I was thinking back to what we learnt in school and how that shaped who we are today. I was trying to have that conversation about Math with Sasha (who hates math) as she sees no value whatsoever in what she learns in school and how that will relate to real life after graduating. I thought back to a few of my teachers and their passion for teaching what they really loved. I was thinking of one teacher in particular, Ms. Nasrallah (no relation to the Hezbollah guy), who was a romantic unmarried English teacher who loved poetry and tried to instill in us her passion for the written word. Her favorite poem was a poem she made us memorize, analyze, fantasize about. She described how it was about two lovers that don’t know each other, who never met, who were so much in love, but who couldn’t be with each other. I think she was in love at the time, maybe with someone she couldn’t be with, maybe a married man, or someone from a different religion. It was wartime Lebanon, and she was a Christian, living in a Muslim area. I don’t know who the love of her life was, but you could see him in her dreamy eyes, our young imaginations gave him all sorts of characters, personalities. Maybe he was a warrior, one of the Palestinian Liberation Organization leaders living in Lebanon at the time, maybe he was another teacher, maybe Mr. Naim who teaches Math, he was handsome and looked like Superman’s Clark Kent. It couldn’t have been Mr. Mustapha, he had blue lips and a combover. We were forever guessing who the object of Ms. Nasrallah’s affection was. The suspense surely made us memorize the poem, but it also made us dream of what love must be like, how can two people who never met love each other? How can one love after death, as the poet implies?
I will include the poem in this post, maybe it will make you dream as it made us dreamily forget about a raging war outside our school walls and imagine what love was like.
What is love like?
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.