The Safe-Cracker’s Puzzle

By Dane Mutters

She is locked in a wooden safe, with the handle on the inside.
The dial on the outside spins
To the
Of a safe-cracker’s twitch.

His wrist is stoically poised,
The back of his hand just outside of his vision;
His fingers twist one way, as his thumb tilts to the other.
The safe clicks and ticks, but doesn’t open.

This safe is a custom build that nobody has been able to crack.
Though wooden on the outside, it is petrified to the hardness of steel.
The woman inside has a demur smile as she quickly opens the door to other pursuant safe-crackers,
Allowing them a timid peek at who lounges within,
Before slamming the door shut, again.

They are left with dreams of twinkling eyes and a sunrise behind swaying brown vines.

But for this safe-cracker, she leaves the door wide open until he approaches near.
As he smiles, she smiles and closes the door an inch.
As his footsteps echo upon the marble floor, she closes it another two.
Before he can offer his hand, the door is closed, so he walks away.
This safe-cracker is no fool.

…But after years of dreaming, he can’t resist the call of the safe that has never been cracked.
More than a Browning safe, with its floral design near its base, and proud name at its top;
Or a stoically red Amethyst safe with a single, tantalizing, golden handle;
This safe sings his praise, and promises secret riches of beating rubies, dripping pearls, and adorning diamonds.

For a long time, he stood far away, remembering the click of the closing door.
He cracked other safes in hope that they would satisfy his craving.
He walked to other cities and conquered strongboxes, stores, and banks by the power of his keen senses;
And their strongholds did nothing but adore him, swinging their hinges apart to give their treasures.
But their diamonds he dropped on the ground,
And he walked away shaking his head.
He can’t return to those places.

Why?” he thought, as the safe quietly went, “tock.”
He froze for a moment, and reached for the handle that wasn’t there.
He heard a footstep from the other side.
He pulled his hand away from the door and held his breath.
The door went “clunk”, but didn’t open.

From the other side, he heard someone slowly spinning a dial, as if listening for the right combination.


Love Is

Love is wanting to take her out to eat, but knowing you can’t afford it, and offering to cook, instead.
Love is opening your heart instead of your wallet when it would be easier just to spend money.

Love is when you know that you could get into bed with her just by being shallow, and insisting on getting to know her first—even if that means losing the opportunity, forever.

Love is seeking a “yes”, rather than avoiding a “no”, and being happy with whichever you get.
Love is knowing when to say yes, and being patient until then.

Love is seeing that the lawn hasn’t been mowed, but thanking him for doing the laundry, instead of complaining about the yard.

Love is when you say a kind word when an insult might be more appropriate.
Love is swallowing your pride and saying you’re sorry.

Love is writing something sweet on a post-it every morning before work, even when you’re mad at each other.

Love is giving your partner the last piece of chocolate.

Love is giving someone a massage when your own back hurts.

Love is cooking food that you can’t or won’t eat, because you know he likes it.
Love is eating “burnt offerings” with a smile, and then asking for seconds.

Love is abandoning a closely-held belief because it hurts someone you care about.
Love is choosing to support your partner’s eccentric ideology, even if it doesn’t entirely make sense.

Love is being unafraid to discuss religion, politics, or anything else—and always being willing to change your mind when a good point is made.
Love is choosing dialectic over of debate.

Love is when you give without caring whether you will receive.
Love is when you work a job you hate, so you’ll both have a place to come home to.

Love is dancing badly to terrible music, and enjoying it anyway, because it was your partner’s turn to choose the night’s activity.
Love is observing “date night” no matter how busy you both are.

Love is sitting through an embarrassing class or lecture so that you’ll know how to please her.
Love is learning to be satisfied, whether he figures it out or not.

Love is knowing when to hold her close, knowing when to give her space, and realizing that you need to ask, because you don’t have a clue.
Love is answering him patiently even if you think he should know better; and sometimes, love is admitting that you don’t have a clue what you want, either, and deciding to be OK with not getting it.

Love is accepting the love that is given, even when you don’t speak the other person’s language.
Love is learning the language of your partner, and giving him what he wants, rather than what you want.

Love is realizing that whatever love is, it’s definitely not what’s in movies and popular novels.
Love is reading those novels with her, anyway, no matter how silly you think they are.

Love is sitting through all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, even though neither of you can keep up with the subtitles, and she keeps pausing it every few seconds so you can read them.
Love is making it worth his while to keep watching.

Love is setting reasonable but firm boundaries and sticking to them.
Love is respecting each other’s boundaries.

Love is accepting the sovereignty of another person, while also accepting the sovereignty of yourself.

Love is offering olive branches until the whole orchard dies.

Love is forgiveness.

Love is wishing she would quit smoking because you want to be with her a little longer,
But still watching the sunset through a cloud of burning ash, because that’s how you can be here with her, now.

