I will preface this post by stating that I’m not a Valentine’s Day person. I typically don’t go in for all the schmaltzy, gooey trappings of this force-fed holiday.
So why am I posting this Valentine’s Day? Perhaps subconsciously all of the items I’d pulled together for my usual Friday Five post were of the same vein. Each is wonderful on its own, but today it seemed appropriate to post them all together.
1. Nothing good gets away. Nobel laureate John Steinbeck (1902-1968) might be best-known as the author of East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men, but he was also a prolific letter-writer. Among his correspondence is this beautiful response to his teenage son Thom’s letter, in which the boy confesses to have fallen desperately in love with a girl named Susan while at boarding school. Steinbeck could have brushed off his son’s feelings, but instead replied with tenderness, optimism and timelessness.
November 10, 1958
We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.
First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.
Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.
But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.
Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.
The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.
If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.
Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.
Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.
We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.
And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
Via Letters of Note, a wonderful site collecting correspondence of note from well known people with a book coming out in May 2013. Makes one wonder what will happen in the future. “Tweets of Note” just doesn’t sound nearly as interesting.
2. Paper Airplanes. The most heartwarming short film you’re likely to see today.
Many thanks to Lorna for sharing this lovely video.
3. How do people fall in love, part 1. Author Gemma Elwin Harris asked thousands of grade school children between the ages of four and twelve to send in their most restless questions (Why can’t I tickle myself? Are we all related? Who named all the cities? What makes me me? Is it okay to eat a worm? Who invented chocolate? If the universe started from nothing, how did it become something? Why are some people mean?), then invited some of today’s most prominent scientists, philosophers, and writers to answer them. The result is Big Questions from Little People & Simple Answers from Great Minds, a compendium of fascinating explanations from experts in their fields such as Mary Roach, Philip Pullman, Bear Grylls, Philippa Gregory, Noam Chomsky and Mario Batali with part of the proceeds being donated to Save the Children.
I thought one of the most intriguing answers was to the all-engulfing question: How do we fall in love? Author Jeanette Winterson offers this response:
You don’t fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. And when you get there it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signaled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump. Away you go, falling into someone else’s orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and call it home. And you can bring your dog. Or your cat. Your goldfish, hamster, collection of stones, all your odd socks. (The ones you lost, including the holes, are on the new planet you found.)
And you can bring your friends to visit. And read your favourite stories to each other. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without. That’s it.
P.S. You have to be brave.
4. How do people fall in love, part 2. Ever since humans could tell stories, we’ve been trying to describe how it feels to be in love…from Shakespeare (“Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?”) to J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield (“I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty… you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.”) to Longfellow (“It is difficult to know at what moment love begins; it is less difficult to know that it has begun.”)
Jeanette Winterson’s lovely explanation aside, perhaps my favorite explanation of how we fall in love is from author John Green’s book The Fault in Our Stars. The main character tells us: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
How would you define love?
5. Heart Attack. A silly and fun dance of hearts.
Bonus 6. I couldn’t resist adding this video because there is nothing that makes me happier than to see joyful dogs loving the moment. Here, they are enjoying the sun and sand at a dog beach in Chicago.
Now that I’m appropriately in the spirit, I’m ready to spread the love. For the next two days—February 14–15, 2013—my book, The Subway Chronicles: More Scenes from Life in New York, is free on Kindle. If you love the book, then please leave a loving review on Amazon. (That’s a lot of love!)
Don’t own a Kindle? No problem! Kindle books can also be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry or Android. The Kindle version is free for only two days. Tell a friend. Spread the love!
How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day? Have a great weekend everyone!