Fascinated with the emotional, social, and expressive dimensions of one of the most complex and ubiquitous human concepts, Philo set out to learn more from one of the earth’s self-proclaimed masters in the subject of Love. Having received numerous degrees from prestigious schools, and having written and published dozens of very well-received books and articles in well-respected publications, the Doctor of Love, or “Love” Theorist, as he called himself, happened to live, teach, and work at an institution of higher learning just a few cities away. The trip was worth the time and energy, as Philo’s passion was understanding the phenomena of Love, its meaning, its uses, its difficulties, and its infinite complexities, and if there was one individual who could help him understand the inherent beauty and inner workings of such a seemingly impenetrable yet pervasive subject, then it would surely be this Doctor of Love.
The plans were set, the trip was made, and soon Philo was shaking hands with and sitting across the desk from this ostensibly brilliant individual. After getting comfortable in the worn leather chair, and exchanging warm salutations with the Doctor and his bushy brows, he eagerly asked the question that he had traveled so far to have answered.
“I’d like to understand Love,” Philo began, rubbing his child-like and humble hands together as he spoke. “I have felt it, I have expressed it, I have given it, I have received it — but how? Why? What makes it tick?” The Doctor was used to responding to such superficial generalities, as there were few other than those in academia’s upper echelon’s who could speak with authority about such a complex subject. He began slowly and meticulously, shaping each phrase as if it were his last.
“First, my son, you need to accept that this is no subject that one can master in a single afternoon,” he flatly stated as Philo nodded his head and scratched his chin waiting for more, “but I see that you are ready to understand this thing called Love, so let’s get to the details.” With that introduction Philo scooted forward to the edge of his seat, his eyes glued and ears cocked, ready and willing to learn. “Let’s dive right in, shall we?” said the Doctor.
“Love consists of L-O-V-E,” he stated with punctilious perfection, clearly hoping to get an enthusiastic rise out of his student right from the start. Any rise, however, was that of fawning educational zeal transforming into skepticism. With hope, however, Philo edged forward waiting for more. The Doctor continued.
“L, you see, is the 12th letter in our English alphabet. O is the 15th. V is the 22nd. And E, ohh! E . . . is the 5th. In fact, let me show you . . .” he said as he leapt out of his chair with a bubbly grin and approached a blackboard to the left of his desk.
“Here!” he said as he drew an L on the blackboard. “Look at the angle of this letter . . . uh huh . . . do you see it? It’s 90 degrees! And this O right here!” he mused as he, like Giotto incarnate, completed the perfect curvature of the letter’s circle. “The V is nothing but a transformation of the L, but turned counter-clockwise 45 degrees,” he remarked, and then suddenly fixing his beady and increasingly maddened eyes on Philo, revealed, “That’s exactly half of 90 degrees, you know . . .”
Philo, couldn’t believe his ears, or his eyes, for that matter. When the good Doctor began waxing about how the numbers corresponding to the alphabetic position of the letters, when summed together (for a grand old stinking total of 54) and divided by their own arithmetic mean (which was 13.5, by the way) gave you 4 (naturally!) he was beginning to shift around in that well-worn leather chair looking for a hidden camera in the room. Was this some kind of joke? Had he strolled into the wrong office and struck up a conversation with the department jester?
“Ergo. . .” the Doctor stated with an emphatic pause, “LOVE!”. He exhaled lovingly in a way which Philo found ironic considering the circumstances, and it cooled his own fuming temper for just long enough to let good ol’ Doctor Lovey Dovey start up again.
“Now, let’s venture to the word’s origins, shall we?” he said, lifting his luxuriant academic eyebrows up and down with such vigor that Philo swore he felt a draft. With that statement Philo actually thought that they might be getting somewhere productive, somewhere insightful, somewhere that would make his journey worthwhile, somewhere that would seal up all of this pseudo-scientific tommyrot and thoroughly defenestrate it.
“First, the Old English: ‘L-U-F-U’,” the Doctor continued, and with that Philo arose and stormed out of the room. “Don’t you want to know about the Greek?!” the Doctor called down the hall after him, but it was too late.
Philo grumbled to himself as he buttoned his coat and walked down the frozen ivory-white steps of the building. After a brief sojourn of city-hopping, he had returned to his home, having puzzled along the way, and was still dumb-struck at how utterly irrelevant the dear Doctor’s professorial postulations were as compared to the experience and act of love in the real world. “Surely, he must realize this,” Philo mused. “Surely, the personal anecdotes and garnered aphorisms of a layperson would be more descriptive, explanatory, and insightful than . . . than THAT.” He sighed heavily, and sunk into his chair, beginning an evening of hypnagogic travel-induced lucubration, eyes focused on the blank wall in front of him, continually passing between sleep and wakefulness.
Philo came to, stood, and began the walk to his bed. While climbing up the stairs, it occurred to him that Love was meaningful to him; he loved love; he loved the feeling; he loved the commitment; he loved the chivalry, the niceties, the traditions; he loved the symbols; he loved the ever-changing newness of it in conjunction with its aging mythic prominence; he loved that everyone loved differently, and that love itself meant different things to everyone while simultaneously being a quintessentially shared phenomenon, to which so many of us could ostensibly relate. In contrast, the explanatory trajectory of the professor, was so unique that it bore virtually no resemblance to the meanings of Love within contemporary culture — or any culture outside of the Doctor’s building, for that matter.
Philo, considering all this, was exhausted. He loosened his tie, collapsed on his bed, and dreamt.