‘I Know the Most Beauty There is…’

Love of another human being adds density, real heft, gristle, girth, to a human life, i.e., mine.

A life without love is only “rather nice.” A few pennies in a drawer, a thought before bed about washing.

The worst fate is not that of a loveless life, but it is the least beautiful and therefore the least lively. A loving life riptidescrackles, and we feel that even if we cannot say it.

Lovelessness fosters habits that fill up a life-cupboard: teatime twice a day, eagerness for the mailman, unstated satisfaction in hearing your knuckle pop.

I have been waiting for you and you have not arrived. This is what lovelessness feels like. Waiting for you, abiding, biding, refreshing a bookmarked webpage. Not deadening, deadness, just that sedentariness, that being at rest, you know it, an unused guest room that was once a playroom.

Grand Causes are no substitutes for love. Nor drugs or successes. Nor the piquancy of fame. Compared to love, these are mere whispers in the ever unbounded.

I know the most beauty there is. The fact that you are alive and you told a joke. Within earshot. Next time I’ll laugh. Doesn’t matter. I promise. Doesn’t matter.

Kissing a ‘thing which is human’


At bedtime, I lie on my side, facing her. Her hand is so warm, rough from climbing.


After I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I lie back down and listen. There: her breath.


Epicetus says, ‘If you kiss your wife, say you only kiss a thing which is human. Thus you will not be disturbed if it dies.’ His words sound cruel, but they are not that at all.


One hand is firmly around the middle of her back, feeling muscle and vertebrae. The other wide-pinches the nape of the neck. Her lungs fill. Her ribs fall.

Love, friendship, and work

In Sources of the Self, the philosopher Charles Taylor argues that what is distinctive about the modern world is that many of us have come to regard the claims of ordinary life as being ultimately fulfilling. Someone’s falling in love, raising a family, maintaing a close-knit group of friends, and doing meaningful work would, on this modern view, be sufficient for him or her to flourish.

While it is true that many people are drawn to these goods, it is equally true that one or more may not be so easy to come by. Searching for unconditional love may seem futile, the project of being a good lover utterly perplexing. Cultivating genuine friendships may seem arduous, sorting the genuine ones from the fair-weather especially painstaking. And discovering the kind of work that moves one to be be fully engaged in living may fall, one may believe, into the hands of the precious and fortunate few.

From time to time, philosophical friends and I puzzle through these questions concerning the art of love, the fashioning of genuine friendship, and the nature of meaningful work. To learn more, see ‘What We Talk About.’

A nature walk (An excerpt from Radiance)

A short excerpt from Radiance: An Essay for Unsettled Time. The book is in progress.


A nature walk is no easy thing. The mind wishes to attach itself to fond or tortured memories, the mouth to rupture solitude or its communion with coursing things. Or thoughts stretch in the direction of a goal for walking or stray in anticipation toward prospects and projects…

Continue reading “A nature walk (An excerpt from Radiance)”

Lightening bitter hearts

A bitter heart can set in one day and thereafter settle in. Be vigilant therefore. Where today have you erred? What deed neglected, left unfinished? What love untold? Now write these reflections down on paper, read them aloud, and cast them thence into the night fire. Tomorrow, during morning meditation amid the quietude that pervades before dawn, let all turn to sweetness, then to light.