“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
The quote above is attributed to Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam. It is the sweet and subtle balm that eases our hearts, and gives thoughtful rumination to the ups and downs of love and loss. Tennyson was a masterful poet.
He was also full of shit.
Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? Bullshit. Human beings do not work that way, we have never worked that way, at least not in the course of recorded human history. If we have truly loved and lost, we feel the keening pain in our hearts that forever taint our memories, and tarnish our experiences. Robert Frost once said “nothing gold can stay,” and I think that his phrasing is far more apropos to our lives than Tennyson’s well meaning, misguided folderol.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, Tennyson really and truly was insightful, witty, and an excellent poet, but this poem does more harm than good, in my opinion, because it gives us the idea that we should savor the sweet scent of love, because even though it may never come around again, by which to find new and fertile grounds upon that we can sow our seeds of love once more (that’s from me, dammit!), that the experiences we have will act as a soothing ointment. It’s the idea that the sharp edge of loneliness is dulled because of our past experiences, that it is far better to remember, and reminisce fondly, than it is to have never known such love, and that is where I call bullshit!
Loneliness is pain! Whether you’ve been shot in the chest before, or have never been shot, you don’t say “oh, well at least it didn’t penetrate my heart as painfully as it did the last time. Good thing I know that feel, bro!” Hell, no! You scream like a little girl, you fall to your knees, and you wish that sudden fiery death wasn’t there! Either way, you’re going to feel the pain, and it’s going to hurt like a motherfucker, comparisons to previous rendings of the heart be damned.
It’s just that the whole sentiment drives me up the wall. How many people have friends who have said that to you when you’ve lost someone close to you, whether by death, or by a natural parting of ways? Is there any time where you didn’t want to punch them in the face for saying it? I can’t think of one. Then again, I’ve never truly been in love, so who knows? Maybe hearing those words just perks you right up, like a percodan party at Charlie Sheen’s house.
For some reason, people think there’s all this time to find somebody to love, that even if you get knocked off the horse, you get right back up again, and everything’s okay, everyone lives happily ever after, and that is just so much bullshit that if it were sentient, it would have already ran for Congress and would have won every state, including Mississippi, who would have voted for them twice.
It annoys me, this idea that even if you wait your whole life to find somebody, that when you find them everything will be great and you’ll live happily ever after. I’ve been told, “John, you have all the time in the world to find somebody,” and it takes a LOT of effort not to strangle them into unconsciousness and “borrow” their charge cards in order to buy a fleet of snowmobiles. I mean, what’s to worry? You have all the time in the world to pay it off.
The truth is you don’t have all the time in the world, and that when you are dead, gone, and your body has once more reverted to free floating atoms, the world will still be here. So no, you don’t have all the time in the world, you have your lifetime, which could end at any moment.
So, okay, suppose you’re lonely most of your life, and sometime in your late 60s, you find someone you fall in love with, and they fall in love with you. Now you get to live your life together. Hooray? I mean, yay, you found someone, but you’ve reached an age where life has beaten you down, where your health is starting to fail, where the pace of the world has decided it’s not waiting around for you anymore. I completely believe in making the best of what one has, but how is that fair? It’s not, because life isn’t fair, and this bullshit about having all of the time in the world, that you should be happy you found someone, just creates an itch that cannot be scratched. I can’t reach it, but it’s there, and by fuck it’s a persistent little bastard.
I’m not saying that life is over by the time you reach your 70s, but let’s not pretend you have your whole life ahead of you. The love you have will have to exist in such a short time. No stretching things out to enjoy them, no looking ahead to a future filled with chance, and the spice of joy and danger; you’ve reached the point where another 20 years will be a most pleasant surprise. You have reached your future, and as much as I love to be the optimist, I just cannot find anything optimistic about reaching your end years, and only then finding something worthwhile. It feels like so much cheating on the part of life, and of others who promised that you would have all the time in the world. THAT is why I find that phrase, and all associated sentiments with it, to be utter bullshit, and why I don’t say them to anyone. I see them as an insult, an insult to a thinking, feeling person.
I realize I may be alone in these thoughts, but I write about things that interest me, and things that bother me, and for some reason, hearing that phrase said today just flipped a tiny little switch in the back of my brain. Sometimes the tiniest things will just kick my brain into rebuttal mode, and these are the end results.
I don’t know, I guess the whole concept of “forever” bothers me. It’s so pervasive in pop culture, and it just isn’t so. “We have a love that will go on forever.” No! No it won’t! It may go on for 1-100 years, but forever? No, it will die when you do, when I do, and while I realize it’s usually just a figure of speech, it’s the whole idea that people think they have all the time in the world to find “true love” and reaching the twilight years of their lives utterly alone, and I won’t lie, that concept petrifies me. More than a thousand spiders chasing me across a field of broken glass in the middle of a tornado next to a cliffside covered in bees, it petrifies me. It terrifies me almost as much as the idea of Alzheimer’s terrifies me, and that mortifies me.
We’ve created this fantasy where happily ever after is a real possibility, and it’s not. Your love can be ripped away from you at any moment, leaving your soul burning in grief. At the same time, a little old man, or woman, may die having never found someone to love them, having drifted through life utterly alone, and without respite. BOTH are equally horrifying, and BOTH are equally terrible, and I just cannot imagine a world where one would be preferable over the other.
That’s all I have to say about that.
Until next time,
Better To Have Loved The Gold
“I hold it true, whate’er befall;