I was hiking on a lakeshore trail in a nearby state park. Ahead was a small wooden bridge across a stream. Several good steps and you would be across this bridge. But crossing it on this early morning, I noticed something that brought me to a stop. Someone had written something there. I imagined it to be the hand of a young boy. But instead of "fuck you" or "parents suck" it was something strangely different.
"I love you!"
As I walked on, I began pondering this message. It was not addressed to anyone. Usually you would expect a name attached. "I love you, Mary!" Or Jane, or Sally . . . someone with a name.
Was the boy shy? Did he want to leave the message anonymous, so he could point it out to any girl he brought and claim it was to her? Or could his love have been for another boy, and no girl at all? Or was this message more of a wish than a reality? He felt love, but his love had no name to attach to? Or could he have just been happy on a bright, sunny day and in love with life and with everyone? I kept wondering because there were all these possibilities, and no way to tell for sure about any of them.
However, I vote for the bright, sunny day. A day with an exclamation mark beside it. A day when love was an overwhelming feeling that had to be written down, even on a bridge. A day when it was free and unbounded, including all the world and the entire human race.
I know this sounds like nonsense. I know such writing was not placed by the head of the local chamber of commerce, kneeling down on those boards in his business suit and tie. It is nonsense for sure to him. This is the work of a child, we assume. It must have been a child, we assume. Thus we make it childish and foreign to our practical lives.
Sometimes on televised football games the camera shows a person in the end zone holding a sign saying "John 3:16"–the location of a verse in the Bible. The person wants us to get a Bible and read that verse. He believes it will do us some good. Perhaps it will for, if I recall correctly, this passage begins "God so loved the world . . .." So in this theology it is god-like to love the world, but that is in theory. It seems that the majority of god-fans don't see it that way. Their god loves their particular portion of the world–their country or tribe or religion or ethnic group, or whatever.
Speaking before a fundraiser for his political party, Newt Gingrich recently declared: "I am not a citizen of the world. I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous!" In this view it is every country for itself, and may the best country win. Or it is every race or language group for itself. Or it is every social or religious group for itself. And so we always at war, one against another. So it goes, and so it goes.
Human love, if we have any, tends to narrow down, not broaden out. We love only certain classes, races, political persuasions. We love children and relatives only if they behave themselves and treat us as they should. We certainly would never love an enemy. Our loved ones are the loving ones, meaning those who love us. Thus does love amount to no better than a practical selfishness.
I know the author of the inscription didn't have all of this in mind, but it's what I think about every time I cross his bridge.