Today is the birthday of James Kuo, cartoonist, kind man, motorcycle maniac, brave soul, musical autodidact, joke maven, dreamboat, rock clamberer, and husband to me. I’m so glad he was born; I’m so glad our paths crossed; I’m so glad we get to walk the rest of the way together. His love for me sustains me and my love for him shapes me.
Last year, the New Yorker published a story by Jess Row called “The Empties.” It irked me for a few reasons, some solid (oh, Bridgeport CT becomes a hell zone while rural Vermont is fine?) and some more idiosyncratic (I just hate gleeful disaster fiction). One of its more irksome qualities was its thesis, demonstrably untrue, that love is automatically a casualty of catastrophe: not the people or things one loves, but the ability to love, the delight in and gratitude for a particular life. “We are the last of the loved ones,” the protagonist intones to herself.
Suffering can scar love, can contort it, can warp it. We’ve seen this. What I’m fighting is the idea that love, tenderness, loyalty and care are vestigial, that we’re better off dropping them to lighten the load when we have to run or fight or endure.
I repudiate that. I don’t claim to know or understand all the ways that love can move us, but I know that it can move us toward wholeness, that it can show us our node in the net of life and death, that it can hold us up and help us hold ourselves out. Zoe Todd writes of this net spreading through time and generations in her notes on sorrow. The Climate Anxiety Counseling project has one of its many root-fibers in love, love as a way to connect and sustain, love as a force to recognize and draw upon and add to, love as a reason to change.
More instantly, you don’t need to accept the proposition that it’s a good thing that any one of us is alive to acknowledge that if we’re alive it’s probably at least a little bit good when we’re constantly learning, becoming kinder, braver, more responsive to the world. That’s how James Kuo is, and that’s how loving him makes me, and that’s one of many reasons (some of which have nothing to do with me) that it’s good that he was born and is in the world now.