“So what is the question?” I used to say to him. “The question is irrelevant. And that is the very point. Love. Is. The. Answer. It is the universal answer, no matter what the question!” That is what a wise man used to say to me (he spoke with clear punctuation marks). I remember this today, because R. and M. are getting married today in Dublin. I am delighted to be part of their weekend celebrations, and all of these words are dedicated to them.
A 10-metre long, neon, illuminated sign, quoting from Miguel de Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote’, takes centre stage in Edinburgh’s New Street. It is a regenerated part of the city, near to the Market Street exit of Waverley Station. In an open-air plaza, with weekend food trucks and market stalls, unmistakable words of love are emblazoned across a hoarding, erected to block out the continuing building work behind. This is what it says: “I shall tear up trees with my bare teeth! I shall crush mountains with my fists! I shall go crazy – for love!”
It was chosen by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame), to mark Edinburgh’s designation as a UNESCO city of literature. He’s reported to have said that, for him, it is a demonstration of how great books and great words have the power to inspire artists. To me, these words portray the monumental force and power bestowed upon one, by virtue of love. These words inspire love. Or, by these words, we might aspire to love. Would that we should all have the chance, someday, to go crazy for love.
I laugh to myself on the day I pass it and photograph it, as the lights have gone out on the last three words: ‘crazy for love’. Ha! The accidental symbolism becomes apparent: that the light does go out of love, from time to time. Love is not all crushing mountains, and tearing up trees with passion! It can be about changing light bulbs and the daily grind. It is a busy job, this business of ‘from this day forward’. It will include laughter and tears, whispering and shouting, stroking and stamping, counselling and cautioning, encouraging and chastising. And – for R. and M. – it is my wish that it will include a huge dose of happiness.
Great writing tells you things you already know but that you didn’t realize you already knew. Great writing says things in a manner you could never have articulated quite so well yourself. That’s what I feel when I come across a line in Julian Barnes’s ‘Levels of Life’, when he says “So why do we constantly aspire to love? Because it is the meeting point of truth and magic.”
Truth and Magic. I look forward to the magic of this weekend. I look forward to spending time with true friends. I look forward to the dancing and the laughter and the conversations, and to being part of a celebration of love.