“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Scripture asserts that there is nothing more important than love. But what is love? What does it mean to love someone? Can it be defined? Is it a feeling or an action?
The movie, Love Actually (2003), explains this concept very well. Here is Hugh Grant’s opening monologue. “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed. I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin towers none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually is, all around.”
Every Christmas I watch this movie, and always find something new of note. I watched it again last night, and edited my annual post on this. A number of characters’ lives are woven together in seemingly separate stories to define the full meaning of love.
David is the newly elected British Prime Minister. He falls in love with Natalie—a “plump,” average looking girl from the “dodgy” end of Wadsworth. Message: Love transcends positions of power, stature, or social class.
Daniel is a man who has just lost his wife to cancer. She had a 10-year-old son, Sam, from a previous marriage. During the movie Daniel and Sam grow closer than any father and son could. Message: Love is greater than the biology of family (ask anyone who’s adopted).
Sam, on the other hand, has a huge crush on Joanna—a girl at school with the same name as his mom. He does everything to get this girls attention, including learning to play drums. Message: True love knows no age. Even a crush is love. No one is immune from the “total agony” of falling in love.
Sarah is an interesting character. For two years she has had a crush on Karl, the “enigmatic chief designer” at the ad agency. He is interested in her, but she has a problem—her brother is in a mental institution and calls her day and night. She has no time for romance. In the end, she picks her brother. Message: Love as loyalty is sometimes greater than love as romance.
Harry is Sarah’s boss at the office. He is married to Karen, and has two children. They’re just an average suburban family. But Mia, his sexy secretary wants him! She plots ways to seduce him. He buys her an expensive necklace, but his wife finds out. She feels betrayed, hurt, and angry, but in the end she chooses to stay with him and be a loyal mother and wife. Message: Love is greater than seduction—loyalty is love as well.
The next character is Jamie—a writer who finds himself “alone again” in a cottage in the south of France. The housekeeper is a Portuguese girl named Aurelia. She can’t speak a word of English, he can’t speak any Portuguese, and neither of them can speak French! And yet they fall in love without ever communicating a single word. Message: Love is ineffable—it transcends language.
Billy Mac is a hilarious character. He is an ex-heroin addict pop star trying to make a comeback. On Christmas Eve he shows up at his manager’s apartment and confesses that he’s the “love of his life.” Message: Men can love each other and not be homosexual. That’s something our culture isn’t real comfortable with because people don’t see friendship as true love—but it is.
Jack and Judy are body doubles in the adult film industry. They meet on the set and then film several sex scenes completely naked. This is, oddly enough, “just work” for them. Then, close to the end, Jack walks Judy home, and as he leaves, she softly and shyly kisses him. He jumps down the icy stairs in joy. Message: Love is greater than sex. Sex is not always love, and sometimes love involves no sex.
Lastly, Mark is in love with Juliet, his best friend’s wife. Mark suppresses his feelings for her by giving her the cold shoulder. He calls this “a self-preservation thing.” Eventually she finds out, and after he confesses that he will love her forever, he walks away and says, “Enough. Enough now.” Can you love someone you can never be with? Yes. Message: Love, however strong, sometimes has to be unrequited.
Love has so many facets, so many twists and turns, so many pathways. It’s like John Lennon said, “All you need is love.”