*Quick note: before this gets derailed, I am not a member of The Church of Satan, nor do I consider myself a Satanist. Please refrain from any kind of evangelism or e-exorcisms should the source of this quote cause you concern.
“You cannot love everyone; it is ridiculous to think you can. If you love everyone and everything you lose your natural powers of selection and wind up being a poor judge of character and quality. If anything is used too freely it loses its meaning… If you try to love everyone you only lessen your feelings for those who deserve your love.” – Anton Szandor LaVey; The Satanic Bible
I first read this quote some years ago after picking up a copy of The Satanic Bible out of sheer curiosity. The initial read was interesting, but somewhat off-putting, due to where I was at the time. A lot of the nuance went over my head, especially the chapter on “magick” and rituals, leading to an ultimately confusing experience. The above quote, however, resonated in a way that few other things I’ve read ever have.
The message is straightforward enough; by attempting or claiming to love everything and everyone, the meaning of love is diminished, as is one’s ability to truly show love to the people and things they value most. After all, how is it possible to feel the same kind of emotion one should feel about their friends and family as they do about the coffee the purchase every morning on their way to work? Even if it truly is the best coffee in the world, does it really bring out the same warm, fuzzy feeling you get from seeing a close friend who normally lives too far away to see on a regular basis? Or a significant other who’s just returned from a family vacation or business trip?
Outside of family, I can count on one hand the people I’ve ever said “I love you” to. It has taken years of friendship with each of them to be comfortable enough to utter those three words at all, and I rarely use the phrase “I love _______” in reference to anything else, aside from maybe one or two bands. It’s always been difficult for me to verbalize my affection, mostly for other people, which has made this quote all the more meaningful. It’s nice to know that there are schools of thought that coincide with one’s own thoughts, even if they are found in such… unorthodox… places as The Satanic Bible.
Along similar lines, comedian Louis CK has a similar bit of standup about the way people use certain words that cheapens their meaning as well. I won’t pretend to treat these other words (hilarious, genius, awesome) with the same reverence as I do the phrase “I love you,” though I do think it is important to take these kinds of observations into consideration. As a writer, it is especially important to know which words to use to convey the right feeling and intensity associated with a certain emotion, though it does help when the words used for the most accurate description have not been cheapened to the point of near meaninglessness through casual use. How can I convey the sight of an ocean ablaze in light at sunset as “beautiful” to someone who uses that word to describe every other object in their lives?
Photo: Flickr/Ludovic Bertron