Friday, January 22, 2010

Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 64?

Unitarian Universalists take pride in their heresies. They, supposedly, love heretics and make a wide circle to include them in their congregations. Believing this to be true let me risk excommunication by saying that I believe that sometimes love fails. It is not enough to fix the problems in human existence. I know I am not alone because a great Unitarian Universalist, Kurt Vonnegut, said the same thing, "Love often fails, but courtesy prevails."

I have always been courteous and generous and I hope kind, but it was not enough and even after 9 children, two of whom were killed, and 3 psychiatric hospitalizations, and oodles and oodles of therapy, she still wanted a divorce, which, I, of course, agreed to.

We were married 44 years ago today on January 22, 1966, and for my part it began a genuine and sincere love affair which goes on to this day, but was not reciprocated through no fault of her own; she is just incapable perhaps, not unwilling but incapable.

And so as Socrates said, men in poor marriages turn to philosophy, or in my case have turned to God under the guise of Unitarian Universalism, and it is a life saver of sorts but not the same as the love of a woman.

I have learned in my life of 64 years that love is not enough. There is much more to life and relationships than love. If love was all it took there would be no war, no poverty, no crime, because there is plenty of love in the world. What is missing, though, is decency, fairness, loyalty, competence, reliability, and most of all integrity. People are stupid and egocentric. It is in this stupidity and egotistical nonsense that relationships fail. How is love to overcome a lack of awareness and a narcissism which prevents any ability to empathize with another? It can't.

Today, I reminisce alone over 44 years which I am glad I have experienced but which have been excruciatingly painful, emotionally, and which have turned me into a philosopher, a theologian, an activist who yearns for a more loving world which can only come about when people are more aware, more empathic, and can develop higher levels of integrity.

I am not sure whether the lack of love in my life has made me a better or worse person. I have tried to do the best I can with my experience and use it to heighten my awareness and drop my egotistical ways. I would like to think that I have a high level of integrity, but I am not the one to judge that alone.

I miss the object of my love still even after 18 years of in-house and actual separation. Even the thought of her quickens my heart. My therapist said to me, "Dave, you are in love with the ideal, not the reality." He is absolutely right. I have internalized the love object and idealized her, and perhaps that was my fault right from the beginning. I know what she could be, should be, ought to be, and I love not the actual person but the idealized version although I would take her any way she comes. I decided that years ago. My love is unconditional, but it is water off a duck's back. There is an imperviousness that cannot be penetrated. She was damaged when I met her, but I loved her anyway, maybe because, in part, the damage, which seems sick as I write this.

At any rate, love is highly over rated, that's my point. It takes much more than love. As Unitarian Universalists we know this. It takes the truth, compassion, acceptance, and respect for the interdependent web. It is my faith which has helped me to let love go. It will not prevail because it often fails and if that makes me a heretic, I hope that the UUs will still have me.

This year I turned 64. Let me do the math for you. I got married when I was 20. I love the great Beatle's tune, "When I'm 64". You may remember the chorus, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" The answer, friends, is no, at least for me. It's more like, "I will beat you up and suck you dry and cast you to the curb before you're 64."

I sing the song with irony and smile. It seems funny to me, "Will you still need me? Will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" Not if it depends on love.


  1. "She was damaged when I met her, but I loved her anyway, maybe because, in part, the damage, which seems sick as I write this."

    Is it really "sick" to love someone or something, in *part* because they are damaged in some way? I am not so sure about that David. Is not compassion a form of loving someone that is damaged in some way, possibly even *because* they are damaged? I wouldn't beat yourself up over loving someone, anyone, in *part* because they are damaged in some way.

    :At any rate, love is highly over rated, that's my point. It takes much more than love. As Unitarian Universalists we know this.

    Really? I'm not so sure about that either David. A lot of the U*Us I know seem to be stunningly naïve and/or quite oblivious to readily observable reality.

  2. Mr. Markham,

    While you may be kind, compassionate, just, and giving you sound empty and distant - like a priest or hermit on the mount - full of words never lived.

    Your faith helped you to "let love go". Then your faith has done you a disservice. You may not have the love of your ex-wife but you state there are still seven children in your life. While not romantic, do you give and take the love fully available within those relationships? I hope you haven't let that love go too.

    From the sound of it perhaps you should let go of the "dream" girl and focus more on what emerged from that union. For all of your philosophizing and theologizing it seems you are missing the point of your own words. True, there are more to relationships than love but you yourself have experienced what it is like to not feel love returned.

    As far as love goes - after 26 years of marriage I suppose I am one of those lucky few. I believe in love - perhaps it will someday fail - but I doubt it.

    Isn't there a statement or "golden rule" out there, "As you give so shall you receive"? Yes, you will never receive the love of your wife but what about all the others that want your love? Have you let go of that love also?

  3. It puts a pit in my stomach to read what you have written about a "lack of love" in your life. Mom may not still need you or be willing to feed you now that you're 64, but I do, as do a whole host of other children and grandchildren who would not be here if not for your love for that woman. Can you really say the relationship failed you when it gave birth to so many other reliably loving relationships? Many people walk away from failed marriages with much less. I would ask you to look around you and see that love has not only prevailed,but MULTIPLIED, though perhaps not in the way you anticipated. Whatever genuine devotion you and mom felt for one another is constant and impossible to cancel; we are walking, talking, breathing, thinking pieces of evidence who pay that love forward. Mom's mental incapacities do not make that null and void. I don't mean to belittle your post. Your pain has been unimaginable, and I realize children and grandchildren can never fill the hole that was vacated by the romantic affection of a partner with whom you presumably once shared hopes and dreams. But I hope we're some comfort. Even if you feel like that one most important love of your life has failed you, you should realize that many others never will. I still need you, and I will feed you, when you're 64, 84, 144...

  4. What I was trying to say was, the person may have failed you, but the love didn't. The love rewarded your investment handsomly.