THIS THING WE CALL LOVE

Another chapter for “The Golden Rules of Love and Other Really Important Stuff

A manuscript written from the personal point of view of having sought to deliberately live, not just get by or pass through life.

As Henry David Thoreau put it in Walden, “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, ” …and I want to understand things as they really are and always will be. Not done trying yet…

THIS THING WE CALL…LOVE

“Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses.” -Voltaire

Real love is the most sought after prize in all human endeavor. To understand it requires a lifetime of pondering, practice, and patience. Seekers and those who possess the quality of heart and soul thank God every day for this thing called love. We have witnessed its touch bring renewed hope to the disheartened, pleasure to the eye, a quickening to the soul; for love sustains mankind.

It leads to commitment, then marriage, on to families and as such creates the social bond we call community. It is The Dalai Lama of Tibet who has said: Without the human community one single human being cannot survive.

Love is the glue to every worldly society for it ultimately calls the mother and father home to nurture the rising generation, to hold it together.

True love beckons the brother, sister, friend to give, serve, lift, and care for one another. It calls out to a comrade to risk everything to save another. Of all virtues, true love is the greatest.

No other emotion so powerfully affects us day to day. Love feeds the starving, clothes the naked and cares for the poor, homeless, widowed and fatherless. Love, like fire, burns at different degrees in all of us. The most hardened criminal can be touched by it, given the right mix of feelings and compassion.

I first started reading on the philosophy of love in 1974 when a college student, I found professor of philosophy and comparative religion, Truman Madsen’s words. This simple phrase has stayed with me all these years:“Love is divine fire, with a large F.”

Over two thousand years ago the Greek philosopher Plato said: “At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.”

And the 20th century sage and Jesuit Priest, Pierre Teilhard De Chardin put it eloquently in free style verse;

The day will come,
after harnessing space, the winds,
the tides and gravity
we shall harness, for God, the energies of love.
And on that day, for the second time
in the history of the world,
man will have discovered fire.

Love.
Written of.
Spoken about.
Reviled and reveled in.
Played out on screen and stage.

Philosophers have written tomes to fill libraries on it. The religious have enjoined it to the grand purposes of the Gods. Nations have fought wars in the name of it, and men have risked their lives to savor love’s romantic qualities.

When “making love,” in the vernacular of the day, a man and women may reach the zenith of life’s pleasures through physical intimacy. In a committed marriage there is rarely anything to compare with the feeling physical intimacy may bring. Because it is done in the spirit of loving their companion in every way, it strengthens and bolsters the marriage, and increases the pleasure of the experience.

If marriage is sacred, then love making is sacred…

Happiness does not come cheaply, and perhaps there’s the rub. We often find in our present condition that the luster of fidelity has faded. Some film and publishing has elevated sexual intimacy alone to the position where real love had always reigned. As long as the uncommitted “hero” is the one engaged in the “love making” it is seen as a sweet and never ending thing.

When the theatre curtain falls and the lights come on, we awaken and are brought to reality again – life is real, earnest, with commitments to be made and kept.

Is a kiss prelude or postlude? Is the touch of skin meant to be used or shared? What if the Gods arranged sexuality (as I suppose it is) to not only be for propagation of the species but absolutely fulfilling and to be anticipated?

“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.” -Ingrid Bergman

Sexual intimacy in the committed path, the path of action that blends the passions with the “harnessed energies of love,” as De Chardin put it, works to bond and build and never destroy.

Do I sound like a prude or unrealistic? I’m a man…quite normal and have given this some heart-felt consideration for decades. The bottom line? I love romance and…

I believe sexual intimacy to be sacred, and “love-making” is equally had in the touch of a hand, a kiss, and emotions wrapped in faithfulness; all this to be enjoyed most fully, not the other way around.

A film producer, once considering one of my books for a film project, came to the conclusion, “Hollywood wants hard love stories James, not soft. Sorry.”

“I didn’t know love was hard,” I answered.

