Love is a joke, No one trully loves, says the table, in the handwriting of a young woman who will fall in love again. Her inscription is a footnote & rebuke to its neighbor, a wobbly felt-tip heart inscribed CM + GC. And she’s right: no one trully loves.
Love is a joke in adolescence, falling for the same tomcatty cellist or soulful poet as my friend, and thinking the joke is on me, when, really, it’s on all of us. In high school there are a lot of jokes I’m not getting, including the outlandish one about how everyone is basically doing exactly what they’re capable of. Crazy as it seems, no one, including pyromaniacal erratic me, is holding back some better thing they could be doing instead.
There are also some jokes I am getting that no one else seems to understand, except, blessedly, my friends. For instance, my friend Andrew and I understand that it is actually pretty funny how much suicide poetry we are all writing, as evidenced by his efforts & my own, as well as the overflowing literary magazine submissions box. Seen in this light, our adolescent laments feel more like a shared symptom than any cause for particular alarm. Andrew and I pull together a rogue anthology on the sly, and call it Death Be Not Trite. Few people get the joke, especially because we include some wretched poems dedicated to the kid who just died in a drunken car wreck. Nevermind. Love is a joke, and we are all in on it together.
Last night, I dream of Andrew. I am in the middle of some complicated & enervating marketing scheme involving signed-unsigned products that may or may not be suitable for anyone to want to buy. And then, spontaneously, the market is flooding gently and Andrew is by my side. We swim around like manta rays in the shallow waters that have made all further marketing impossible.
Then, in the dream, there’s a sticking/non-sticking point. Does all this swimming mean Love Forever? No, it does not. This swimming means the joke of love is the way it arises and ceases, forms and re-forms according its own nature, over and over. On the wallpaper in the orange room where we are standing awkwardly together is a golden decal of the Four Friends: an elephant, dog, bunny, and bird stacked on top of one another in search of sweet fruit. Swimming around in the marketplace is sweet fruit. Meeting one another as we very much need to be met is sweet fruit. Sleeping in my married-lady bed – which is mostly a me-dreaming-alone bed – is sweet fruit. Allowing the joke of love to arise and cease on its own terms is sweet fruit.
In the dream, I go downstairs and find my parents have been cooking a huge feast of bright orange and green vegetables. Andrew and I are invited, among many others, even though swimming around like manta rays in ruined marketplaces is hardly my parents’ speed. The most amazing part of the joke of love is that it is unconditional and without fixed object.
Still, there are parts of us that will themselves to be arrayed-for and arrayed-against, despite all evidence of the impossibility of such distinctions. In my wish to scoot a tiny red mite off the page, and in its scurrying, I have solidified, and killed it inadvertently with the tiny grass shard I intended to offer as transport. Arrayed-for and arrayed-against do not leave the moment its own time to resolve. They want and don’t-want. May you be reborn at ease, little beast.
Love is a joke that claims to specialize, when nothing could be further from the truth. The whole point of love is not-knowing, and turning towards groundlessness with an open and committed heart. Pema Chödrön & that lady who had the huge stroke that turned off the parts of her brain in charge of moving her right side, perceiving time, and ego function say: any emotion, unproliferated, actually lasts about ninety seconds. So now try building a solid story of True Love around that.
If that were my daughter, I’d smack her, says the woman walking by with the puffy yellow comforter on her shoulders, to the other woman walking with her. Parental love is a joke in no small part because no one will admit how frail it is, and how undermined by the basic premise that it's possible to love close kin, while not giving a shit about all other beings: estranged kin, animals, trees, oceans, little scurrying red mites, people whose existence cannot be attributed to the loins of some putative shared ancestor or another. Trying to love your children as somehow special beings entrusted with carrying out your somehow special legacy is a joke. A terrible one. Much better to say, Everything is pretty much amazing, but you’re the little runt the universe has put into my care, so let’s find out who you are, and who I am, and what this whole thing will be about. Keep in mind, anytime I say This is the way we do things around here, what I am trying to say is This seems like a way we can be taking care of ourselves and the world right now. Try it, to see how it works on an open heart, and if something else comes up, please tell me about it.
Timothy left this morning to spend a week with his family out West, and then another week with a friend, having Adventure Man Time. This is really good. May it go well, with all the aunties and grannies, cousins, awkward in-laws, and barrels of raisin bran, under the great western sky. May it go well with the canoe & the tent & the permits & the ropes & big rack, under the great western sky. May it go well with all beings everywhere, trying to break their addictions. May it go well with the tormented great artist and his manta ray sculpture, even though he’s still pretty convinced that in order to go deep, he has to keep on suffering. May it go well with all the deep beings and shallow beings, all the manta rays and Russian lady depth-divers. May the joke of love become the breath within the breath for us all, so that reliably, in any space, at least one being can remember not to fixate on love, or hate, or anything in between.
Love is a joke and everyone is loved.
Love is a joke that lasts about ninety seconds before being displaced by the sound of a truck backing, or a bird calling for love.
Love is a joke with everything that can possibly be perceived as its punchline.
Love is a joke requiring that the joker see herself duped, enlightened, and redeemed by grace, all at once.
Love is a garment washed up on the shores of now, fitting perfectly, and yet so strange.
Love chirps, beeps, settles, moves on. And in that moving on, any next line intended from an open heart is perfect. Stay married for 1,000,000 years. Become a manta ray of the marketplace. Sit down to the feast everyone’s been invited to. Stay present. Leave your mind alone. The joke is on, in, and of us all.
108 Names of Now