Love – Elusive, confounding, simple, and complex.
What can be more confusing than love, with its myriad forms and manifestations?
Yet, love is the crux of Viktor Frankl’s second path to finding meaning in life and, thus,
happiness; “The second way of finding meaning in life is by experiencing
something – such as goodness, truth and beauty ... or, last but not least,
by experiencing another human being … by loving him (Man’s Search For
Meaning, Frankl, 1985, page134).”
Frankl goes on to say that it is only through love that we can grasp and become fully
aware of the very essence of another human being. When we love others, we can see
certain traits and features in them. More important, we can also see unrealized potential
and, through our love, make the person aware of what he or she can and should become
and ultimately enable him or her to make “these potentialities come true
(Frankl, 1985, page 134).”
For the first eight years that I knew the man who later became my husband,
we were “just friends.” Although I had romantic relationships with others, he was like a
brother to me, always my best friend, the one I could really talk to, the one I pondered life’
s greatest mysteries with. Love was a topic we explored often; it baffled us as we tried to
probe and pick it apart, desperately wanting to understand what it was and how it worked.
I remember trying to find girlfriends for him, and sharing our juiciest stories, never
imagining we were each the person the other was seeking. In retrospect, it is amazing to
realize that what we were really sharing was love. All I knew at the time was that,
somehow, his friendship made me stronger and my life easier; when I was with him,
I knew everything was going to be alright. He was the first person to actively believe in me
and through his faith, I became something much greater than I was when he first found
me. I was healed.
In textbook discussions about love, there are many different categories listed, as if there
are many different varieties of love;
two common categories are agape, platonic in nature and more concerned with the well-
being of others, and Eros, sexual love.
Frankl states that love is “as primary a phenomenon as sex…love is not understood as
a mere side-effect of sex; rather, sex is a way of expressing the experience of that
ultimate togetherness which is called love (Frankl, 1985, page 134).” In this sense,
I completely agree with Frankl. Love is its own category, and is felt and
expressed in endless ways that are non-sexual. Some of the
finest examples of love I have ever witnessed have nothing
whatsoever to do with sex.
When teachers display phenomenal dedication to the goal of helping their students truly
grasp and understand subject matter, that is love. When teachers go to bat for students
applying for college with letters and recommendations, that is love. Volunteers exhibit
love through giving of their time and energy to various causes that alleviate suffering for
animals or people. Soldiers sacrifice their own peace and security because of love, not
only for their families, but for their country and its principles. And the ultimate love, which
is considered most successful when the loved one leaves to become fully independent,
is that of parents for their children.
One human being whose capacity for love seemed endless, and whose impact on me
was tremendous, was Steve Irwin, otherwise known as The Crocodile Hunter. My
husband and son discovered this unique person on Animal Planet years ago.
Fascinated, they watched many episodes of The Crocodile Hunter as he buoyantly
demonstrated finesse in showing us the wonders of the animal kingdom.
Since he came on the scene, there have been several imitators attempting to grab
attention, but they lack a key ingredient that set Steve Irwin apart from all the rest – love.
For Steve Irwin’s goal in all that he did was not to garner attention for himself, but to
engender appreciation, love, and respect for animals most of us despise, in an effort to
save them from annihilation. His enthusiasm and zest for living sprang from a very deep
and empathetic love of creatures great and small, a characteristic learned early in life
from his loving parents.
I followed the adventures of Steve over the years. We went to the Crocodile Hunter movie
when it came out. We watched, one New Year’s Eve, as a Crocodile Hunter marathon
featured one deadly snake episode after another, astounded that this guy continued to
live yet another day to show us the wonders of the animal kingdom.
Steve Irwin married, had children, and ran his amazing zoo in Australia, always the same,
humble and loving human being despite worldwide notoriety. I was overwhelmed with
genuine shock and grief last September when a strange accident occurred – a stingray,
buried in the sand in a reef on the Australian coast, stabbed Steve in the chest with its
barb, ending his life. For, it seemed, a light went out and the world lost something
precious and amazing when he died.
But I underestimated Steve. Although his widow, Terri, could not speak of him at first,
it wasn’t long after his death that she agreed to an interview with Barbara Walters, and in
that interview, the depth of the love of Steve Irwin became apparent.