Love is a verb and a noun. To explore its dimensions in literature, song, dance, worship, art and service, is to touch the hand of the Divine Creator of the Universe and partner with him in creating a piece of heaven on earth.

Love is vital…food to the soul.

It is an elixir to the spirit.

It quenches spiritual thirst and puts a quicker beat into the heart of one experiencing its taste. The human heart so affected sends life giving fluids at a more rapid rate, bursting through and to every part of one’s being.

To love truly is to be truly alive. It excites and stimulates creativity. It is loud, happy, noisy at times.

It is also the expression of silence in deference to the bereaved.

It is reverent awe at the realization that there exists a benevolent power greater than us all to comfort us in mourning.

It is the joyful sound of children at innocent play.

It is renewal at the first sounds of birth.

It is the final kiss at the brink of death of one beloved.

It is the courage of a soldier for his comrade, and a fellow man offering safety to one he does not know.

It is the flower from the garden to brighten the table and the rose on the grave as if in soliloquy petals have a voice and can whisper for the deceased to hear the words; “I love you.”

…and it is the feeling coming from an unseen world that the deceased love you still.

The Holy Bible says; “God is love.”

Men have fashioned idols to gods they have named for love. If man alone were the final authority his very testimonial in written form and art spanning six millennia of the recorded history of worship suggest he had enthroned love as the ultimate quality divine.

And if divine, love is more than a special way of feeling…

Love is a way of being.

James Michael Pratt

For more about my writings, published books, and other stuff please visit my website: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com

DISCLAIMER: Not an expert, just a seeker.

James Michael Pratt is a New York Times bestselling author, most well known for the highly acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame book-to-film, "THE LOST VALENTINE" and other national bestsellers. His official website and contact information is: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com 

A Slow Dance with Maggie

James Michael Pratt is a New York Times bestselling author, most well known for the highly acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame book-to-film, "THE LOST VALENTINE" and other national bestsellers. His official website and contact information is: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com 

 

A Slow Dance with Maggie

I am a novelist. An observing and curious mind prompts me to look through the lens of “what if” for answers to the big questions of life.

Sometimes “what if’s” are long in coming. Other times they smack you in the head before you know what happened…

It was Wednesday August 11th, 2010, Delta flight 1192. I was seated at 28A waiting for take-off at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC.

“Hello this is Maggie, your flight attendant and we are experiencing some unexpected delays due to weather conditions…”

She continued but my heart skipped an immediate beat to a youth dance in 1971 where I was hanging out with Mike Carlisle, affectionately called “Mac” by his closest friends.

“Mac, where did you find that looker you brought to the dance?”
“My older sister. Don’t even think about it.”

“I like dancing with older girls.”
He shrugged, a little disgust evidenced with a nod of the head.
I nervously ventured forth and temporarily lost my heart on the dance floor to “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes.”

She thanked me, whispered something to Mac, and left the building.
“Where is she going?” I asked.
“No guys old enough.”
“What does she do?”
“Stewardess for the airlines,” he replied.

“Hello, this is Maggie again. It looks like we will be at least another thirty minutes. We have complimentary headsets for those who would like to watch a show. We’ll turn the video monitors on momentarily, then…”

The “what if” advanced in my mind as my heart sought rescue from the awful truth which was easily melting my manly composure.

I last heard from Mike Carlisle in 1973. We both had decided the year before to leave college, sports, dating girls, and give service in Latin America to our church for a couple of years–just to balance out our lives and also search for our souls.

He was enjoying a McDonald’s burger in San Salvador, which he took great pleasure detailing to me in the letter that arrived to a MacDonald’s-less socialist controlled Republic of Peru that day in April 1973. I was starving for any kind of food that resembled a hamburger, but enjoyed the typical jesting as he also wrote about another girl who was keeping in touch with him; a “win” he had over me from another dance the prior April before we packed our bags for the unknown.

