Me doing some organic chemistry in front of a cross

Taken by my friend, Amanda, probably after we finished Biochemistry lecture for the day. I’m sitting in front of the St. Joan of Arc chapel at Marquette University.

I keep a diary. That’s no secret. Nearly every single entry in my diary (which dates back to January 1, 2005) ends with a salutation addressed to myself: “Love to you,”.

I first saw that salutation on Jason Mraz’s (now defunct) blog. I thought it was very clever. In the first place, it’s not the typical salutation like, “Sincerely,” or, “Love,”. Secondly, it reminds me that love is something that is sent which necessitates that it is an active action. I cannot love you if I do not do anything. Further, I cannot love you if my impetus to love does not come from within. I must first love you in abstract before I can love you in some material or tangible manner.

I also anticipate that love is something we never grow tired thinking about (says the single man). The other day I was driving home after work thinking about a patient that had come in for a pre-surgery evaluation. As the doctor and the patient began to discuss the surgery, the dramatic phrase came up: “Money is not an issue. In this situation, we have to do it.”

In my car, I began to think about that phrase and the relationship of cost and security. Generally, we pay a premium for goods we desire. Then I thought about how I and others buck the trend by taking pleasure in cheap goods. An example is the marriage proposal with a plastic ring purchased from a 25 cent vending machine, or eating McDonald’s on date night instead of a steak at a steakhouse. Then I thought about expressing love through the purchase of material goods. I think I show my little siblings my love for them when I buy them movies that we can watch together. Those movies aren’t expensive which indicates that spending a lot of money isn’t proportional to the amount of love expressed.

OK, good. Seal the deal. More money doesn’t mean more love. But for some reason that idea lingers. For some reason we seem to romanticize expense. If I may flaunt my (7+ years of) German, we romanticize the Teuer (expensive) and not the Billig (cheap). Is there merit to this idea? Let me suggest yes and use Christ as my example.

Christ paid an incredible expense to demonstrate his love for us. At the risk of being brief, let me put it clearly: Christ loved me and died for me even though I didn’t love him (Romans 5:8). What greater expense is there than giving up our lives for those that we love? Isn’t this what parents do for their children? Isn’t this what the brothers in Tae Guk Gi demonstrated? We rarely give up ourselves to the extent that Christ did for us, but we do give away parts of ourselves in different ways when we love each other.

So the next time you end a letter remember that your “Love,” actually means “Love to you,”. And when you think about “Love to you,”, remember that you are loving by sending some part of you.

And if you are a Christian, the next time you say that you love Jesus, pray that you mean it to the extent that Christ meant it. “Christ, I love you,” seeks the company of those desiring to pay the greatest expense.

And remember that a single man once told you to always think about (Christ’s) love–because that’s all single people ever think about.

Martin Luther King Jr. met a number of girls in Boston as a student at Boston University, but he never met a girl that he was particularly fond of. On the point of cynicism, Martin called a friend and asked, “Do you know any nice, attractive young ladies?” He received Coretta’s number from his friend and left the following message for Coretta: “This is M. L. King, Jr. A mutual friend of ours told me about you and gave me your telephone number. She said some very wonderful things about you, and I’d like very much to meet you and talk to you.”

They met and talked for awhile. Then Martin said: “You know, every Napoleon has his Waterloo. I’m like Napoleon. I’m at my Waterloo, and I’m on my knees. I’d like to meet you and talk some more. Perhaps we could have lunch tomorrow or something like that.” Coretta agreed, and Martin said: “I’ll come over and pick you up. I have a green Chevy that usually takes ten minutes to make the trip from B.U., but tomorrow I’ll do it in seven.”

At lunch, they conversed in depth about things other than music, Coretta’s field of study at the New England Conservatory of Music. Then Martin said, “So you can do something else besides sing? You’ve got a good mind also. You have everything I ever wanted in a woman. We ought to get married someday.”

This is a cute love story. It’s especially sweet since it demands a democracy of King that we rarely allow. I like that he was so bold. I’m not saying we get to choose our spouses, but King knew what he wanted in a spouse because he knew what he wanted to accomplish in life. Coretta couldn’t be the sort of wife to hide behind a man (not that any wife should). She had to be doubly as strong and doubly as determined as Martin. Alongside every historical man is a strong woman. King said that he and Coretta went down their path in life together — he didn’t lead her.

If I am blessed with the institution of marriage, I cannot wait for my Coretta. Otherwise, I will continue to be blessed and to be a blessing as a single man.

