In an attempt to provoke my charges to think outside themselves for moment before their journal-write and lay the ground work for the day’s lesson, I asked a couple of questions and instigating one of those class discussions that drive politicians to distraction and apoplectic state-testing mavens to foam at the mouth as they try to measure it and hold it up to the state-standards measuring stick.
(indent)“Build a better mouse trap,” I began. “Have any of you ever heard this phrase before?” Few had, so I explained the premise that some things are hard to improve on, but if you could, really could, you’d make a fortune.
(indent)“Do you think you might be able to come up with something else to say besides, ‘I love you’ that might mean as much and illicit the same reaction?”
Oh, I got a few ‘call-outs’ on that one. “I want you!” (gag), “I uber-like you,” and “Would you like to use my smart-phone?” but overall they offered nothing in earnest.
I upped the ante, “Do you think you can come up with something that would inspire the listener or receiver of your verbal affection to be as excited to receive it each and every time as they were the first few times you said it?”
(indent)“On the average, why doesn’t ‘I love you’ mean as much to most folk the 1001 time they hear it as opposed the first time? How is it that even the pan-ultimate expression, ‘I love you’ is not so ultimate after a while?”
(indent)“You get used to it.”
(indent)“It’s just something we hear too much.”
(indent)“You’re supposed to say it after awhile (in a relationship).
(indent)“We were just talking about this the other day, remember?”
(indent)“It’s in all the songs and movies.”
(indent)“Everyone uses it for anything.”
(indent)“Peeps are like that.”
(indent)“I don’t want to talk about it.’
(indent)“You’re saying that it might have something to do with how overused the word is then: “I love this song!” or “I love those shoes,” or “I’d love some,” or “Luv U” or “…love me tender, love me sweet…” ?
(indent)“How would it be then,” I asked, “if you could only use the word “love” once a month? Maybe during the full moon. And you could only use it with one person: boy-friend, girl-friend, mom, dad, dog, cat—your choice but only once. I don’t know how it would be, but no matter what, if you used the word, some way, some how, you couldn’t say it again, even if you tried, until the moon was again full a month later.”
Crickets once again reigned, but this time, behold, the wheels were at work. 5…4…3…2…1…,
(indent)“Dude, Mr. P. that would be hard.”
(indent)“I couldn’t do that!”
(indent)“Could I save ‘em up?”
(indent)“My girl friend would be pissed ‘cause she’s gotta hear it like all the time.”
(indent)“Even my mom?”
(indent)“We should say it once a week…”
(indent)“Oh god, it would cause so much drama.”
(indent)“That’s an awesome idea. Can we do it for extra-credit?”
(indent)“Yeah, that’d suck.”
(indent)“We’d just come up with somethin’ else that didn’t mean nothin’”
(indent)“I love you all…excellent, now I’m done and Jose won’t bug me ‘til the moon is full.”
(indent)“Yeah, I’d have to get everyone in the same room…could I do that Mr. P.?”
(indent)“I’d make a poster…hey, no, what about a tattoo?”
(indent)“Could I write it or sign it?”
(indent)“I think, I’d have to break up.”
(indent)“You are definitely crazy, Mr. P.”
But what about it? I wonder how much more precious the word would be. How much more fraught with meaning it might be. What if even in the most passionate and intimate of embraces there was but one chance to whisper it into our lover’s ear and that would be it for another four weeks? How much more loving would we be if we couldn’t use it as a crutch, a stopgap, a throw away comment offered because we are too tired, too distracted, too guilty, too relieved, too involved, too bored, too trained. Would we show it, act it, express it more creatively, actually live the damned word. No more talking the talk but walking the walk? It would no longer be like junk jewelry cheapened by familiarity. The true offering would be seen for what it was, treasure beyond price, not some sort of penny collection in a five-gallon water bottle added to without regard for origin, intent, meaning or value. We would weigh it and consider it; we would plot and plan its use; we would strategically and tactically set it up for the most bang, the most impact, the most reaction. Not just some whispered good-night salutation or off-handed tah-tah as one dashes out the door, or some relationship requirement instigated by an iphone alarm calendar reminder. No! It would be real and heavy with meaning, more precious than virginity, peace of mind or land. No cheap pop-cultured fetish but a real supernatural totem of power.
Would we come up with creative substitutes and push ourselves to come up with new ways to show it rather than say it? On our wedding day, I had my youngest daughter deliver a small chest to my bride. In it were over 1000 smooth stones. These, an enclosed letter explained, were the tactile representations of the estimated remaining weekends, the Saturday’s and Sunday’s of my life, my time to be free from work and worry and to be completely devoted to her and us.
“Each is a weekend, each a time for us. Remove them and when the chest is empty, everything else will be cream and extra, found money in the washer, a delight amongst the mundane…”
Or would we, as most good humans do, consider it for a moment or two, decide it was too hard and come up with one of our lazy work arounds? Would we find a substitute? Would we hand out a cards with hearts on them and say, “You know what I mean”? Would we offer stones…gem stones…and say, “From my heart” or some other motion that at first blush might raise goose-bumps but which, later on, would be simply more of the same?
Or is it more of a team thing, wherein we, the receivers, need a melon adjustment too? Wherein we need to receive, cherish and delight in the simple “I love you” for all it means. Both needing to remember how easy it is to mindlessly treat the phrase as a second thought. Both needing to be aware how easy it is to utter, easy to listen to, the three words, but that it takes an active heart to truly say them and a receptive heart to truly hear them as they are meant to be uttered and understood.
I have often thought that in the hereafter of our lives, when I owe no more to the future and can be just a man, that we may meet, and you will come to me and claim me as yours, and know that I am your husband. It is a dream I have…
Originally posted in The Salamander’s Quill 1.0 now deleted.