An Ever-Fixed Mark

The first time I actually connected with Shakespeare was when Kate Winslet recited a piece of Sonnet 116 in Sense and Sensibility near the end of the movie, in the rain: Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken.

I remember memorizing that sonnet soon afterwards, reading it from the small piece of paper that I copied it to, reciting it over and over as I watered my front lawn my freshman year of college. I still love those words and find myself incredibly moved by them. Real love lasts. In my life I’ve been able to see living examples of this in hospitals, in burn units, in times of economic distress, in what comes after death for those of us left behind, and in sweet looks and moments shared with people who are not embarrassed by the love and admiration they feel for one another. This sonnet reminds me that this chosen and determined devotion is what real love is. It may not be common, but it does exist, and when it exists in us it is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. It can help us through rough times and circumstances when we remember that love is not only a feeling but a determination to be there for those we love even to the edge of doom. Principled and devoted love is the gold standard; the real deal in a world full of tempting counterfeits.

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