Love’s a Slippery Slope

(watch out Scroogie grumps!)

Love. No need to preach it. We know we need it. It is the fire that keeps us warm, that turns the world ‘round. So I went looking for a way that anyone can start a small campfire of that warmth with something you can just flick on any time you want. The click lighter is Attention.


Six little steps. A.K.U.A.E.L. So simple you can memorize it.

Ask your doctor if Akuael is right for you!”

Or…ask your banker. Just for fun, I laid AKUAEL into a warning for a Scroogie sort, a rich curmudgeon who has long made it clear to me, his pub companion, that Love is poison. Yah. He’s been online too much and sucking up that mid-century faux philosopher over in the States. The woman, surprisingly. For many a year Scroogie here has told me how weak I am talking about love. “Don’t get me anywhere near that stuff!”

So one night after a few pints, snow coming down, probably Christmas Eve, I play along.

Well, happy for you, Scrooge, you don’t have to worry about getting too near that stuff. Because love takes some work. It isn’t going to just pop your popcorn overnight if you don’t want it to. But let me give you some warnings, because there is a bit of a slippery slope you want to know about. There are some easy mistakes you could make, things that could start you unwittingly down the awful road toward love. I am sure you can stop yourself before that, Lord Knows you do it like a pro. But slipping just a bit might land you in some places just short of that pit of love, places you would also just as soon keep clear of: places such as Appreciation (ew!) and Empathy (Lord Help Us!).

OK, so sir, here is the first thing to watch out for—and I know this will be a bit of a conundrum, because ‘watching out’ is sort of the first slip. Let’s just say: Don’t Pay Attention. And here’s why. You can Google it.

Spending your time in Attention doesn’t probably seem like a big deal. Anyone can do it for anything pretty much whenever they want to. But get this: it leads almost silently into the next step down that slippery slope to love. It leads right down to—not much chance of avoiding this, I am afraid—right into the hotbed of Knowledge. Just think about your banks and businesses and the pain in your buttocks. If you pay attention to a thing, you can’t help it: you learn something about it. So don’t pay attention to anything remotely alive and interesting, not the plants or fish in the tank in your waiting room. Certainly not the young thing that comes in to clean the office at night! Don’t pay attention to those shoes she’s had for the last five years or her swelling belly. Might be a Mommy coming into being there (Lord Help Us!).

I can hear you complaining already. You say, “I live by Knowledge, and don’t you think otherwise. How do you think I made my billions?” Point taken. You have paid attention and landed on some Knowledge. You are lucky, sir, it hasn’t gotten worse than that because Knowledge leads to Understanding. You will say, “I have bags of that. Does me well.” But look what happens if you pay attention to, say, the fish in your office tank. One day, you see spots on the yellow fish. You start Googling it, or worse, asking that accountant who talks to the fish. He tells you stuff. The water in the tank, that disease going around, the pet store where the food comes from: A whole nest of related facts, all adding up to something. It could get worse if the accountant tells you about his own fish at home and then the disease his kid has and the health insurance he doesn’t have.

I got to tell you, it can all get pretty ugly pretty fast from here. Not always, but you have to assume that when you hang out for very long actually understanding something, you are likely to take that first big plunge into something you really don’t want: Appreciation. I know. Yuck! It starts as a little tingle in your heart, a feeling that makes you want to preserve, or see others preserve, some part of the thing you have been paying attention to and come to understand. Oh, you can still be numb to most of it, or even dislike it. I think you can even hate a good chunk of it and still appreciate something in it. That’s the devilishly tricky part of this. Maybe you appreciate that our waitress here, Carol, who lives with her old Mum down in Battersea as we hear about all night, keeps her shoes clean even on rainy days, and you wish everyone did that, because you do that, and your Mummy taught you to. So maybe Carol-the-Waitress has old dresses and her hair is plain and she speaks of boring things. But there must be something even let’s say kind of precious going on inside her to keep those shoes clean. You know? Yeah. Like that.

And here, my friend, you have all but slid yourself into the muck and mire of—no, no, no, not Love quite yet, but—Empathy. Don’t let the fancy name fool you. It’s not exotic and can grab anyone who isn’t careful. It just means your heart beats in time with something else. Even that little golden fish that slowed and sank to the bottom of the tank this morning. You feel a little sunk, too. Because you are! You are feeling for a fish! Can you imagine what might happen if you ever did that with the night cleaner or the accountant and then his wife and then their little kid? You’ll find yourself calling your very own God-Blessèd doctor to set up an appointment for them. For Jesus’ sake.

If you hang out in such pools of Understanding and losing yourself in Empathy you are going to slide down that slope all the way into caring intentions. I know it doesn’t sound like much: “caring intentions.” You care about the decimal points, after all. But that little place of caring is actually the suburbs of (Save My Eyes!) the city called Love. Sir, I am just saying, If you hang out very long in those suburbs, with flickering lights of caring intentions, you will have, as good as, just made love. Yuh! And with no one to blame but yourself. It didn’t have to be that way. Lord knows, many, many rich and poor have avoided that place their whole lives. Right up until their deathbed. Sliding down this far is really pretty much your own fault for having stepped off the slope by paying attention. I guess Isaac Newton or somebody like that is responsible for the gravity that pulled you down. But it was you who let go and let Isaac.


Six little steps. So simple you can memorize it…

Um, Scrooge. You look lost. Not listening to me again, as always? I know, I’m Preaching to the Choir. You’ve got this one. I’ll call a cab.