Sunday, November 08, 2015

What We Mean by Love

"That one day you find someone, and everything they are
comes back to you in a strange way that hums . . .
that fits, that's beautiful."

I'm currently reading Richard Flanagan's powerful novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. It's not an easy read, given its graphic depiction of atrocities suffered by the main character Dorrigo Evans and his fellow Australian prisoners-of-war at the hands of their World War II Japanese captors. The book's publishing company notes that it is a "savagely beautiful novel," one that "tells a story of the many forms of love and death, of war and truth." I think that's a very accurate summation.

One part of the novel that particularly resonates with me is when, after the war, the widow of Jack Rainbow shares with Dorrigo Evans her thoughts on love. It's a very beautiful reflection, and one that conveys an understanding of love capable of being experienced, I believe, by anyone – regardless of sexual orientation. Hence my choosing of the above image from the film Lilting, itself a powerful story of love and loss, to accompany my sharing of this particular excerpt from Flanagan's novel that so deeply moves me. Perhaps it will move you too.

Do you believe in love, Mr Evans? . . . I don't. No, I don't. It's too small a word, don't you think, Mr. Evans? I have a friend in Fern Tree who teaches piano. Very musical, she is. I'm tone-deaf myself. But one day she was telling me how every room has a note. You just have to find it. She started warbling away, up and down. And suddenly one note came back to us, just bounced back off the walls and rose from the floor and filled the place with this perfect hum. This beautiful sound. Like you've thrown a plum and an orchard comes back at you. You wouldn't believe it, Mr Evans. These two completely different things, a note and a room, finding each other. It sounded . . . right. Am I being ridiculous? Do you think that's what we mean by love, Mr Evans? The note that comes back to you? That finds you even when you don't want to be found? That one day you find someone, and everything they are comes back to you in a strange way that hums? That fits. That's beautiful. I'm not explaining myself at all well, am I? I'm not very good with words. But that's what we were. Jack and me. We didn't really know each other. I'm not sure if I liked everything about him. I suppose some things about me annoyed him. But I was that room and he was that note and now he's gone. And everything is silent.

– Excerpted from The Narrow Road to the Deep North
by Richard Flanagan
(Vintage International, 2013, pp 328-329)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Love as "Quest and Daring and Growth"
The Gravity of Love
Getting It Right
The Choice (and Risk) That is Love
To Know and Be Known
Love as Exploring Vulnerability
Liberated to Be Together
Love is Love
Passion, Tide and Time
The Longing for Love: God's Primal Beatitude
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Quote of the Day – October 5, 2010

Image: Andrew Leung and Ben Whishaw in Hong Khaou's 2014 film Lilting.


Joan Demueles said...

Beautiful and sad, but love is like that.

Unknown said...

This is a beautiful passage. I wonder if we are aware we have found the note, or the room, when we're in the midst of it. I don't think I've experienced this yet and I have almost never been alone.

Kathleen Olsen said...

It is a quote to ponder about the varied relationships of love we know. Thank you Michael.