George Gershwin Got It All Wrong

At 30 your world looks like a piece of ripe fruit. At 60 ripeness may seem more like mealiness. Is that the produce or us…?

I hate to say it, but as I search the evidence in the lives I know, it’s pretty hard to agree with our great balladeer’s lacy lyrics about love being the ultimate emotion. For instance that delicious George Gershwin classic: “…In the end the Rockies may tumble, Gibraltar may tumble, They’re only made of clay, But our love is here to stay.”

Love is a much used and abused word, squeezed through the mores of whatever time and place it’s being sung. Somehow we expect or are expected to believe it is the fulfillment of our humanity, be it with a man a woman a deity or variations in between. It says here if we find love — as our heroes always do in the song’s closing notes — we can once more reassure ourselves this supremely intoxicating emotion trumps money, power, status, even evil.

But you see, if that were really true, why then did the Romans crucify Jesus, the Popes impose the Inquisition, Henry VIII behead his wives, Europeans slaughter Native Americans, and Hitler slaughter the Jews? Contrary to what we wish to believe, uncertainty not love is the more probable emotion throughout the triumphs and trials of our life. It is that sense of unease, even impending danger with which we live. If we succeed at something we harbor doubts about hanging on to it; if we have failed at something, we throb with the threat we will do so again.

Functioning in an uncertain universe, uncertainty not love may be our most enduring emotion. Which is illogically why we continue to love our love composers. From Steven Foster and George Gershwin, to Steven Sondheim and Marvin Hamlish, to the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.  Be it tempered love or angry love, we ask them to keep assaulting our senses long and hard enough to drown out what we fear we will otherwise hear.

Judging by the concert crowds, it works. For a precious little while….

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