was once thrown out of a furniture store for daring to return a bunk bed I’d picked up thirty minutes before. On opening the boxes at home, I’d discovered it wasn’t made in the U.S., as was claimed, and was not really solid wood. It smelled of glue and formaldehyde. We didn’t want our kids breathing the fumes at night. “I don’t get you people – environmentalists!” the owner of the store snarled at me. The bed was a special order, he said, and non-returnable. It didn’t matter that no one told me it was a special order. The bed was my problem, not his, and if I didn’t leave the premises, he’d call the cops. Seeing how much he loved me, I tried not to take offence.

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Marginalia, no.161

I always feel like saying to music: ‘It isn’t true! You lie!’

~ Jules Renard, Journal

My seven-year-old son tells me: ‘Esther brought her violin to school and played some Bach, but she pronounced it “batch,” and it was so beautiful I wanted to cry.’ Who was this Esther, I asked, his girlfriend? ‘I don’t want to dance with her by light of the moon or anything,’ he said, ‘but if we got married I could listen to her play “batch” all the time.’  …I wonder if there isn’t an exception, after all, to Neil Young’s golden saying that ‘only love can break your heart.’

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Marginalia, no.125

Love and Cough cannot be hid.

~ George Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs
 
Tubercular cough is visible on an X-ray.  Love is more subtle, or else unsubtle enough to confound subtle means of detection.  Dr Krokowski lectures in The Magic Mountain on the sympathetic relation between love and sickness.  Maybe we can see them as cousinish forms of a more comprehensive malady – call it ‘Human Swooning.’  For weeks now my poor wife has suffered coughing fits that leave her useless ten minutes at a time.  After a specially bad fit this past weekend she looked at me with tears in her eyes, flushed and wheezing, and I thought: ‘See how much she loves me.’

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Marginalia, no.105

I love you as I love that phrase I made up in a dream and which I am unable to remember.

~ Jules Renard, Journal

The best lovers are always escaping each other.  Law is possession, according to the old saw, but love is diplomatic immunity.

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