To My Dear Children

…on the dangerous idea of love.

Terrifying as it may sound, I implore each of you to open your hearts and love someone, some animal, some machine, some experience, some moment.

Know that it will fade. People will disappoint you; beloved pets will die on your watch; history may bend toward justice but it degenerates, all too often, into atrocity.

You may even disappoint yourself. It is the way of things.

Get up, try again and when you love, love with unbesmirched joy. Because it’s supposed to be a joy, isn’t it? The pain that comes along with love is the price we pay for joy and it can be a leadenly heavy tax, so for dog’s sake don’t overlook the joy — you’re gonna pay for it, anyway — and never, ever fall in love without it.

Tortured artists? Let ’em torture themselves. They don’t somehow deserve to take it out on goodhearted naifs who mistook entitled irritability for misunderstood sensitivity. No world owes anyone a headlong sacrifice to their solipsism and savagery.

Just go ahead and love the people who move your heart. Don’t feel pressed to love the ones who don’t. Whether romantic, platonic, or filial, please never try to germinate love out of the chemically deadened fill dirt of “duty.” That’s a short route leading directly to wash ‘n’ wear cycles of resentment. Love is never a duty. Never.


Love just is. Never a duty.

Not to your parents, your partners, or your nation. Love whatever moves your heart, and leave the rest to be loved by others. There are a lot of us out here in the big, jostling world. You’re not responsible to love everything or everyone you come across (but stay open to the idea, since things can and do work out sometimes), and you’re not bound to anyone’s agenda or sense of propriety.

If your friends don’t like your latest crush, tough luck to them — but if your sweetheart won’t let you have friends, get outta there! Even if you’ve signed a contract, because love is (sing with me, now) NEVER A DUTY.

Nor is it a privilege. Having someone you care about in your life may be a fine piece of good fortune but caring for them, planning with them, and adoring them are choices you make and chances you take — or don’t.

It’s up to you. Once we deem someone’s attention an irreproducible privilege, that mindset easily degrades into feeling obligated to them for their mere presence, and then… well, see above.

Best way to avoid falling into the kind of thrall where you ignore your own needs in your rush to mollify a partner is to first build a life you enjoy inhabiting. Once you’re in that state, opening your life to someone else becomes a genuine act of sharing. That’s the day you’ll know in your bones that the love you offer is a worthy gift.

And then something wonderful may happen (also it may not, since love makes everything possible and promises nothing). Loving yourself is a fine, diamond-bright foundation for joy, but when you love someone else, that ladles about a hundred percent more joy on top of loving yourself — and if they love you back, the amount of joy you can find together isn’t just multiplicative. It’s exponential!

Sweethearts on a cliff
© Michael Pierce 2007

See, that’s just math. You can’t argue the math.

So find the people (and dogs, and tools, and songs, and beaches, ancient trees, books, horses, foreign lands, games, backyard potting sheds, et al) whom you will love and when you do, love them with all the joy your body can hold. That is your central quest. It’s the one that matters most.

Those who love you back with all their joy may just change the course of your life. They might show you experiences you would find no other way.

When you fire your rocket like that, with all your boosters lit up and blazing, then in every case where the mission drops short — where you love someone with what turns out to be unreciprocated joy, and that will happen — your fallback position lands you straight back into the joy with which you undertook the enterprise.

It’s about the joy, okay? The joy.

Go git you some.

Next Post


  1. Dennis Weatherly says

    Its been a long time since one of these popped up in my Inbox. Wonderful thoughts to ponder, expressed so eloquently. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. Stone Bear says

    “Love just is. Never a duty.

    Not to your parents, your partners, or your nation. Love whatever moves your heart, and leave the rest to be loved by others.”

    That’s damn right. First legal partner and I get along a lot better now that we split. I like myself a lot better now that leaving parents behind freed my mind of explaining the Hard Things. And the place where I was born… is a place I kind of resent. Not the ordinary people, mind, but the one’s we’ve allowed power…. aren’t good for me anymore. So month after next I will go and explore the oldest extant democracy in the world… and see don’t it inspire me.

    I will still follow a number of people I physically leave behind, including present company… not giving y’all up. But my heart’s pretty much already gone; time for the rest of me to follow.

  3. Dave G. says

    Thank you Jack. This is the one I needed. Glad it’s the one you’re posting. Trying to pick up what you’re lying down. All the best.

  4. Live by feel, know your fears, engage your joy.
    Thanks for once again sharing your wisdom and reinforcing my mantras.

  5. Somewhere Kurt Vonnegut is smiling as he reads this among his freshly opened letters from humanity.

    Thank you, Jack. I’m always delighted to read your wise take on life. I’ll be sending this on to those I’m fortunate enough to love (and even more fortunate to have them love me back).

  6. Love is one of those four letter words… not in itself good, bad, or otherwise. As you say, love is.

    It’s what we do with it that matters, and you, my friend, keep reminding me to pay attention to that.


Speak Your Mind