San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Lesson on Falling in Love Again

WHILE reading the lesson inour tiny church last Sunday, Ichanced to look up for a momenttowards the west window, whichunfortunately hasn’t yet been fittedwith the stained glass we promisedourselves.And there, framed by the clearwindow and casting her radianceover the congregation, wasAphrodite, Greek goddess of love,beauty and fruitfulness.I had never before seen suchunutterable beauty and as she lookedstraight at me my heart began to beat like a mad thing, like abird trapped in my chest, and the words died in my mouth.Our pastor started towards me, evidently thinking I washaving a heart attack, which in a way I was, and I momentarilyturned away to reassure him. But when I looked back,Ariadne had gone and old Mrs. Aristides, who was standingup to relieve a cramp, had taken her place.Old Mrs. Aristides is a worthy citizen, but could in noway be mistaken for a goddess, so I finished the lesson asquickly as I could and hurried out of a side door to get help.My neighbor is a psychoanalyst and I made for his clinicwith my heart still doing double time.When I had finished pouring out my story, hesaid:“Jackson, you’re a lucky man. You have fallen in loveagain, transfixed by Cupid’s dart.”“Alex,” I said, “Don’t joke about this. Just tell me whatreally happened.”“OKAY,” he said, “I’ll tell you the truth, but you’re notgoing to like it nearly so much as the myth. Let me explain:if your mother raised you right, she taught you almost fromthe beginning the difference between good and bad. And onthe good side she instilled in you, by constant repetition,notions of truth, beauty and goodness, so that however rarethese qualities may be in today’s world, at least you recognizethem when you see them.“My guess is that in the middle of a lesson exhorting usto love one another, you looked up and saw someone whoreminded you of your mother. In an instant, her teaching, theexhortation to love, your own memories of greek mythology,and the stream of light from the window blended into a powerfulillusion, in which you saw truth, beauty and goodnesspersonified.”He paused a moment, then went on.“Had the estimable Mrs. Aristides not stood up or if youwere reading from a different lesson, this would probablynot have happened. But it is through just this kind of associationthat we fall in love with ordinary people, creditingthem with qualities that exist only in our minds. And then,unreasonably, we later blame them for not coming up toexpectations. But at least you have had the experience. Somepeople, especially those raised in an institution, never do. Sogo home, get some sleep, and thank your stars you haveknown love,”Well, I’m not sure I can swallow that, but his guess thatthe lesson was about loving one another was right on thebutton, so I’ll accept it until I find a better explanation.

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