Friday, June 5, 2015

The Hydrodynamics of Love

As I was sitting at graduation and looking at our kids about to step off into the world outside high school -- not the "real world;" we all live in the "real world," even in kindergarten* -- a thought occurred to me. I pretty accurately recalled it on Facebook last night:

Love runs into available channels, like water does. To argue that there is more value to pouring it into one place than into another is sort of a defiance of hydrodynamics.

What got me thinking this is that, as I looked at the graduating students, I realized I feel differently at graduation at this point in my life than I did when I started teaching in my small school nearly two decades ago. It is always bittersweet to see our kids go: at once, a measurable educational accomplishment and a loss. Our school is small, with graduating classes of under 100, so we know them all, whether we teach them or not. And when we teach them, we know them well. They truly become "our kids." 

But, as I said, something is different, now. I used to feel more of a gut-wrench, driving home on graduation night. I used to linger a little longer outside to say goodbye the kids. Now, although I still feel sad as they go, I have an easier time of it. I feel no need to hold on. I can sleep just fine if I didn't say good bye, face-to-face, to all of them. 

This is because, I think, my love runs into different channels, today; channels I chose to dig, myself. Today, I drive home away from my school kids toward my real kids. At twenty-eight, more of my affection ran in the direction of my students. Now, the deepest channel runs toward my kids. One still runs toward the students, but, it just doesn't compare to the one that runs toward my sons. The "student channel" used to have less competition; there were less channels pulling the water away from was more full, then. 

But, here's the thing: it is fruitless to argue, as some people do, that one needs to have kids in order to experience the deepest of loves; that one is cheating one's self of a full heart if one does not start a family. I think we either choose how deep to dig channels, whatever direction they run, or we find ourselves surprised by how deep one of them runs. 

I think people have, each, a certain capacity for love; think of it as a reservoir with a certain amount of water. If a channel is dug away from the reservoir, the water flows in that direction. The love simply needs somewhere to go. The intensity of the love (the strength of the flow) doesn't come only from the thing or person to whom it is directed, but from the size of the reservoir and the depth of the channel. The water doesn't run out, it just flows where we allow it to; or, according to the channels we have dug, either on purpose or by accident. (By "accident" I mean, say, the stray animal we picked up and fell in love with; the cause we accidentally discovered and poured out heart into...) 

When I had kids, my love flowed in that direction, joining the channel that was already there for my wife and my music and the one we later dug by getting our beloved dog...and, joining the one for my students. I think we all need to (no news here) express our love according to our capacity both for love itself and for its expression. If there is only so much water in the reservoir, the water will fill the deepest channels before it goes to the shallow ones and, at some point, all the water is used up... Some channels run dry; some will run more shallow. 

How'd I do? I get the feeling I might have failed, here, in explaining this idea and that I over-stretched my metaphor to the point of ineffectiveness. Ah, whatever. No one reads this blog on Fridays anyway...

*I hate when people tell students about "the real word." Talk about invalidating their existence up until graduation; talk about teaching them that the only reality is in the mundane treadmill of the tax bill world... HATE IT!!! Grr. 


  1. This is beautiful.
    Regarding stray animals, this may amuse you:

    1. Thanks, Zoe -- Glad it worked for you. As you can see, I wasn't very confident about this one. Thanks for the link. I'll have a look!

    2. Just read the link; delightful! Thanks.

  2. This is beautiful.
    Regarding stray animals, this may amuse you: