Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Love Isn’t the Sizzle, It’s the Steak

“Love is….” Bookcases full of poetry have tried to complete this sentence. Love seems too fantastic to be experienced in daily life, too remarkable to be found in everyday gestures. To the romantic, if love is anything, it is spectacular. As the famous poem by Elizabeth Browning declares:

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight….”

What a beautiful description of love! In the poet’s hands, love is sublime and infinite, soaring as high as the lover’s soul. Indeed, this powerful image is so beautiful, it’s misleading.

Marketing 101 reminds us to “sell the sizzle, not the steak”. The sizzle is excitement itself, and people like excitement a lot more than they like steak.

Poets are the marketers of love. They are inspired by the “sizzle” of love, the drama of two hearts beating as one. They write intoxicating poems, and we are swept off our feet. And then we forget to eat the steak.

Love requires lots of small, unromantic, acts of kindness. The Mishna, when talking about true love, says:

.…any love that does not depend upon some ulterior interest will never cease….

This is setting the standard for love rather low! According to the Mishna, all one needs for true love is simple selflessness.

The Mishna is teaching a simple but profound lesson: Keep your eye on the steak, not the sizzle. Yes, love can (and must) be dramatic and sublime at times. But most of the time it’s the little things that nourish relationships. The smallest act of selflessness is a gesture of eternal love.

Love can at times be enchantment and adventure, but most of the time it’s saying thank you and taking out the garbage.

Love can be sublime and majestic, but most of the time it’s smiling and walking the dog.

Love can be passionate and dramatic, but most of the time it’s plain old admiration and sympathy.

Love can be the sizzle, but most of the time it’s the steak.

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