(originally written for my tumblr)

If you are truly happy, then you are not making a mistake. Do what you are happy doing. I’m wary to say, “Do what makes you happy,” only in that makes, in that phrase, is deceitful. “Do what you are happy to do,” I think, delivers a more intimate and true relationship between joy and occupation. ((Ultimately, it’s probably a trivial detail, but if you really scrutinize between makes as a consequential preposition and are as an essential proposition, it seems a vast discrepancy.))

I know that if I didn’t love school as much as I do, I would be in New York City — not Milwaukee; I would have two cases — one for my clothes, and one for my cello — not a backpack and duffel bag; I would own Dvorak’s Concerto in B Minor — not the 5th edition of Organic Chemistry; I would sit in the streets, alleyways, and under the bridges playing melodies and harmonies to compliment the urban symphony — not in lectures or labs. ((For the life of me, this has been my biggest struggle at undergrad: Balancing my passion for theology against my passion for a career in medicine — and then in the mix there is the dream of dropping out of school altogether and being a street musician.))

Have you discovered your gift, your passion? The two are more closely related than you may think. You will love your talent because it is what makes you different. It is what makes you special. It is what separates you from the crowd, the diamond from the earth, and the comet from the stars. When you, cherie d’amour, discover what you were especially made for, you and I will share in something beautiful.

I remember writing this after watching the trailer to Michael Jackson’s This Is It. Seeing how happy Michael was with his work inspired me. Great talents are there to inspire others, so that we might find our talents, so that we might inspire others.

Post note: I realize I may have not used the French in my title correctly. It’s pretty, and that’s all I really care.

Pictured is my angry little sister. She clearly has not identified her passion and gift in life yet. There’s still lots of time left, so I am hopeful.

Re: Helen Fisher tells us why we love & cheat.

Apprehensively excited is what you might say I felt. Apprehensive in that I was about to see scholarly exposition on a topic I love, and excited in that I love the topic. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist, presented an interesting, albeit somewhat awkward and plain, lecture on the biology of romantic love.

Her view, in tandem with that she was presenting love as a biological mechanism — “reducing”, if you will, love to a science — was depressing. She asserted that love, romance, is a biological drive, a branch in evolutionary history, and I believe she said something similar to, “It’s elevated levels of dopamine.” Is romance something we only dream, ravish in song, and melt into literature? Do we naively believe this illusion without any desire to discredit it?

Beyond depressing! Dr. Fisher spent 30 years of her life dedicated to studying the specific topic of romantic love, and she made that lame and lifeless conclusion. She says that the romantic drive is stronger than the sexual drive, but I can’t see her basis for that assertion. By simplifying love, Dr. Fisher has effectively severed its mysterious and lustrous qualities. ((If you watch the lecture, you’ll notice that she quotes a number of distinguished persons regarding love. None of the quotes, in my opinion, were effective — evidence that she dulled love.))

I’m frustrated with her research. Not only because it doesn’t agree with me, but mostly because it’s so simplified and ugly. She describes three drives: the sex drive, the romantic drive, and the attachment drive. These three drives ultimately serve the evolutionary purpose of reproduction: Finding a mate, concentrating on a mate, and staying together to raise the offspring. Rubbish. Love isn’t a biology; it isn’t textbook; it isn’t Darwin’s theory; you can’t contain it. That’s an intelligent escapade, and perhaps there is some light of credibility in those perspectives, but I believe romance — and Love so much more — is intensely larger than what Dr. Fisher is reducing it to.

Then, what is romance? I suppose much of romance is found in emotion, but I believe that emotion is quickly naive and immature. ((I don’t mean all emotion is garbage, only that emotion easily draws us toward either side of the trapeze.)) Although largely emotional, I think you would be missing the entire idea of romance if you focus solely on it; it would be like using a telescope to watch your television. Romance must have some deep relationship with the other facets of love. If you want to know romance, you have to know love in its entirety — exactly what I’d like to know. However, I also believe romance is a learning experience. Embarking on that experience is a large step for me.

Earlier in the week I was chatting with a friend of mine from back at university, Tegan. It was a lightly fascinating conversation about love. Specifically, our dialogue engaged us in our dating philosophies, romantic history, and — as Dr. Fisher might say — wishes for elevated levels of dopamine. I found most interesting our different approaches to dating. I don’t recall Tegan’s approach, but my approach largely focuses on the transition from friendship to romance.

