Okay, let’s just acknowledge this from the outset, shall we? If ever there was a holiday that is the complete antithesis of The Airborne Toxic Event, it is Valentine’s Day.
Were Mikel Jollett in his grave, I suspect he’d be rolling over in it at the mere thought of his work being associated with this most saccharine of days. The TATE catalog is a poor fit indeed with the manufactured, obligatory, heart-shaped schlock traded so expensively on Feb. 14.
Nevertheless, on the day when the world declares its love, it seems appropriate to spend some time considering Mikel’s lyrics on the subject. He claims to have never known love; that this is just his best guess. If that’s true, it’s a pretty damn good shot in the dark.
Perhaps it’s best to think of this as your Valentine’s Day antidote. This is True Love, warts and all.
And I crashed upon your rocks when I heard your voice singing
And I begged for your love with my busted ears ringing
Love wrecks us. We’re sailing along, minding our own business, certain of our destination.
And then we hear the siren’s call. And everything changes.
Plans are abandoned. Priorities are adjusted. Hopefully we keep our common sense about us, but not always. Sometimes we know that it’s going to break us in two… and we want it anyway.
You’re standing beside her, the light from inside her,
Filling up the darkness in your head.
At its best, and especially in those early days, love ignites a spark in us. The fire of the other invades our soul, sets it ablaze, and banishes whatever darkness has cast its spell on us… at least for a little while, until that very love brings a darkness of its own.
I said all these songs are love songs
Just love at times can make you feel like shit.
Afraid of the truth that love can cause you so much pain.
Alas, Hallmark material this is not. And that’s what makes it profound. Because life is not a Hallmark Movie of the Week, and love and marriage are not all sunshine and lollipops and flowers.
To love is to risk. When we open ourselves up to love, we necessarily become vulnerable to the worst kinds of pain. The wounds of a lover cut far more deeply than those of an enemy, and even the happiest love stories include painful chapters. Rose colored glasses be damned: it’s better if there’s some truth in it.
What then are we to do with the truth that love can cause us so much pain?
We defy it.
I can list each crippling fear like I’m reading from a will.
And I’ll defy every one and love you still.
Love is defying.
We don’t deny it, sugarcoating the ugly parts. We don’t wallow in it, despairing of the hopelessness of it all. We don’t give up on it, resigning ourselves to a life of solitude.
No. We list our fears – and we defy them. We arm our fears – and we slay them. We accept that love is hard – and we persist in love anyway.
And if you die before I die, I’ll carve your name out of the sky.
I’ll fall asleep with your memory and dream of where you lie.
It may be better to move on and to let life just carry on and I may be wrong.
Still I’ll try.
Because it’s better to love whether you win or lose or die.
It’s better to love and I will love you till I die.
Love and death. Our calendar separates them as far as possible: Valentine’s Day in February; Halloween in October. Cherubs and ghosts don’t coexist very well on the grocery shelf, after all.
But in real life, love and death go hand in hand, tied like two in tethers. Every love story ends in death, whether it’s severed by physical death or the death of love itself.
And yet, love can also transcend death. Love breathes life into the lover, even after the beloved has departed. Whether it is carved into the sky or merely into our memories, love keeps the story going, even after it appears to have come to an end.
Love brings with it some winning, some losing and some dying. It’s all part of the package. We choose to love anyway, because it’s better that way.
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.