Writing a book on love
I read a book the other day that is very popular with people who are looking for answers to universal questions. The writing was concise and clear, and the imagery was accessible, despite striking me as overly simple.
Most striking was the style. Every chapter was short, every paragraph was short, every sentence was short.
The book didn’t engage my curiosity, but I understood how the direct language and simple images would provide a roadmap for someone who was looking to understand a mystery of human nature, who didn’t want science, and who resisted nuance.
It must be hard to write like that. Why not try and find out?
* * *
ONE: The List of Love
This is meant to be a list of things about Love.
Love is something that people talk about a lot.
It’s something that is supposed to be necessary. We need to be loved.
It’s something that we are supposed to be good at. We are supposed to love.
It is something that we are supposed to enjoy. It is pleasant to be in love.
Love is something that we are supposed to be able to recognize in a second, give on demand, and enjoy when we have it.
Why is it that most of what we talk about when we talk about Love is how hard it is, how much it hurts and how we want to get away from it?
TWO: The Eskimo Word For Snow
How is Love like the Eskimo word for snow?
That’s a trick question.
The Eskimos don’t have one word for snow. They don’t have just two. They have dozens. More than a hundred. All to describe snow.
A man named Franz Boas was the first person to try to describe how Eskimos talk about snow.
The Eskimo starts off with a couple of simple ideas about snow.
There’s aput. That means snow on the ground. And gana. That means falling snow. Piqsirpoq means drifting snow. Qimuuqsuq means snow drift.
That’s not enough to describe all the ways that snow affects the Eskimo’s life. Those are just the starting points.
There’s snow-that-hurts-my-eyes-because-the-wind-blows-when-it’s-falling snow.
There’s crunchy-under-my-boot-because-the-sun-melted-it-and-the-cold-night-air-froze-it snow.
There’s packed-thigh-high-and-weighing-down-thin-ice snow.
So an Eskimo has a word to describe every one of those kinds of snow.
They have to.
Understanding the snow is the difference between life and death for an Eskimo.
Does it make any sense that we have one word for Love?
It seems to me that it would be better to have hundreds of words that describe every kind of love that a person can experience in a precise detail as possible. That would be a sensible way for us to understand this mysterious thing.
THREE: How Many Words Should We Have For Love?
It might seem simple to have one word to talk about a big thing…Peace, Earth, the Universe, Life.
Love doesn’t benefit from a definite approach.
You see, Love isn’t anything without having reciprocal parties, and it is only what those reciprocal parties make of it.
The Love we have for God? And that God has for us? I’ll talk about that later. The thing about the Love you experience for and from God is that there isn’t going to be any confusion. God won’t turn around in the middle of folding the laundry and say, “I don’t love you anymore.”
Your wife might. Or your husband. Or your mother. Or your boyfriend. Or your oldest child. Or your sister.
The problem with having one word for Love is that it makes us think that there is one way to think about Love.
It’s made every one of us think that if we can figure out what the word means and how to feel it, we’re home free.
How can one word cover how I feel about my wife, my dog, my children, Granny Smith apples, almonds and the New York Football Giants?
Doesn’t it seem that we are asking too much from the word Love?
* * *
By the time I got to the end of section three my mind was mush and I was bored silly. How does someone write a book like this?
Then I thought that if you wanted to write a book like this, you needed structure. So I laid out the chapters.
FOUR: Love Taxonomy for the New Age
FIVE: Boxing Gloves Keep You From Hurting Your Hands
SIX: Smile Break
SEVEN: : Easy to Love The Big Things
EIGHT: Why Does Everyone Keep Singing About Love?
NINE: I’m in Love
TEN: Love Bum
ELEVEN: Spy In the House of Love
TWELVE: That Was Love & I Didn’t Know It
THIRTEEN: The Story I Tell About Love
FOURTEEN: The 10 Clues That Will Help You Find Love
TWENTY-SIX: The 5 Principals That Will Help You Stay in Love
THIRTY-THREE: The One Rule
THIRTY-FOUR: Love is an Action
I had the outline.
And I had my answer.
I’d rather tell a story about Love. I wasn’t going to cut it writing a self-help book. I’ve got a lot of respect for the writers who can make it simple, interesting and universal.