I was deeply moved as Terri Irwin described how they met at his zoo, spent time in a
swamp, found that they shared a love of wildlife, and even spent their honeymoon saving
crocs. The way she spoke of him was more telling than what she said. Amid smiles and
tears, she brought us into her world, letting us feel, for a few moments, the profound
happiness and excitement she experienced with her husband. “I never knew romance like
that existed,” she said, emotion welling in her voice and tears in her eyes. “My prince is
Steve Irwin suspected that his life might be a short one, and he often discussed this with
his wife, making sure that she, the children, the zoo, and Wildlife Warriors would be fine,
even if he died. This man made every day of his life count, sometimes setting up bright
outdoor lights so that he could continue working well past ten o’clock at night. When he
had children, he devoted himself to them as deeply as he did to his wife and his life’s
work with animals. His daughter, Bindi (named after his favorite crocodile), was home-
schooled and taught, as he had been by his parents, to understand and handle what we
consider dangerous creatures. At age eight, Bindi fears nothing – not audiences,
not crocodiles, not snakes. She does her chores each day at the zoo and sings and
performs joyously and unself-consciously in front of audiences – at the zoo, for television
ads, and on television shows.
Bindi recently appeared on national television on several occasions when she and her
mother were touring the United States, sent here by the Australian government to
promote tourism in Australia. Every time Bindi was interviewed, she spoke warmly,
openly, and joyously of her love for her father, how much she missed him, how much she
wanted to be just like him, and what a wonderful father he was. Asked about crocodiles,
she stated unequivocally that, “they’re just the sweetest, gentlest, most wonderful
Bindi Irwin glows with the love her family has provided, an amazing example of what a
child can be when cared for and nurtured by two confident, loving, healthy individuals.
Her father’s love continues to provide her with the strength she needs to step fully into life,
exuberantly expecting the best in a world made miraculous by her father.
Even in death, the love of Steve Irwin expands.
His Wildlife Warriors organization continues to promote understanding and appreciation
for all creatures poisonous and dangerous. His daughter, infused with the love of a
deeply devoted father and a strong, wise mother, seems determined to continue the work
of her father and has not let his death ruin her life. Regardless of how you might
personally feel about Steve Irwin, he has left a legacy that will only
continue to grow and impact the world in a variety of positive ways.
His love, so far-reaching, even touched me, as well as many others. What a wonderful
legacy to leave this world!
One of the greatest benefits of giving love to others is the healing bonus of getting to
forget about ourselves and our petty annoyances and unhappiness for awhile.
When we focus more on what we can give or how we can
make the world a better place, we make a difference to
those receiving our gifts, and in those moments, we are
joyously unself-conscious as we experience the effects
of our actions.
Make no mistake – unselfishly giving something positive to a worthy cause or another
human being is a wonderful, healing act that will expand endlessly. Those bumper
stickers urging us to “commit random acts of kindness” are really powerful words of
wisdom that challenge us to become greater than ourselves. People sometimes fear
feeling drained or losing something by giving in this way, but nothing could be further from
the truth. What we gain in the way of happiness and fulfillment is far greater than anything
we have given.
I wonder what it must have been like to be Steve Irwin; when I see the eyes of his wife and
his daughter, I can only imagine. But rather than wonder, what would this world be like if
more of us set out to discover for ourselves what Steve Irwin seemed to know.
Just for today,
if we can set a goal to make one person smile, or to do something
we know will benefit someone else and make their life better, we will
have taken our first step toward understanding what it was like to be
Maybe there’s someone else out there you would rather be like, and if so, go for it.
For now, I’ll settle for Steve’s example.
It’s a proven pathway to happiness.
The website for the Australian Zoo is a fascinating place to visit, with interesting links.
You can also join the Wildlife Warriors organization through this site, at http://www.
Coming next month…
Toss Toss Toss!
Please feel free to email questions or comments to
Holly Whitman at HollyWhitman@housewifemafia.com
|THE WAY I SEE IT
|HouseWifeMafia.com ~ The eMagazine For Women
|Copyright 2007 Holly Whitman
The Second Path to Happiness:
The Meaning of Love
|I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human
poetry and human thought and belief have to impart:
The salvation of man is in love and through love.
– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning
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