| Anne C. Williamson |
My dad and I have a number of things in common: love of sweets, lack of patience, perfectionism, an entrepreneurial spirit, a good heart, and a love of romantic comedies. Yes, you read the last one right. I’d often find him laughing at Hanks and Ryan, or Roberts and Grant, while reviewing medical charts or organizing drawers.
One of our family favorites is Love Actually. For a romantic comedy, it deals with some difficult human realities: death, betrayal, loneliness, boundaries. It’s also a lot of fun; think Hugh Grant dancing to The Pointer Sisters’ “Jump.” One of my favorite scenes is the last one. In it, Grant speaks these words to images of people embracing:
Call me a sap; I still tear up. The words are true, and we often need to be reminded of their truth.
Our news primarily tells stories of pain, greed and suffering. But, it’s not just the news; it’s our lives too. Love is all around but it’s also infinitely more complicated. How many of us have begun a visit with a Heathrow-style warm embrace only to end the visit frustrated, hurt, misunderstood, lonely or angry? That’s part of the “in-between-ness” of life: despite all the love there, relationships are never quite what we want them to be. Nevertheless, I’m increasingly convinced of the infinite importance of learning to love specifically, particularly.
It is pretty easy for me to love the world as a whole. I think of nature and all its beauty; I look back and think of meaningful, divine moments in my own life; I think of all the complex, funny, quirky, creative, lovely people and my heart melts. There is so much good everywhere, so much love.
But, life is not lived from a bird’s eye view. Life is particular, specific: this person, this community, this government. How do I love this well? Which, I believe, is the same questions as, “How do I love well?” Because love, necessarily, needs an icon. To love the world Absolutely, but not particularly, is a false love. Ours is an embodied experience; all love, all c/Connection is filtered through bodies, things, the material. It’s iconic.
Some may think that last scene is Love Actually affects us because of its curated happy faces and emotional music, but I think they’re wrong. I think it affects us because we know the truth about human relationships and love. We know the truth, and so we place our own complex, messy, failed-and-piecing-it-back-together relationships in those scenes; we watch those actors hug and we know we choose to do the same every day. We hug messy, imperfect people, and they hug back; because love needs an icon, and we are the very best we’ve got.