21 April 2023

On loving, always

Whitney Houston’s 'I will always love you,' is a classic letting-go song. No in-denial in it. No anger or thoughts of revenge. No bargaining, no if-thens or if-not-why-nots. No talk of starting over, a second chance, forgives and forgets or pledges to do things different this time. Sadness, but no depression. Acceptance is what it is.

Of course, grieving, whichever form it may take, is not a linear process that goes from denial to acceptance. There could be closure, but then again no one can say with finality that there’s no going back. Human beings have memories. We revisit. And even from the distances yielded by time we can and do relive; at some point in revisitation we encounter and embrace ‘damn,’ weep, sigh and entertain what-ifs and maybes. Narratives, in short, don’t necessarily end when chapters are closed. Acceptance does not forbid grief or grieving.

Someone becomes someone else’s past tense, but that doesn’t necessarily work both ways, especially not when the relationship was about an experienced moment or present tense unutterably beautiful or held that promise and a long tomorrow in which no other name could even remotely make sense.

Love and romance: some believe, like Pablo Neruda did, that it is certainly beautiful but only at the beginning. We use those words and somehow feel compelled to use them about people we are with even though they’ve changed as we have, even though warts never imagined or anticipated have become visible or have, as the case may be, materialised. It may not be the love of those first soft petalled days, but neither is it something absolutely devoid of tender feelings.

It could be the same with those who made us their past tense and who, in time, we’ve added to our past tense. Regrets there could be, for nostalgia is always a heartbeat away. And yet, we’ve accepted: that which was and which was projected is no more and has moved out of the realm of possibility.  

What is most memorable about the song is this line: ‘I hope that you have all that you ever dreamed of, I do wish you joy, I wish you happiness, but above all this, I wish you love.’ And yet, ‘I love you, I will always love you.’

That is the expression of fidelity to the quality of muditha in the sathara brahma viharana or the ‘four divine abodes,’ the other three being loving-kindness, compassion and equanimity.

But what is this ‘love’ spoken about in this song? Is it the romantic love related to shared lives, relationships and planned futures or something else? The lyricist would know. While Whitney Houston’s soul-ballad arrangement for the film ‘The Bodyguard’ is better known, the original was written and recorded in 1973 by Dolly Parton. Apparently it was written as a farewell to her business partner and mentor Porter Wagoner, following Dolly’s decision to pursue a solo career. Nothing romantic about it, at least not in the classical meaning of the word.

Songs don’t belong only to lyricists and singers, though. And it is therefore a love song. It is about heartbreak and an assertion of the everlasting. The lyricist doesn’t elaborate on the word ‘love,’ doesn’t tell us what kind of love and whether or not that kind of love that inspired the song would remain intact in depth and nature of feeling across a lifetime.  

It is undeniable that the sentiments are soft, they are devoid of anger and that the vibes are all positive, all good. If we take it as a heartbreak song or rather a post-heartbreak song, the wounds and hurt notwithstanding, what’s left, as the song goes, are memories which although bitter are nevertheless sweet as well.

Love, if it is not the kind envisaged, is too often footnoted, scorned or erased from minds and hearts. However, if you live to be 93 there will be many moments where old loves will give a kind of warmth that will be embraced as blessings. No rancour, no regrets, no need to anticipate with relish or foreboding any number of futures that can only be too heavy for weary and ancient shoulders. They know. We know. No gripping hard, no casual rejection. A caressing, then. As soft-petalled as the blush of love’s first flush.

Just a different flower. Love, still. Loving. Always. 


['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below]

Other articles in this series:

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal

When you turn 80...

It is good to be conscious of nudities 

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday

There's a one in a million and a one in ten

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature

Pathways missed

Architectures of the demolished

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts

Who the heck do you think I am?

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha'

The Mangala Sabhava

So how are things in Sri Lanka?

The most beautiful father

Palmam qui meruit ferat

The sweetest three-letter poem

Buddhangala Kamatahan

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked

Pure-Rathna, a class act

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles

Matters of honor and dignity

Yet another Mother's Day

A cockroach named 'Don't'

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara

Sweeping the clutter away

Some play music, others listen

Completing unfinished texts

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn

I am at Jaga Food, where are you?

On separating the missing from the disappeared

Moments without tenses

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have)

The world is made of waves


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya'

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced

Some stories are written on the covers themselves

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time 

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists?

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords

The books of disquiet

A song of terraced paddy fields

Of ants, bridges and possibilities

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva 

World's End

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse

Street corner stories

Who did not listen, who's not listening still?

The book of layering

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain

The world is made for re-colouring

The gift and yoke of bastardy

The 'English Smile'

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5

Visual cartographers and cartography

Ithaca from a long ago and right now

Lessons written in invisible ink

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness'

A tea-maker story seldom told

On academic activism

The interchangeability of light and darkness

Back to TRADITIONAL rice

Sisterhood: moments, just moments

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart



Jimmy said...

In the movie, Rachel and Frank at least stayed together for a short while! Lucky they were.