What Erich Segal Got Wrong about Love

forgivenesslib_mandela

Cartoon can be found at truthdig (please consider purchasing it directly from the cartoonist).

Welcome to the large-hadron collider that is Words Matter Week, Day Two. If you haven’t yet, please visit the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE) Web site dedicated to this sixth incarnation of WMW.

Today’s WMW topic talks about life changes:

Tuesday
What word, said or unsaid, has or could change your life? How?

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”   ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

*****

I’m peering through a literary kaleidoscope on this mattersome matter; that is to say, on this important theme. I keep fishing up two words: I’m sorry.

And yet, we are told “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Most people know this famous phrase from the Love Story book by Erich Segal, if not the movie.

To be fair, I’ve never read the entirety of Mr. Segal’s book, and I’m probably taking his quote out of context. Plus, I don’t mean to rip romance novels, but what hubristic jerk of a character really thinks in this absolutist way? If that’s the point of the line (to set up an antihero or villain), then bravo.

In my experience, love and humility are intertwined. Human beings are fallible, hence love and other human emotions, as well as the words used to express them, are imperfect. Words slip, slide, perish, and even sometimes break–at least according to American poet T.S. Eliot (read “Four Quartets” for these lines).

Now, I’m no Sybil of Cumae, but I think a simple “I’m sorry” might have the ability to transform some part of a life I have rued (to rework a line from poet Robert Frost). I’ve been party, unfortunately, to a few toxic relationships in my time, but I’ve also had to make my own share of mea culpas. So I know how two tiny words, three syllables, two or three breaths, can budge bitter hearts and begin to rebuild ransacked worlds.

Forgiveness, of self or of others, could free us from the suffering born of regret or anger or loss. And it’s hard to love if we’re unwilling or unable to either forgive or allow forgiveness.

So, were he alive, I’d love to pick Mr. Segal’s brain about that touchstone line. I suspect he might even regret it himself, in that many people know him chiefly for that line, taken out of context.

What word or words could reorder your world? While you’re pondering this, I urge you to consider taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words, also 2 March to 8 March 2014.

Finally, I’m sorry, Ryan. I never meant to hurt you, but, conversely, I’m glad you are where you are today, as I am where I am. Things worked out exceptionally well for us both.

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