Yesterday, it would have been Ted Hughes’ birthday, and a chance remark from a friend reminded me of the poet’s fatherly advice in the final paragraph of this letter, sent to his son Nicholas in 1986. It struck me as something my own father might well have said, too.
‘The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.’
(Letters of Ted Hughes, 2008. Ted Hughes, editor Christopher Reid)
Late 1958, John Steinbeck’s son, Thom, wrote to his parents from boarding school telling them he had fallen in love. These extracts are taken from his father’s reply, sent from New York on 10 November 1958.
First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.
Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had…
Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.
The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it…
It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good…
If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten
I’m not a teacher To show you how to love. Fish don’t need a teacher To learn how to swim. Birds don’t need a teacher To learn how to fly. Swim and fly by yourself. Love has no notebooks, The greatest lovers in history Did not know how to read. One Hundred Love Letters – […]