March 11, 2004
No Half Love!
Will I fall in love again?
After 17 years of marriage? At 42?
Will I even recognize the feeling? How soon will I allow myself to feel that vulnerable? That trusting?
Here's a shocker: I'm cynical. I tend to regard women who come into my life with the narrow-eyed acuity of a fact checker. I have quickly become an instant documentarian, a sharp-eared debriefer in the Guantanamo Bay of the heart.
An astute interviewer, I listen for instant disqualifiers -- gross insecurities, knee-jerk judgmentalism, debt, uncontrollable recoiling at the mention of sex.
Call this the Yiddish model of wary romance. At best, this model is worldly and practical.
"Love is a fine thing," the Yiddish saying goes, "but love with noodles is even tastier."
At its worst, this model is as despairing as Kafka, who let us know that "there is infinite hope -- just not for us."
My Yiddish model admits that there is indeed infinite love between men and women, but that I'm destined for membership in the other 99.8 percent of the population.
It's a seductively comfortable working model for dating. Why? Because it begins in fear, and so keeps me armored, garrisoned, provisioned and snugly out of the range of fire.
But, as Goethe's Faust famously cried, "Two souls dwell, alas, in my breast."
And so my Yiddishe kop rides atop a body suffused with a Hebraic soul. Built of love, not fear, it belts out the Hebrew of the Song of Songs -- "Love is stronger than death," and "Let me lean against the stout trunks, let me couch among the apple trees, for I am sick with love."
My Hebraic heart doesn't fact check women, it listens optimistically for a singing partner -- for spontaneous appreciation of beauty, for playful verbal dexterity, affection, exuberance, sensuality, beneficence.
This Hebrew model of love is far more uncomfortable. It pounds at the ribs. It is a ready conflagration under the skin. It is a psycho inner-puppy that persistently leaps to imagine a future of conjugal bliss. Hebraic love, as the Song of Songs reminds us, is a promise of love that, in its fullness of heart, is so expansive, so complete, that it can serve as nothing less than a metaphor for God's love of us and for the human love of God.
Whoa. Yeah. I want love like that. And outsinging Kafka, there's an optimistic voice in me that believes I, single, unfettered, can have it.
Because the great thing about starting out fresh at this point in my life is that, past the anxieties of youth, and before the frailties of age, I'm at full power.
For the first time in almost 20 years, unable to blame someone else, unburdened of the need to please someone else, I get to create the life I want. As ideal as I want to it to be.
And so, when I met a woman with an inspiringly buoyant, happy heart, I found myself blurting to her, "No half love." I was spontaneously striking a deal right from the start. A veteran of an increasingly listless marriage herself, her whole face lit up.
"No half love," she repeated. We weren't in love yet, but if we were going to be, we were pledging ourselves at this important threshold to an idealism of, well, biblical proportions. What does that translate to in everyday life? To me, it means drawing from a bottomless well of generosity; it means kindness under stress, patience when gloom visits, quiet amid chaos and an almost giddy joy in the other's happiness. All in all, it means maintaining a steadfast X-ray vision through the inevitable husks of daily imperfection to the divine creamy filling within.
Will I fall in love again? Honestly, I don't know. But I do know that though I crack wise in Yiddish, my heart soars with a more ancient yearning...
Set me as a seal upon thy heart
As a seal upon thy arm
For love is as strong as death...
Many waters cannot quench love,
nor can the floods drown it.
Adam Gilad is a writer, producer and CEO of Rogue Direct, LLP. He also teaches creative writing based on Jewish texts at the UJ and privately. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org