What is This Thing Called Love?

Updated: Jun 21, 2019


Back in the day, Clifford Brown was my favorite trumpet player. He, along with the Max Roach Quintet and Sonny Rollins established the bebop genre of Jazz that I grew up with. Tragically, Clifford’s career was cut short at age 25 in a car accident. However, in the 3 years of recordings he created a legacy that has inspired players and enthusiasts around the world.


Clifford, composed and arranged hundreds of tunes that have become jazz standards”. One tune that stands out for me back in the 60’s was his interpretation of the Cole Porter song “What is this thing Called Love”. He transformed this tune into a favorite for jazz instrumentalists and singers.


The whole attitude of the song grabbed me at that time of my life. Of course, players would kid around with the title when it was called up in a set. But the truth of the matter is, our music, literature, films, and television were steeped in stories about love and romance. Yet, when I would ask someone about the nature of love, the answer was always the same, “Oh, you’ll know it when it happens.” But I could not come to terms with “this Thing Called Love” then, and for some time thereafter.


So, a few years later, after completing undergrad and grad work and getting married, I worked for a boss who was rumored to start each day at 4:00 AM by taking his middle school daughter to swimming lessons. He would stay with her as she practiced with her coach, and then he would get her off to school before he came to the office.


The boss never mentioned this routine himself, but he did have photos of his daughter and her trophies in his office. So, hoping to score a few points, I took the opportunity to ask him about his daughter’s passion for swimming. I said something like,” Wow, that must be tough to roll out so early every morning for your daughter’s swim practice.” I expected a quick off-hand reply like “Yeah, can’t wait until she is old enough to drive,” or “That’s the way it is when you have talented kids, you know.” But he didn’t answer right away. Instead he paused. He seemed to be in thought. Then he explained that the early morning routine with his daughter was his favorite time during the day. He felt energized by her passion for swimming. The feeling stayed with him all day.


I came away from that exchange with mixed feelings. At the time, I could not fully comprehend his enthusiasm for his daughter’s swimming regimen. My wife and I had not started our family. But I also realized that he had no need to be complimented on what a good dad he was either. He was having fun.


Some months later I was asked to lead a group exploring the concepts of Identity, Love and Spirituality. The sponsor recommended Scott Peck's best-selling self-help book, The Road Less Traveled, A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth as one resource I might use. That group experience, and Peck’s treatment of the nature of Love, served as a catalyst for framing up the direction of my study and work from that time forward.


Peck used the word Love to mean something quite different from popular usage. He disdained the myth of romantic love that is so predominant in pop culture. For him, love is rooted in a desire to help another person grow. He defined “Love” as an action, a behavior as opposed to a euphoric feeling. The euphoria of love comes in response to the loved one’s success.


Peck’s treatment of Love rang true as far as it went, but there remained a missing element. What he did not say, but would probably endorse, is the that you can only love another person and help them grow when you know who they are as a person. Otherwise, your loving actions have more to do with you than with the person you are loving. The source of the euphoria that comes from loving another person emanates from the recognition that your actions have contributed to your loved one’s progress toward the experiences they yearn for i.e., their life passions.


My boss was fortunate to help his daughter as she experienced the sensations at the pool; the focused engagement, the positive emotion and the sense of achievement that came together to form her passion for swimming. He knew how his support for his daughter’s participation was helping to make this possible for her. It was a shared experience that helped them both define their relationship during that period of their lives.


Today, the Resonance program seeks to support clients in search of their own identity and the identities of those they care about. It is this understanding and appreciation of the personal passions of loved ones that opens up the boundaries of love and intimacy. This is the knowledge that makes the Scott Peck brand of loving possible. And, better loving is one of the gifts that flow from Resonance.


If you desire to read an excellent summary of Peck’s view of the nature of Love, I would refer you to www.phillipwells.com/2015/03/scott-peck-on-love.html. Of course, we would also encourage your participation in the Resonance program. You can learn more about us at www.ResonanceNC.com.

And, when you get a chance, ask Alexa to play Clifford Brown’s recordings of What is this Thing Called Love. It swings.

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