Love is the act of changing the bed pan of someone who doesn’t look like the person you married, and realizing that the good times are still happening.

Love is almost dying of a broken heart after the funeral service,
But deciding to keep going because you know that she would want you too.

Love is the blue sky, and the trees, and the fresh flowers over your new bed.

Love is smiling at a stranger as you plant some fresh flowers on the grave of your ancestor.

March 2nd, 2014

Do I Deserve Love?

This is a question that has been aired quite a bit, and I don’t intend to tread any more of its well-worn ground than I have to.  Nevertheless, there’s an aspect of it that seems to almost always get left out of any such discussion, so I’m posting my insights here.  I hope this adds something substantial to the topic for those who read it.
“Do I Deserve Love?”

This topic is plagued with what I’ll call, “definition failure.” There’s more than one type of love, and some types require effort on our part to be worthy of reciprocation.  It’s therefore inappropriate to answer the question at all without first describing what kind of “love” we’re discussing.  Since herein I’m discussing all the various types (that I know about), I’ll use the definitions as both descriptions and theses.

For reference:

“Agape love” (“uh-GAHP-ay”) is unconditional love. Many consider this the philosophically highest, purest form, but it’s unique and fills its own “niche” in human existence, and as such, can’t be reasonably thought of as “the” kind of love in question. This is the kind of love that Christ advocated in the New Testament when he asked, “Lovest thou me?” and continued with the admonition, “Feed my sheep.”  We all deserve this no matter what we do or fail to do to deserve it. Mahatma Ghandi and Adolf Hitler both “deserve” this kind of love.  If we, individually, seek to embrace “agape love,” we must (try to) show unconditional love for all people (and perhaps all creatures) equally, regardless of what they do or fail to do by way of “deserving” it.  This kind of love cannot properly co-exist with moral/ethical judgment.  (Please note that this is quite apart from the rule of law and similar concerns, where social/criminal justice must be enacted to keep order and protect people.  This is a very complicated topic that I won’t be discussing further at this time.)  “Agape love” doesn’t fill the role of any other kind of love, as described below.

“Eros love” is romantic love or passion (which are, themselves, different things that I’m grouping under a single heading for the sake of the present discussion; culturally, I think we’ve largely forgotten the distinction and should try to remember it). We must earn this by the various (and somewhat enigmatic) means whereby we get into and support romantic relationships. Ultimately, I think we all deserve to have this kind of love, but in order to have it in any particular instance (i.e. with any particular person), we must take steps to give it appropriately.  There’s no guarantee or requirement for the other person to reciprocate it, and it’s not our place to demand such reciprocation outside of some kind of “(semi-)committed” relationship (another complicated topic, in itself).

“Philia love” is love/loyalty for/to friends, community, family, etc. It’s not exactly familial love, but instead has to do with friendship and loyalty. This is definitely “earned” in most contexts, but I gather that a family relationship automatically starts with some amount of it. It might more aptly be described as a desire to be with, or be associated with someone or something (like a country or friend) because you enjoy being so associated.  If you don’t like someone or find their company problematic, you don’t have “philia love” for that person.  (“Philia” seems to be the root of the “-phile” suffix in english, as applies to everything from the understandable “audiophile” [love of music/sound] to the much more distasteful “pedophile” [you already know what that means].)

“Storge love” (“STOR-jay”) is natural affection–the automatic kind that appears the moment a child is born (i.e. love between parents and children). It’s another kind of unconditional love that has less to do with good-heartedness (such as “agape love”), and more to do with long-suffering affection. Even if your brother/sister/child/parent is a complete jerk to you, you still love him/her. This has also been used to describe the relationship between ruler and subject, in terms of the subject having long-suffering affection/loyalty for the ruler even if he’s a schmuck or incompetent. (Notably, this is more apt in a monarchy than a democracy, but still applies to both.  This is another thing I think Americans, specifically have forgotten–if for arguably-good reasons.)  This kind of love isn’t “deserved;” it’s automatic.

So, in summary (and to more succinctly answer the question at-hand), we only “deserve” some kinds of love whereas others we have to earn. We seem to automatically “deserve” “agape” and “storge” love (though the herein-active definition of “deserve” is somewhat different from the usual one), while “eros” and “philia” are varieties that we only “deserve” based on what we do or fail to do–but as human beings, we can be reasonably thought to “deserve” these in the abstract, “everyone-deserves-to-experience-them” context. Also, there’s no guarantee that “eros” or “philia” will be reciprocated, no matter how much we (think we) deserve that reciprocation. Finally, it bears noting that there might be other varieties of love that neither I nor the ancient Greeks thought of.

So, perhaps the next time someone asks the question, “Do I deserve love?” or some variation thereof (“Does he/she deserve love?”), you’ll be better equipped to gather exactly what this query is asking, and how to respond helpfully/knowledgeably–including when you’re the one asking it.  Well, that’s assuming I’ve been helpful/knowledgeable in this post…