Submitted by: Peter Ehrlich
I remember the first time I heard Neil Young sing Only Love Can Break Your Heart, I was in my early twenties. And I remember what I thought about the song. “Nice little jingle, but I should get back to Keith Richards banging out his signature dirty riffs to All Down the Line.”
At that time I really never experienced the broken heart thing. Sure I had my breakups with my “girlfriends”, but being so young, I easily subscribed to the Buddhist notion that attachment is the cause of all unhappiness.
I suppose that when you’re so young that you can’t even begin to get a whiff of your own mortality, how much can a break-up mean? After all, you’re going to live forever.
That’s changed, because to quote Frank, “and now the end is near”. Well, the end isn’t exactly near, but it is.
I had my heart broken recently. You all know that. I told you about my animated discussions with my carpet mites, face flat against the floor. I did however leave out other details pertaining to that episode.
- When I did the laundry, after I put the clothes in, I would stare through the plastic top and watch the water rain down, the tub fill up. I found it comforting oddly enough.
- When I took the lint out of the dryer, I held it tightly for a moment before I trashed it. I found it comforting oddly enough.
- The other day I sat in a chair for half an hour and watched a spider crawl up the wall, wishing I could have such a simple life, the same feeling I get when I watch a cat, Zen masters unto themselves, do nothing, which is 99% of the time.
- When I went out, I purposely put on my heavy leather duster coat, just to feel its heavy weight on my shoulders, much the way Robert DeNiro lugged his net of metal objects up the mountain in the movie The Mission, as a way of atoning for the sin of killing his brother.
Breakups are all about penance and redemption, unless you’re the kind of asshole who believes it’s always the other person’s fault.
But I digress. Now I listen to Only Love Can Break Your Heart and understand exactly what that means.
Can the death of a loved one break your heart? No, I don’t think so. It can certainly kill part of you off, in that you’re changed forever by the loss, but it doesn’t break your heart.
(I remember when my mother died, I was seventeen, and I spent hours at a time listening to John Lennon sing “nothing’s gonna change my world”. (Across the Universe) And I knew exactly why I listened to that song, that many times, at that time; Twas because I knew that part of me died alongside my mother and that nothing was going to change that for the rest of my life. Part of my heart died on the day she died, but it didn’t break it.)
Now, let’s go on to the next part of the song, the line that comes after “only love can break your heart”. Here’s the crux of the song, the main theme, the big lesson for all of us, but the hardest lesson of them all; “try to be sure right from the start”.
This is where most of us screw up, because you know what I say. If you mix your genitalia together four times, you’re in a relationship my friend.
And you know what being in a relationship means my friend, it means this: “I am giving you permission to hurt me”. Or put another way, I am giving you permission to break my heart.
How hard is it to apply the lesson – try to be sure right from the start? It’s bloody difficult. It goes against all our primordial selves are programmed to do, have sex and go to heaven.
I’ve never seen heaven. I’ve only felt it.
You’re in your late thirties, or forties or fifties and you haven’t had a hand caress you in months or years. And someone walks through your door who looks just fabulous to you. They look great, smell great and the date(s) was/were great.
And yet, through all that greatness you know it likely can’t work and your gut is telling you why and you know your gut is right, as always. But instead of listening to the little man or women inside of us, what do we do? We turn them off, shut them down and proceed down the shadow of the valley of heartbreak death, all for the sake of serving our short-term needs.
Ok, now would you like to ask me how to walk away from temptations of the flesh in order to spare ourselves of a painful, “watch the spider” heartbreak?
I have no idea! Well, I do, as this column proves, but I’m way too pathetic. I think it’s my Venus in Scorpio thing that undermines all that I do.
I bumped into a stunningly beautiful, brilliant Greek Goddess recently who knew exactly what to do, how to put credence into the “try to be sure right from the start” thing. She left.
After a wonderful night of talking, eating, slow dancing to Frank Sinatra, she got up and left with these words: “I want to sleep with you but I don’t think it can work. You’ll never move to Burlington and I’ll never move to Toronto”.
Is a man even capable of saying “I want to sleep with you but it can’t work”?
I know we can say no, but I’m not sure we’re evolved enough to say why.
As she walked out the door, Frank was singing “Five minutes more”, which ends with him saying these words – “oh come on” with a sigh, which was exactly what I was saying – oh c’mon Angela, with a heavier sigh.
That’s as intelligent as I got. “Oh, come on Angela”. I think my IQ at that moment was 46.
But Angela was a woman who had learned her lessons. What was the point of starting anything if you know it’s only going to break your heart? I had to give her full credit.
And so, when you’re heading out for date four, knowing there’s a 100% chance you’re going to have sex for the fourth time, with someone you know it can’t work with, go to YouTube, find Neil Young’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart, then politely cancel and take a cold shower.