I’ve always had a thing for chicks.
Not long after my Fortieth birthday I had coffee with a woman I’d never met. She told me about her job, a little bit about her family and where she grew up. I told her about my job, a little bit about my family and where I grew up, my former drinking problem, my hard shift to the political right after 9/11, my extensive experience with psychedelic drugs, the time my Scientologist brother and I tried to kill each other, the time my Scientologist brother and I went to jail together, and a couple of other things I probably shouldn’t mention here. I had a pretty good time and she seemed nice.
That night she emailed to say, politely but without ambiguity, that she didn’t think a second date was in order.
Shortly thereafter I had coffee with another woman I’d never met. Well, I had coffee—she had peppermint tea. We walked to the park and sat on a bench near a pond. She told me about her job, a little bit about her family and where she grew up. I told her about my job, a little bit about my family and where I grew up, my former drinking problem, my hard shift to the political right after 9/11, my extensive experience with psychedelic drugs, the time my Scientologist brother and I tried to kill each other, the time my Scientologist brother and I went to jail together, the recent date I’d had with the woman who didn’t want to see me again, and a couple of other things I probably shouldn’t mention here.
We spent the rest of the day and part of the evening together and I walked her home through the park with the spring wind trembling through the leaves. Since then no hour has passed that I haven’t loved her and wanted her with me.
I’ve known people who don’t care that much about romantic love, who’ve seemingly never been crazy about anybody, who’ve never wanted to tear their hearts out for love, who’ve never wept over love. But I don’t understand them.
My whole life has been in the service of love. So when I hear a song like “She Brings the Sunlight” (although I can’t, off the top of my head, immediately think of another song quite like “She Brings the Sunlight”) it speaks to me with my own voice: I recognize the world it inhabits.
This song is like a ritual of Astarte, like something that took place at Eleusis. It’s the old myth at the heart of love, the myth that promises we are more than we appear to be, the truth that beyond ourselves is union with the Absolute. It’s bound up with the carnal drive to procreate, the profound sex urge that borders on dissolution: to lose ourselves, to be undone, to transcend our ego and overcome death.
I was exposed to extremely radical feminism at a young age. I say extremely radical advisedly: I’m talking about lesbian separatism, the belief that all heterosexual intercourse was a form of rape, that kind of thing. I took it to heart because I was a kindhearted boy. I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to help. I accepted that women had been oppressed by patriarchal society for thousands of years—for that matter, I accepted that there was such a thing as “patriarchal society”—and that if I wasn’t part of the solution I was part of the problem. And I wanted to be part of the solution.
Trying to be part of the solution was pretty stressful, though, as I knew quite a lot of women, friends of mine, my girlfriend (you can see how things have changed by the way I use that word “girlfriend”) who could not help but despise me for the very fact of my being a man. This might sound unfair, especially considering I was maybe seventeen years old at the time, but it’s important to remember that in our culture almost everyone who is not a white male has at one time or another experienced some gradation of being despised for who they are, so it was instructive to be on the receiving end.
Besides, I’m pretty much over it now. Not feminism, but self-hate.
And, again, I’ve always had a thing for chicks. I’ve always been a fool for love. I’ve only ever cared about the things that move me to tears: beauty, love, wonder, death. I’ve always felt there was a temple at the center of world, and that the path of love led to that sacred place, that World Tree, that Citadel.
It seems people now want to control love, to make it another achievement to check off their life list. To find the perfect partner, make their perfect life. Or at least get the perfect wedding photos to share on Facebook. As if life were anything at all like that, as if crafting your own little catalog world divorced from the universal tides of love and death were something admirable, something to be proud of. And you can see why people want to live that way: to control the scary variables. It’s fear again, of course. As it always is.
And I think this is why so many people are unhappy in love. They only want the sex, or they only want the admiration, or they only want the TV shows and ice cream in bed. They only want the part that makes them feel good.
But Astarte isn’t only the goddess of love. She’s also the Goddess of fertility, and of war. And that doesn’t sound like a good weekend! That doesn’t make for a shareable meme. We don’t want to acknowledge any connection between sex and fertility and conflict. We don’t want to talk about death, we don’t want to let it in.
So we’re like children most of the time, running about, silly, oblivious.
When I was a naive romantic I used to wonder, quite seriously, whether there might not be only One True Love for all of us, and whether we might not through accident or simple stupidity lose them and miss our chance, our destiny, forever.
Now, older, I’m quite sure that One True Love exists, and it is One for all of us, that which drives us all our days, that which poetry speaks of, and religious mystery, and the woods at dusk, and at the beginning of the day. I’ve been lucky, so lucky, to have it manifest in my life, and to know it. But we can show the same love to everyone, to anyone: our neighbors, our friends, our enemies, to other animals. We are brothers and sisters in spirit. In the very effort to know this we allow love to flow, to fill the world.
And as for my soul mate, my Eternal Wife, my bride: I’ll love her long after the Earth is dust, and the last star in the sky has turned cold.
- I’ve said elsewhere that no one gives a shit about guitar solos, and this is normally true, however the solos in “She Brings the Sunlight” are very trippy exceptions, and they shred