Song of the Day — 18 July
“The Greatest Love of All” — Whitney Houston
“The Greatest Love of All” — Whitney Houston version
Is “The Greatest Love of All” the crown jewel of pop music mythology?
“Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” — Asking for a friend.
I was talking with a friend the other day who was regaling me with her fondness of dating apps. She loves the array of people that she’s met: “They’re people I wouldn’t meet normally.”
I agree with the breadth of people, I just don’t share the same affinity for apps. I’ve met maybe a couple of interesting people but often find myself asking: “Would I want to meet these people normally?”
My friend also acknowledged that she enters into any romantic relationship with the same approach she takes with flying or going to a movie— she assesses the situation to make sure she knows where the exits are.
My approach to dating is similar, but a little different. While I’m not always looking for the exits, I’m aware they exist … if only because they’re where they always are:
The front, middle and rear of the plane and typically, two in the front and two in the back for theaters.
In most matters, in particular those of the heart, in the spirit of self-preservation, I suspect we all keep an eye out for exits.
Those of us that have at least a basic understanding of what it means to know a little about yourself and have even just a little self-love understand this.
Usually, I wake up with some song in my head, and this morning, for some unfortunate reason, “The Greatest Love of All” circled up. Now I have always had respect for Whitney Houston. She was wildly gifted.
I just hate the song “The Greatest Love of All”
Waking up with the first words banging around your head being: “I believe that children are our future” —aside from being one of the worst opening salvos in pop music history, it’s just no way to start your day … in particular, if you don’t have kids, don’t really want kids, and don’t even really like kids.
OK, technically, they’re the future … but … well, whatever.
I’d never taken a look at the lyrics. It’s not really about children. And it sure as hell isn’t a love song in any traditional sense.
I’m often amazed at what some people think are “love” songs. I once went to a wedding where the bride and groom’s song was “Say Hello to Heaven” by Temple of the Dog. The song is a tribute to Mother Love Bone lead singer Andrew Wood … who died of a heroin overdose … so, technically, a love song, buttttt … suffice it to say, the marriage did not last.
I just can’t decide if “The Greatest Love of All” is about emotional isolationism or something else:
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfill[s] my needs
A lonely place to be
And so I learned to depend on me
That sounds about right. If you can’t find someone who “gets” you or who you “get”, you learn to rely on yourself. But that can come at a price, right?
On the one hand, if it’s just you and you fuck it up, it’s on you. On the other hand, that kind of self-dependence is risky if only for the potentiality of loneliness.
Really? The greatest love of all is loving yourself? — Asking for a friend.
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
You certainly can’t love someone else unless you know love yourself. And if loving yourself is the “greatest love of all”, it’s not that “easy to achieve”. There are two multi-billion dollar industries that would argue that it’s actually quite difficult to achieve. It’s a bit simplistic to call it “easy”, but I get it. I think.
By a certain age, you know that the journey to self-discovery can be long and riddled with perilous emotional, and sometimes physical, encounters. In business, we might call those encounters “teachable moments” … but only if you learn from them. The ability to reflect and learn is at the core of self-discovery. And isn’t learning really the base from which you learn how to love yourself and other people? Yes, I do believe it is.
Did I mention self-discovery is a long … very very long road … it might well be argued that it’s never-ending. But that journey is typically one you take on your own — to be clear, that’d be the “self” in self-discovery.
And your journey is yours … my journey is mine … their journey is theirs … the wheel in the sky keeps on turning, turning, turning …
I decided long ago
Never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
I’m a firm believer and practitioner of living my life as I believe. My life, my rules. But having paid the entry fee, I’m also acutely aware of the cost.
Where I, too, am aware of exits, my approach has been “If you don’t like it, fuck off, there’s the door [exit].” Where mentally checking the exits may be in the interest of self-preservation and the other a far more defensive stand, aren’t they really two sides of the same coin?
By and large, I feel a large majority of us make every attempt to not force our life on someone else. In particular, someone we care about. Cycling through life, I’ve learned to tone down the ferocity of “If you don’t like it get the fuck out” because that’s not entirely fair. You don’t need to “walk in anyone’s shadows” but it’s important to acknowledge that you can’t do it all alone.
And by including others, you’re not sacrificing your “dignity” by bending a little or being vulnerable. I can’t think of anyone who enjoys compromise or vulnerability because both carry an inherent risk. However, sometimes you have to do either or both, regardless of discomfort, awkwardness, or emotional exposure.
Isn’t risk all part of the emotional journey? — Asking for a friend.
And if, by chance, that special place
That you’ve been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place
Find your strength in love
People learn to love on a curve. Through trial and error, you may never find “special place” or “your person” but you can always depend on yourself … and you will never let yourself down.
That love learning curve begins at home and then you tweak it based on your experiences as you journey through life. I think the concept of “love” should remain amorphous. But the love of yourself will have its peaks and valley’s and should will remain solid and centered on your truths.
If it happens that you try and still end up in that “lonely” place … you won’t be that lonely, you will have yourself. For some that may be enough, but as a species we’re wired to connect.
Ah yes, but how that connection looks to you would be rooted in your truth. Then the question becomes can you find people who understand and accept that truth?
I think “The Greatest Love of All” perpetuates a myth that the greatest love of all is loving yourself. That’s a part of love, sure. Love is many things, constantly in motion and impossible to pin down. But is only loving yourself the greatest? I don’t think so. Sharing the love of yourself with others is what we’re supposed to do.
Like all pop songs, “The Greatest Love of Love” is a bit reductive. The song weaves a yarn about self-love being all you need and then teaching children that. I suppose it beats teaching them about hate but the song deliberately (and wisely) leaves out the risks, the emotional toll and potential isolation.
It is, after all, just a pop song.
Layering in some of the complexities of everything would’ve made an entirely different song — like “What is Love?” by Howard Jones:
And maybe love is letting people be just what they want to be
The door always must be left unlocked
To love when circumstance may lead someone away from you
And not to spend the time just doubting
Now that would be the greatest love of all.