On Love: Top Ten Quotes (actually a personal selection of 14 favourite insights)
This is an extract from Happiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance by Haim Shapira.
Before you start reading my selection, please take a moment, think about it and write your own sentence beginning: ‘Love is …’
Now let us start our countdown.
Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love. I rose in it.
I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).
E E Cummings
My eighth place is shared by two poets: one who was born in the Land of the Rising Sun, while the other lived and wrote in the Land of Hope and Glory. Japanese poet Basho wrote a haiku:
O brightest moon of autumn.
All night long I’ve strolled around the pond,
in search of song.
This is a love song that doesn’t mention the words we usually use in that context. Perhaps nothing could express love better than the picture of a man walking all night long around a pond. Perhaps, despite the countless words written and spoken about love, it cannot be put into words? Perhaps Raymond Carver was right when he wrote: ‘It ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.’
This is Shakespeare’s attempt to describe the indescribable:
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 43
I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his cloak was out at the elbows, the water passed through his shoes, and the stars through his soul.
Love is trembling happiness.
The Lebanese poet is probably right. One cannot love without trembling. Every mother who loves and cares about her children knows that. Romantic love trembles for other reasons: it might evaporate with time; jealousy might kill it; habit might put it to eternal sleep.
Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.
And the Final Four:
You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.
And even if we do spoil ourselves and doze off every now and then, we could open our eyes and say the old clich.: ‘You’re the first thing I think of when I wake up, and the last thing on my mind when I fall asleep.’
Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Rumi even wrote a poem that combines love, sleep and God:
When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.
Praise God for those two insomnias!
And the difference between them.
The third place is shared by a company of three with quite similar insights: a French writer we met above, a Russian poet, and a wise woman who was a great actress and will be forever blonde:
The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved
– loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
To love a man is to see him as God had planned him, not as his parents shaped him.
I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.
The second place too is occupied jointly, by a great sci-fi novelist and a famous actress – a very pretty woman who offers a deep correction of the novelist’s profound insight. We’ll let the sci-fi novelist go first:
Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
Robert A Heinlein
And now the new and improved version is:
You know it’s love when all you want is for that person to be happy, even if you’re not part of their happiness.
Clearly, Ms Roberts is absolutely right, but the requirement she presents here seems to be much too difficult for mere mortals such as ourselves.
And now, my all-time favourite quote from my favourite writer, Count Leo Tolstoy. It appears in Chapter 14 of Part V of Anna Karenina – a novel
that, according to Oswald Spengler, is not only the best ever written, but also the best that can ever be written.
Opening that chapter, Tolstoy relates:
Levin [the similarity to Lev, Russian for Leo, is by no means accidental] had been married three months. He was happy, but not at all in the way he had expected to be. At every step he found his former dreams disappointed, and new, unexpected surprises of happiness.
One day, Levin is half an hour late coming home because he made an unsuccessful attempt to take a short and unfamiliar way, and got lost.
He drove home thinking of nothing but her, of her love, of his own happiness, and the nearer he drew to home, the warmer was his tenderness for her.
His wife Kitty gives him a cold welcome, which quickly turns into a jealousy scene. Yet it’s after that first fight the couple find themselves engaged in that Levin realizes something profound:
He felt now that he was not simply closer to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began.
This is my best ever love quote. It would not lose its beauty or depth even if it were printed on a cheesy Valentine’s Day card.
Happiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance
£9.99, Available from Watkins Publishing
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