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One morning in the car, my daughters and I were jamming out to Kygo and Whitney Houston’s remake of Steve Winwood’s 1986 number-one hit song Higher Love.
Whitney Houston originally covered the song on her 1990 Album I’m Your Baby Tonight but was only released on the Japanese version of the album as a bonus track. Nearly 30 years later, Kygo remixed the song to create the now extremely popular track.
From the back of the car, the tiny voice of my eight-year-old asked, “Daddy what does higher love mean?” The questions kids ask are the best. It kind of had me stumped for a second trying to think how to explain it to her.
As an adult, I thought about the meaning of the song but my daughter doesn’t care what the song is about, she wants to know what the thought means. Musicians obviously have their own intentions but the beauty of music is that you can interpret it however it fits into your story. Search “song meanings” and go to the comment sections of the forum, and you’ll find every kind of answer you can imagine. Regardless, I went into an explanation without really thinking about what Mr. Winwood was trying to convey.
“There are different levels of love in life. You love playing with Legos but you love your friends more. Or you love watching Disney movies but you love your pets Maggie, Lucy, and Biscuit more than that. There are levels of love and those are deeper or higher loves.”
I thought to myself about the “higher loves” in my own life. Obviously, those analogies are a bit basic and the general intent of the song is that there is this yearning for love, a love that is out there that is better than the ones previously felt. Tired of the struggles of being alone, the song is sort of like a prayer to the universe. “Bring me a higher love. Where’s that higher love I keep thinking of.”
I asked the girls, “What are some things that are a higher love to you?” My younger daughter started rattling off all the things I just mentioned. “You, momma, Maggie, the kitties, our friends,” and with a slight pause and toothless grin from the rearview mirror, she said, “myself.”
From the mouths of babes, loving yourself should be the first thing on the list but we skip over the idea too frequently. Whether it’s Whitney Houston, Kygo, Steve Winwood, or myself—searching for a higher love will only be found when we are in a place to truly love ourselves, and until we have that self-discovery, we will likely keep searching.
But searching for that love isn’t a negative. It is part of the process. Love is a journey much like life. The destination of self-discovery is a lifelong expedition that the different loves along the way help guide us toward. Each one, another step toward a more meaningful relationship with ourselves.
In the original version of the song, the first bridge before the organ solo writes:
“I will wait for it.
I’m not too late for it.
Until then, I’ll sing my song.
To cheer the night along.
There is a silent confidence and hope in his waiting for the love he desires that can be felt in the lyrics. Waiting for it might not feel easy for many people. If you are waiting for it, there is actually a mathematical formulation for searching for a mate. See the Washington Post article, “When to stop dating and settle down, according to math.“ But that isn’t quite the same.
Benjamin Franklin said, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” It isn’t easy but it is necessary for growth in order to find ourselves in a place to receive that higher love.
We’ve all sung Steve Winwood’s prayer or felt his sentiment at some point, or in some way. To want love is to be human. Depending on how long you’ve waited or as hard as you’ve lost it prior, it might seem evasive or impossible, but there is always a higher love in you that is available right now. Maybe that is the kind of love you need first and foremost. You just might need a six-year-old to help you find it.