We assumed we would reconnect back home in Southern California after our volunteer duties in Latin America, and just maybe I’d get another chance to dance with his sister; an older and wiser man then, and maybe more acceptable to an older and wiser woman.

Mail Call came on a July night in 1973, catching me off guard. Sometimes mail arrived from home under two weeks; often up to three. I opened a card my Mom slipped in an envelope a couple of weeks before. It simply showed his smiling face with this under the photo:

“In Loving Memory of Michael Alan Carlisle — MAC.”

A voice over the airplane intercom brought me back to the present moment.

“Hello, this is Maggie again. We know you are eager for more information, and just as soon as we can we will report the cause of the continuing delays. Thank you for your patience.”

Memory is a funny thing. Sometimes on the surface it dances across the mind without a minor delay. Other times it just sits and broods, inviting you to fix the un-fixable.

I looked out through the glass separating me from the downpour which had grounded us and saw Mac, and the 1970’s, and his sister, and time evaporated as tears squeezed from eyes that had seen a lot of changes since then.

The older flight attendant posing as Maggie soon passed by seat 28A. She was energetic and graceful, revealing something in her eyes, smile, and manner recognizable, but…

“This is Maggie again. Federal law requires we return to the gate after three hours. We apologize for this inconvenience,” she said, as the plane rolled back to Gate 19.

We’d be given a chance to stay over-night or continue on waiting for final clearance of flight 1192 to take off again later. After three hours on the ground, I decided to leave the plane and remain overnight in Washington DC.

My heart raced as I got closer to confronting the death of a young friend, my own mortality, and revisiting all I once felt as a young 20 year-old man.

In minutes I stood before her. Eyes searched and recognition sparked as I asked, “Are you Maggie Carlisle from Newbury Park?”

Her eyes filled instantaneously as a noticeably shy girl inside nodded, tried to smile, and finally squeaked out, “Yes.”

“I’m Jim Pratt, Mike’s friend,” is all I could muster. Awkwardness followed as she and I recalled the dance, and strangely Mac seemed to stand there with us as well–instantly bringing it all back to both of us.

Wiping at the tears she said, “I’m sixty now.”

I nodded. “Fifty-seven,” I answered.

We briefly caught up, I offered my love for her mother, the other siblings; all friends of mine.

“I think I’ll catch up on my sleep here in DC rather than take the flight back with you guys,” I said casually as if forty years had not just slipped by. I then walked away, found a cab, a hotel and slept.

I tried to sleep peacefully, but youth and memories hounded me in a fitful pace as they scrolled through my mind’s eye that night. I dreamt of Michael Alan Carlisle that night and blubbered all sorts of youthful things about life, love, and important stuff.

When I awoke I imagined a dialogue I’d have with him if he were to step off a flight from 1973 instead of the casket he was delivered home in.

“Saw your sister last night,” I’d start with.
“I know,” he’d answer. “A dance?”
“No, at the airport,” I’d say.
“So how are things? Much changed at home since we’ve been gone?”
“You wouldn’t believe it,” I’d answer.
“Catch me up,” he’d reply.

Sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes a few slow dances is all we get before God calls us home.

“What if” Mac hadn’t died in 1973?  “What if” he’d married and had children?  “What if” the last dance had been the first dance of many?  “What if…”

Sometimes the music we love and that gives meaning to our lives gets turned off by powers outside of our control. Sometimes your best young friends vanish before they mature into your best old friends.

Someday I will “catch up” with Michael Alan Carlisle, and we will laugh again, and the beauty of our friendships—male and female–made in this brief window into eternity called life, will become a waltz as if no time had passed at all. And… we’ll look into the celestial mirror and see the image of a young man or young woman we once believed would always remain the same.

All “what ifs” will melt away into things as they really are and perhaps were intended to really  be.

In the end, it’s the dance that we create while living which reminds us of why the music played in the first place. Where it all leads is part of the adventure and…

…the mystery.

See you soon, Mac…

Michael Alan Carlisle, April 1953 — June 1973