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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Of Paper Roses, A Mansion Called Folly, And Dreams Of True Love

Paper Roses
We look forward always to the opportunities to celebrate Love with its trail of enlivened hearts, or broken ones, beating faster and louder as we are reminded of the passion that makes it such a life affirming force. Beautifully arranged flowers and assorted candies become the gifts by which we say "I love you!" to those with whom we share the wonder of a romantic connection. Roses and chocolate become the symbols and elixir of hearts that beat to the rhythm of sweetly loaded emotions and intentions. Who among us does not live for those moments when we are told and reminded that we are the very reason why someone else breathes... That for us someone would climb the highest mountain, or swim the deepest sea, or walk through fire, or stand in the way of any threat? And that would all be so great and noble... if only it were always true. 

 Unfortunately the words "I love you" are sometimes loaded with intentions that are neither noble nor life-affirming.  We know from experience that those words are the harbingers of notions that do not always have one's best interest at heart. Too often "I love you" only signifies someone's selfish intention to use and eventually abuse unsuspecting hearts and minds and bodies and pocket books.  In the place of genuine roses we often see a proliferation of fake flowers, and fake intentions, being paraded and presented as gifts to sometimes unsuspecting hearts not just on occasions such as Valentine's Day, but in life in  general. It is to the perpetrators of such fraudulent intentions that the rebuff made popular by singer Connie Francis is addressed:
"Realized the way your eyes deceived me
with tender looks that i mistook for love
So take away the flowers that you gave me
And send the kind that you remind me of
Paper Roses
Paper Roses
Oh How real those roses seem to be
But there only imitation like your imitation love for me

I thought that you would be a perfect lover
You seemed full of sweetness at the start
But like a big red rose that's made of paper
There isn't any sweetness in your heart"

A Mansion Called Folly

A few miles east of Port Antonio, a quaint little town on the beautiful northeast coast of the island of Jamaica, is to be found what has come to be called "The Folly Great House". In reality it is the ruins of a two story 60 room mansion that was built around 1905 by wealthy American Alfred Mitchel for his wife, who belonged to the Tiffany family, jewelers from New York City. They both lived in this ostentatious manor until Alfred's death in 1912. Abandoned a few yeas later, by 1938 the roof had collapsed, and the place is now a spectacle symbolizing the corruption of noble intentions by a mixing of incompatible ingredients. 

The reasons given for the demise of this once illustrious abode of this wealthy family have taken on mythic proportions. One often repeated reason has to do with alleged shortcuts that were taken during its construction. The story is told that salt water from the sea just below the mansion was used in the mixing of the concrete, leading to corrosion of the steel components of the building. Some accounts dispute that assertion, going as far as to say that all construction materials were imported from abroad, including the water for mixing the concrete.  Be that as it may, what was once the pride and joy of these lovers is now a symbol of what results when the best of loving intentions is corroded by what I have called "the salted cement of incompatible ideals". In a poem titled "Uninhabitable", I wrote the following about Folly:
"Now here it stands
On a pastured rise...
A sad place... Wasted by the many generations of its emptiness...
Hope discolored... Columns that weep
Under the burden of helpless beams...
Day by day it falls apart
Materially... And in every heart that has ever known love
And sought to build a monument
With the steeled character of passion determined
And the salted cement of incompatible ideals...
Here it stands... A monument to passion... A concreted folly
Uninhabitable"

Dreams Of True Love
We should all have dreams... Dreams of true love included. Without them we have little to aspire to. It is a wonderful thing to reach in our minds and imaginations beyond the ordinary. But then we must wake up and do the work necessary to realize those dreams. The dreams that true love inspires are life affirming. They tend to expand our horizons, and the horizons of those we love. They make us want to do extraordinary things for our beloved no matter how ordinary our resources. Ultimately however, the proof of true love is not in the grandiosity of our virtual aspirations. The proof of true love lies in our willingness to put our shoulder to the wheel to make sure that we do right by those we say we love.

As a teenager at Summer camp one year, we became engaged in a discussion of what the definition of Love was. I have never forgotten the words of one of my fellow campers who blurted out the following: "Love is a feeling you feel when you are about to feel a feeling you have never felt before!" Many of us laughed. Some of us had a good idea  what he may have been talking about, but we dared not mention it since this was in fact a church camp. Beyond the poetry of my friend's exciting revelation, one grows to understand that Love is about more than how we may feel at given times. We do not stop loving because we are not excited in one way or another. We do not stop loving when we grow old. As husbands we do not stop loving when stretch marks appear on our once "perfect" lover. We do not stop loving in the face of physical changes and disabilities. Our passion should not be defined by our orgasmic experience. This is not the mark of true love. Incompatible values and incompatible aspirations, are like salted cement. Any mansion built with these will eventually crumble; no matter how powerful our initial feelings are.

Love is an action word. True love is what makes us wake up and go to work even when we do not feel like it sometimes. True love acts to provide nourishment and shelter. True love heats the house in Winter and makes sure it is comfortable in the heat of Summer. True love makes us live out a commitment to our own growth and development, and the growth and development of those we say we love. True love is respectful. It enables us to forgive one another our trespasses. It is non-judgmental, selfless, humble; it seeks wisdom in all things. An essential piece of wisdom in the building of durable relationships is the dictate that lovers must have righteous affection for each other. We learn eventually that this kind of affection is nourished by the values and aspirations that are shared... that are held in common by persons in love. Two cannot walk together on the roads of this life unless they agree on some fundamental values. Shared values and aspirations... Common ideals... These are the components of the cement  that holds the mansion called Love together. The durability of that mansion is predicated on these shared values and aspirations; not our romantic notions of being together, despite their ego-enhancing features.  

In a world where paper roses and corrupted ideals proliferate, we still hold on to the Hope that a true love inspires and substantiates. It is the inspiration of that hope that we seek to rekindle on occasions when we fittingly remind one another of the vital connections that make life so meaningfully enjoyable.   







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