Tag Archives: Love

Zarathustra Speaks to the Stream

I’ve been away from this blog for a while but recently a few people have encouraged me to return to it. I thought I’d start with the big event that occurred during the haitus, which was to get remarried!

Long-time readers may remember a little piece of existential philosohy I wrote called Zarathustra Speaks to the Trees. Borrowing the main character of Nietzche’s famous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, it explicated my outlook on life at the time. For my wedding, I borrowed the wise man again to talk about love, marriage, and my relationship with my bride-to-be.

* * * * *

As Zarathustra was descending the mountain that borders the Lake of Blue and Silver, he heard a stream tumbling and playing down a rocky bed. It was such a joyous sound that he decided to visit the stream. 

Approaching, he called out, “Hail, friends!”  

“You call us friends,” replied the stream. “but most who come this way see only me, and not my companion. Perhaps you are the sage, Zarathustra, who is rumored to travel this land from time to time.” 

“I am,” said he, “but as for there being two of you–stream and stream-bed–it could not be more obvious. Stream, I could hear your laughter at a hundred paces, and there are few who laugh alone. I might even say that I hear the unique notes of love in your laughter.”  

“You are right about that, too” said the stream-bed. “In fact, we are to be married next week.” And then, after a pause, “Perhaps you would favor us with some advice for our life together, and pronounce your blessing?” 

“Tell me about yourselves first,” said the wise man. “Why do you love each other? And what does love mean to you?” 

The stream-bed spoke first. “She is my reason for being. Without her, I would only be a dry home for lizards and the insects they hunt.” 

“Without him, I would be a swamp,” she laughed. 

“Not so, my dear. You would find your way down the mountainside without me. But it is my joy to carry you to the Lake of Blue and Silver, where the sun dances by day and the stars are doubled at night.” 

“And carry me he does. He holds me so close that there is no space between us, yet I am always free to leap and play as I please.” 

“She fits me so perfectly and covers me so completely that I want for nothing, yet she is so clear that I can always see the sky.” 

“I am not always clear,” she said to Zarathustra. “Sometimes I carry sediment that falls into him like slow tears. He receives it in a quiet, peaceful place and I am able to leave it behind.” 

“When I am down,” he said, “when I plunge most steeply, she becomes more beautiful, sometimes even becoming a misty rainbow. Invariably, I recover soon after.” 

“But most of the time,” said the stream, “we just enjoy life together, as we were doing when you arrived.”   

“You seem well-matched,” said Zarathustra. “What do you see in your distant future?” 

“I am going to the Lake of Blue and Silver,” said the stream. “There is a star that we have chosen together, and when I have come to the place of my resting, I will hold the reflection of our star in my heart forever.” 

“I do not know how my journey ends,” said the stream-bed. “It is not my nature to move as easily as my love, nor is my destination as well-determined. Whatever happens, it is enough for me that she holds our star. 

“And now, Zarathustra, perhaps you would give us your counsel and your blessing?” 

“I shall address you first, my rocky friend. You have great strength, but a stream-bed without a stream is just an obstacle. You have well said that the stream is your reason for being. As long as you act from that principle, you will bless not only her, but everyone who travels this way–yourself, too, for her lovelines and clarity will become the lens through which you see the world. 

“Stream, your task is easier. Your nature is to refresh everyone you touch, and at this you will succeed without any effort at all. However, if your husband is wise, he will offer spaces in which you may multiply your loveliness: cool, shady pools in which you can become deeper; rocky, winding courses where you can frolic; and tranquil expanses where you can spread out and reflect the sun. Enjoy them all without fear, for he loves you.  

“My blessing for your marriage is this: May rock guide water so gently, and may water carve rock so tenderly, that your growing harmony will seem at once miraculous and inevitable.” 

Thus spoke Zarathustra. 

* * * * *

For our first anniversary, in August of 2019, I commissioned this painting. Zarathustra was from Persia, which was centered in what is now Iran, so I was thrilled to find the Iranian artist Sahar Ghavimi living in a town near me. She painted it in the style of a traditional Iranian miniature.

The caption is a translation into Farsi of a line from the story: her loveliness will become the lens through which you see the world.

Jim Carrey on the Power of Art

You may think of Jim Carrey as the ultimate happy-go-lucky kind of guy and maybe a bit of a goofball. With his toothy grin and outsized personality, Carrey was a natural lead for movies such as Dumb and Dumber and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (toothy grin highly modified for the latter).

