To rise in love would be such a cool feeling, don't you think?
"I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be."
When Prince died, like a lot of people I followed my shock and sadness down into the YouTube hole. I searched his name in there and found a bunch of videos of him playing his songs.
There he was at the Superbowl killing "Purple Rain." In the freaking driving rain, no less. And there he was at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame awards, years ago, cowering over in the corner of the stage, just biding his sweet little Prince time, while Tom Petty and a bunch of other old war horses moved through the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
After three minutes or so, everything changed when he took his turn front and center, and proceeded to play a four-minute guitar solo that might be one of the best solos anyone has ever played in the history of the world.
Watching him move across various stages or writhing all sexy through one of his videos from the MTV heyday, death kept grabbing me by the throat. I felt jacked up against some alley wall, mugged and violated by the cold reality of what it must mean to truly die.
No more dancing. No more singing. No more teasing, sheepish smiles. No more guitars and no more scarves and no more doves and no more purple. He was gone.
For the living, that stark unfathomable reality of death meaning you're truly out of time never goes down any easier. We simply can't comprehend it. Some people like to tell themselves that there will be another chapter, but still: We all know deep down inside that we can never be sure about that. Faith is earthly, like baseball or beer.
What struck me the most though, as I sat there at my kitchen island, sucking down coffee in the middle of a weekday afternoon and watching all these electrical versions of a human being who no longer existed was this nagging possibility that the man would never love again. It just hit me so hard.
People die, and with them goes their ability to love. Because love, in all of its splendid and poetic glory, requires a certain kind of pain and suffering to continue to develop and grow in the ways we know it.
And as sad at that may seem — and as pessimistic as it may seem of me to propose this notion that we only ever get to know and feel love once in this one go-around called life — I really don't see it as a bummer at all.
Because I'm still alive. (You, too, if you're reading this thing.)
I get to thinking about women I've loved and how things fell apart. I get to thinking about my divorce and my three beautiful children. I get to thinking about the fact that I'm 44 and probably closer now to the day I'll die then the day that I was born. And I can't help but wonder: Why do we f*ck love up like we do? Why did I?
And what now?
The funniest thing about me trying to see life with a pretty open mind is that I'm starting to embrace the idea of love. It took me long enough. Sh*t, I was like so many other people when I was a young man. I was angry. I was creative and hungry, and I wanted so much for myself without ever stopping to think about what I might offer up to somebody else.
Even in love, I doubt I knew love. That's a vicious thing to admit to yourself, but it might very well be true.
On one hand, I could look back at who I was, at my lack of certain "tools" and my fifty warehouses full of the idealized bullsh*t romantic fumes that drove me hard through each of my passing days as a guy in a band, and as a boyfriend, and eventually even a husband, and I could say that I tasted love only as much as I was capable.
But on the other hand, there's these possibly foolish parts of me that keep propping me up against my critical eye anymore. I remind myself I've always been in love with someone since I was 25. And that that love had to be real, even if I never rose to the occasion in all of the ways a man might wish he had when he's looking backwards.
"Dude," I remind myself. "Retrospect is mostly lies. Remember that. Ten million tons of past is way easier to judge and handle then the single moment you're standing in right now."
To rise in love would be such a cool feeling, don't you think? To be able to be in some kind of situation where people know that you love them with everything you've got. And to maybe get that back, too — that would be something else.
And I'm not just talking about romantic love either; I'm not limiting myself to pigeonholing love like that. Sex is badass. Sharing bills and homes and kitchen conversations about the minutiae of living with one special person is badass. Falling in love is badass.
But I'm talking about so much more than that. I'm talking about being able to love your kids and your mom and your brother or sister in ways that so many of us probably could if we only understood the moment is fleeting.
Is this making any kind of sense at all?
I don't know what happened the other day. I only know that I pictured Prince. I pictured Prince's tiny body laying there alone in that elevator in his compound. I pictured all of that once-upon-a-time magnificent life floating away from him, certain breaths spacing out until they just quit altogether.
And it hit me all at once that love is something I'm going to really miss when I'm gone. If we can miss anything when we're gone, that is.
I don't want to f*cking die someday but I know I'm going to. So are you. Maybe we'll die decades apart, me and you. Or, crazy as it sounds, maybe we both die on the exact same day, around the exact same time. Hell, maybe we're only a few blocks apart when it all comes down.
But whatever happens, I know I'm going. And soon, too, when you run it through the Grand Scheme of Things filter that we ought to run more of our personal sh*t through. In the blink of an eye, I'll be gone. Forever.
So what will my ripples be? What kind of sigh will I leave behind? As soon as a guy like me dies, so does the memory of him. That's basic truth. And I want my kids to remember that I loved them with everything I had.
And I really want to have maybe one or two more women spend a year or so after my death smiling when they speak my name. I want to be a ghost that a few people talk about and toast in some breezy way.
I want to the chance to be someone who loved a few other people by rising in love. I dream of a time where I live out my days not being so consumed with my own happiness all of the time.
I sense it in the love I have for my three kids. I long for them to know joy in this world. I long for them to know true happiness. I want all three of them to understand that love is limitless if they hurl themselves at it, accept its pain, and still somehow never ever grow jaded or bitter or defeated.
And I'd rip the throbbing heart out of my own chest right here, right now, spurting it all over these kitchen walls and this kitchen floor if I knew I could promise them that experience in this. But I can't, of course. None of us can even come close to promising sh*t like that.
Someday, though, I get this feeling that some of us who've been battered by love and who've sucked at giving love will get a chance to wake up. We will get bitch-slapped by the reminder that it's never too late to try to get love right.
We picture a guy fading away in his private elevator and it scares the hell out of us. And when that happens, the best of us will dig a little deeper, pull up old layers of fear, toss them aside, and hurl the past away like old dog-piss carpet until we come upon a thing that's tried and true.
And only then can we understand what it was that we were afraid of all these years. We were afraid of our own capacity to love. We were astonished by the enormity of our very hearts. We were blown away by what we were capable of.
And so we just ignored it all for so very long. Until one day we didn't. Until one fine day we finally understood that, in order to rise in love, all we had to do was admit to ourselves that it's the only thing we ever wanted.
Admit to ourselves that we want to get this right while there's still a little time left on that tick-tick-ticking clock.