One of the greatest mysteries of my life has been learning what love is. No one taught me how to love another. My parents taught me what family love means and my grandmother taught me how to treat the opposite sex. But no wise mentor ever taught me what it meant to really love. The great authors often served as my guide.
Here are some of the books I have taught over the years and what they have to say about the power of love:
· A Christmas Carol (Dickens): the need for having love in one’s life
· A Doll’s House (Ibsen): the destructive power of love which fails to see the true other person
· A Lion in Winter (Golding): the ties of remembered love, dysfunctional family ties
· Death in Venice (Mann): the destructive power of obsessive love
· Madame Bovary (Flaubert): the failure of romantic love in a realistic world
· Siddhartha (Hesse): love of family, the inability of love to define our search for self
· Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare): love at first sight, allowing ourselves to change for others
· The Alchemist (Coehlo): love at first sight
· The Book of Lost Things (Connolly): love of family and the healing power of love
· The Iliad (Homer): the destructive power of lust, the nobility of love of family and country
· The Turn of the Screw (James): the effects of “twisted love”
· To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee): love of family, responsibility toward others.
· Washington Square (James): The pain of unrequited love
Of all the works I’ve taught, the one that has taught me the most about love is Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac which speaks of shaping one’s life with beau gestes, the pain of unrequited love and the power of dedicating oneself to serving another. Cyrano taught me to place others above myself. He is constantly performing beau gestes (beautiful gestures which hurt him but help others). His love for his cousin enriches his life while at the same time teaches him the pain of unrequited love. At the end of his life he has the love and admiration of his friends. In his final hour he learns that Roxane has always loved him—even though she thought it was Christian she loved. He dies knowing the joy of hearing another say they love him unconditionally.