Often the serious thoughts seem to arrive early in the morning, when I'm still half-asleep. I was in such a state recently, half-thinking about Erica Dorf, a dear lady of 88 (John Tagliabue's sister), who died on New Year's eve, and about what I would say at her memorial service, and these lines from Shakespeare's sonnet 116 came to me : "Love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds,/Or bends with the remover to remove."

Here's the whole sonnet :

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:

If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

- certainly one of the greatest love poems.

It got me pondering (lying there half-awake) in a vague way about several different things... first, about a distinction between modern & ancient, or romantic & classical, notions of love - which seems related, in turn, to very basic aspects of design - ie., form & movement, crystal & fluid...

The modern romantic (Aristotelian?) conceives of love as involving change, growth, transformation. The ancient classic (Platonist?) sees it, on the contrary, as beyond change : steadfast, firm, constant, right & true, eternal.

It's the ancient notion which seems less familiar to us. (& of course there are moral/social attitudes which follow from how we conceptualize love.)

I started thinking about all this in terms of theology & cosmology. When we read in the Bible that "God is Love" (letter of John), do we envision that as an attribute of the "unchanging Father of Lights" (letter of James)?

If you try to reconcile this older concept of Love with notions of creation & making, what do you arrive at? A notion of the Universe as finished, complete (even if that completion involves freedom, chance, perpetual changes). A crystallization, an end-in-itself.

& I guess these vague notions also have consequences for the artist. If you think of inspiration/creation/artwork less in terms of a sort of expansive Romantic afflatus, and more in terms of a sudden coalescence of disparate materials - a fusion of chaos into cosmos - the formation of an integral whole... - well, maybe this tends toward a sort of "classicism".

Again we come to this (traditional, Byzantine) analogy between nature-as-creation, and artist-as-maker.

But all this was triggered as I lay there thinking about Erica, who throughout her life, in her small apt. in New York City, was an ever-fixed mark - a small harbor of light & joy, for strangers confronting that vast, proud & sometimes intimidating metropolis.

What if reality, cosmos, life-in-general - what if this whole is a crystallization out of an infinitely-deep well of creative Love? & that Dante's notion of the proper direction of the human will-to-love - repentance, in other words - involves not so much a change or transformation, as a re-alignment of one's own small reservoir of love, with that vast infinite source?

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