But it turns out that his movies with a more philosophical bent such as Liar Liar and The Truman Show reflect the real Jim Carrey. It also turns out that he is a phenomenal artist.

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Eulogy for a Humanist

The difference between life and non-life is so slight, isn’t it? Even now, as our friend reclines in this casket, he is barely distinguishable from a week ago when he was merely sleeping. He looks so similar to the irrepressible, playful man we all love that I half-expect him to wink at me during this speech when he thinks nobody is looking.

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Haiku #4 – Golden Poplar

A golden poplar
Leans in from the meadow’s edge,
Trembling like first love. 

<< Haiku #3 – Robin’s Egg

Valuing Love Itself

I started this post all wrong. I was looking for a certain quotation about love, but opened my Kindle to the wrong book — one about computer programming. I searched for the word love, and up came the dedication page:

For Ann Marie: The ever enduring love of my life.

Not the quote I was looking for, but what do you know!? Even software engineers have love at the center of their lives.

Next, I opened the book I had intended to open. It has a high-sounding title, Ethical Empowerment: Virtue Beyond the Paradigms, but it, too, has love at the center:

One of the key arguments of this book is that the basis of morality and its ethical conceptualizations concern nothing less than universal love. (Kindle location 282.)

Although love is at the center of everything from a software developer’s heart to a philosopher’s ethical system, we sometimes value everything about love except love itself.

As the father of six children who range from 18 years old to 29, I have had the pleasure of seeing romantic love, in particular, bloom in many forms. It has not always unfolded according to the prescribed sequence of boy meets girl; they become friends; they go on dates; they get engaged; they somehow survive the planning of a big wedding; they get married; they wait a few years to have kids; they have children of their own; and the cycle repeats.

In fact, it has never unfolded like that. At least not yet, but with 6 kids anything can still happen.

So what’s a parent to do when his or her children don’t follow the traditional path? (A path that is more fiction than tradition, but that’s another story.)

I’ll tell you what I do. I enjoy each flower of love for what it is. If it’s toxic, I might say so, but I need to be sure that the toxin is really in the flower, and not in my own ideas about the flower. That is very rare.

Far more often, each flower is beautiful in its own way. If my children are experiencing love, I can be happy for them — especially if they are doing so on their own heart-felt terms and not on someone else’s agenda. As I said, let’s value and enjoy love itself, rather than everything else about it.

Just the fact that love occurs at all is amazing and beautiful, isn’t it? Who would have thought that particles of matter could float through the universe for billions of years, be cycled through exploding stars, coalesce into a planet, be coaxed out of the slime by Sun and Moon, come to life, and finally evolve to the point where they love each other?

The fact that we get to witness this is pretty sweet, too. I plan to enjoy it!


In response to Daylight at Live to Perceive:

Shutters covered a window,
Fastened as instructed,
Shedding rain down and out,
Storm after storm.

Inside, a young woman
Hoped there was more to the world
Than the mud she saw through the louvers
Every time it rained.

She unbolted the shutters
And re-installed them upside-down,
Louvers pitched toward true heaven,
Admitting both rain and clear.

When the world’s tears fell at night,
She let them pour into her room,
Even stretching her hands up to the window
And letting the water run cold down her arms.

She embraced it all,
Just so on clear nights she would see
Pisces swimming bright and true,
Leaping on the white river of stars.

Unaware of Beauty

Magenta Cosmos

Magenta Cosmos (Flickr - click for more)

This morning, I walked through the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, where Our Stimulus Dollars have been At Work lining a new driveway with wildflowers. How beautiful! A few weeks ago, the black-eyed Susans had been in bloom, but this time there were lavender and magenta cosmos.

Black-Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed Susans (ILoveMyCamera.com)

What always strikes me when I see a beautiful plant is how amazing it is that the plant can be alive, yet utterly unaware of itself. It might as well be a crystal.

Even if a magenta cosmos could see, it might not think itself beautiful. After all, its beauty is not meant to appeal to its own species, but to its pollinators, who are not even of the same biological kingdom. What would we look like if we had to attract plants instead of each other? What if our reproduction hinged on attracting fungi? Would we look and smell like rotten logs?

How lucky we are to be attracted to each other! How fortunate is the young man who can see his beloved! How blessed is the young woman whose beauty is admired!

Even to be able to love is to have won the cosmic lottery.

Young lovers, the universe has given you the rarest of gifts. May you savor every moment.