I don’t understand the difference between a friend and a girlfriend. I like spending time with my friends whom are girls, but I’m almost certain that I would like to spend time with my girlfriend too. I like talking with my friends whom are girls, but, likewise, I believe I would enjoy it just as much, and perhaps even more, with my girlfriend. I speculate that emotion plays a large part in discerning friend from romantic partner. A girlfriend is someone that moves me to exhibit love’s qualities exclusively to her. What would move me to do such a seemingly selfish act? ((And what does that mean about love? Does it tolerate this “selfish” intent? Is it selfish at all?)) I propose that only experience can reveal this answer.

Is it disgusting that I’m dissecting romance like this? Perhaps, but I think it’s a smart move. I feel that too often people will think they’ve fallen in love when they really haven’t. I’ve noticed that when I first meet a girl that I have some sort of romantic interest in, I’m swept; I fascinate the thought of dating her, and saying she’s mine. It is my conjecture that failed loves and marriages are merely drawn out episodes of that experience.

I think romance is essentially a branch from a foundation in friendship. ((I feel like this is incredibly obvious. What healthy marriage or relationship wouldn’t say that their partner is their best friend?)) What separates the friendship from romance is what stirs the romantic emotion — not the emotion itself. This distinction should be largely variable, but I’m curious to know whether there is a common element.

Note: Title borrowed from a Relient K song from their self titled album. I thought it was somewhat interesting to observe that most of the love songs are usually about one person professing his or her love for another person. 17 Magazine is probably the only song I have that talks about love in the broad sense, and even then it is a stretch to say that. It’s probably an insignificant observation, but interesting nonetheless because what does that say about entertainment and love, if anything at all?

This is a horrible three months late. I kept re-reading, trimming, and adding this entry. I wanted each sentence and idea to be significant and go on to add onto the main idea: Love. I still feel that I didn’t accomplish that, but I am growing weary of trying to perfect this entry. It is my first personal expose regarding love, and in the process, I think I learned a bit more about love; but I’ll write about that at a later time.

Valentine’s Day at Marquette meant two things to me: Roast beef and the Antonin Dvorak. The former was disappointing, but the latter was exquisite.

I attended dinner with a number of my friends. We had a lovely time, and we were all single. The roast beef at dinner was raw — literally, in the sense that it was raw red. It was hemorrhaging, and all you had to do was lay your fork on it. I ate my fill and let the rest of the meat bathe in its hemoglobin, restrained from falling over the edge of my plate by the steamed (and somewhat delectable) carrots. Excuse me for stating the obvious: No platelets were present.

At the conclusion of dinner, our party exited Schroeder Cafe and I parted my ways with the group. I walked to the library to check bus times, and then waited for the 30 bus outside of the library. The 14 came and I hopped on and got off at North Water Street. I then proceeded at what you might call an allegro, or a brisk, pace. I passed many couples on the way to the Marcus Amphitheater. As I passed each couple or person, I reveled in the thought of being at the performance before them.

Upon entering the doors, I was flushed with a feeling that I will call elegance because I don’t know how else to describe it. I attribute this flushed feeling to the bright lights in contrast with the dark February 14th night. There was no line for tickets, and this flushed the flushed feeling further, exceeding my emotional boundaries. I wanted to scream like a little girl at a/or: 1) Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus concert 2) Jonas Brothers concert 3) Me at a Michael Jackson concert. ((Michael is performing the entire month of July 2009 in London. I want to go and scream like a girl, but I will not be able to be in attendance.)) Furthermore, I was offered my choice of seat.

I told the ticketmaster that I would like a seat on the left side lodge. I would have picked those seats anyway, but I knew I was in for a treat that night: The soloist is always — at least to my knowledge and in respect to the perspective of the audience — placed to the right of the conductor. He gave me a seat in row E, furthest from the steps. Handing him my choice of payment and my school identification card for the $12 student discount, I began to salivate like I should have at dinner.

I was early. Dressed in a baby blue and striped American Eagle button-up with a clean pair of jeans, I dashed up the stairs to find that people were decked out in tuxedos and sultry night gowns, engaged in what I knew was a pre-concert talk. I felt out of place. I knew they were engaged in learning about the performance, and I wanted to show that I was like them too.

Then, a revelation: I was observing myself in alienation. I hate to use the word discrimination because of the negative connotation, but let me summarize my discrimination experience. ((It was hardly discriminating. It was moreso I just felt I was crashing the party. Even then, I don’t know what crashing a party would feel like.)) 1) I was alone on Valentines Day. I know this shouldn’t matter all that much, but for purposes of this investigation, allow me the liberty to take it into consideration. 2) I was dressed more liberally than the other patrons. 3) Everyone else was partaking in the pre-concert talk. 4) I was colored.

Noting this opportunity to study diversity in a real situation, I headed off to find my seat. A sign blocked the walkway to the amphitheater, notifying concert-goers that the doors would open some time — either 10 or 15 minutes — before the performance. I sulked to a bench to sit by myself, and proceeded to text Jimi Shaw about what I was experiencing.

The doors opened and I waited the customary-cool of 2 minutes; you never want to be obscenely early to events. The greeter/seater kindly welcomed me and guided me to my seat. She warned me to watch my step, but I didn’t. I half-stepped on a step and I fell forward, emitting a quiet grunt of which I’m sure she heard. She took me to row E and pointed to my seat, the furthest one in. I thanked her, and I could and would have hugged her if it were socially proper and had I not grunted. I swished and swoshed into my seat like Lorelai at Movie Night, making myself comfortable for the next 10 or so minutes.

I passed the time by reading the evening’s program. When my eyes graced Dvorak’s Concerto in B minor, I could not contain my smile, and I swear I would have blinded the rehearsing bassoonist if my teeth were pure light — traveling at 3.0×10^8 m/s. That uncontainable smile made me question: Was I in love?

Some time soon after, the musicians of the Milwaukee Symphony trickled in. My eyes took sight of a lovely woman caressing and carrying her cello to the right-most section of the orchestra. Yes, I knew that section of the orchestra well. Yes, a smile once again escaped me. Yes, I knew I was in love.

How do we ever know?! Am I justified in saying that I know I am in love with the cello? Is an uncontainable smile a small part of discovering love? I think it’s a part of it.

An uncontainable smile must mean something is eliciting your deepest joy. It’s a sign that you are experiencing something you love an awful lot. I often find myself creating these smiles when watching Gilmore Girls and playing the cello/listening to cello. But — even then! — I believe we must be careful about smiles. Smiles are often a reaction that signal agreeable pleasure — not agreeable pleasure manifested through human medium. And when I say agreeable pleasure, I mean the most agreeable thing — something you fall in love with.

How can we differentiate between these two smiles? I don’t know, and I know that sounds like rubbish. I don’t have any proof of what I’m asserting. I hate to speak in the absolute, especially when I can’t even begin to describe the absolute. So I say this with much apprehension: I love the cello, especially my cello. ((Named Rory.)) I love Dvorak’s Concerto for Cello in B minor, but I know that I may soon grow weary of it. Moderation is key, and it is also vital for love. Anything in excess will spoil richness.

My political science professor, in a class titled “Justice and Power”, on the first day of class, told us about how she became involved in the science. What she said knocked me off balance. Dr. J, that is what we are allowed to address her by, said that she was gripped by this question: What is justice?

I was absolutely in love with the fact that she had dedicated a lot of her life to answering that question. How magnificent! Learning that small bit of her was, I feel, like Ferdinand and Isabella learning that Columbus had just discovered a new land many fathoms away. ((Fathoms are usually used to measure depth, but I was moved to use it in this sense.)) After class was excused that day, I didn’t think much of the idea anymore; it creeped in the back of my mind, though. And I feel like it has now found the question I desire most to be answered.

What is love? I try to divorce that phrase from Haddaway and focus on the essential question. Love is important, vital. I know that, and would place my life on that assertion. How do I know that, though? How do any of us know what love is? If love were to be on a map, I want to be able to point to it and say, “That’s love. Let’s go there.”

It’s such a complex thing. There is a component of emotion, one of intellect, one of justice, and who knows what else? This question, the revealing of love, is the one question I want to be able to answer at the end of my life. And if I am not able, then I merely hope I will have dedicated this part of my life to scratching away love’s epidermis.

With that, I’m adding a new category of entries. They’ll document my experiences, thoughts, revelations, and analyses on the question of love. Let me end with a clarification.

I believe that God is love. ((1 John 4:8 says, “. . . because God is love.”)) What does that mean though? God is love, then what does love look like? 1 John 4:8 doesn’t completely answer the question. God’s gifts, provisions, blessings, judgement, and love are not exclusive to Christians. But 1 John 4:8 brings up a huge obstacle, if we may call it that. If God is love, then, at least in this lifetime, we will never be able to fully comprehend it.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, writes,

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19

Hmm. A love that surpasses knowledge. Yeah, that sounds challenging, but I’m going to uncover what I can.