What on earth do I know of love? What I don’t know has filled journals spanning decades. Until I stopped because I realized one of many truths: writing about it brought me no closer to it. Reading about it was marginally more useful, if only to discover all the other blind describing their piece of the elephant.
But yesterday, a voice said, “Write about love“ and I have learned to listen to that voice; when I don’t, I usually end up being very, very sorry.
“Talking about love is like dancing about architecture.” — Elvis Costello
What is love?
a) Baby, don’t hurt me. b) A battlefield. c) Like a rock. d) All you need.
Before you answer, consider this: At first blush, English seems like a fairly stupid language. We have one word for the condition that governs our hearts, sways our days, forges our bonds, breaks us open, makes us stronger. One tiny four-letter word. But that is because this one word is like Tolkien’s The One Ring: it rules the rest by the complexity in its simplicity. It is inevitable, impossible, invincible…. and indescribable. Which is why I will try.
One must be very careful when one chooses to write about love. In general, whatever you focus on tends to increase. And, like any force in the universe, love, when invited in, especially after a long wait on the porch, tends to put its feet up on your furniture, eat all your snacks, make itself comfortable, stay a while. Love lights you up like radium, widens your field of vision, tears you apart, again. Dangerous, heady stuff. Not to be denied.
And from that realization, it can grow like Jack’s beanstalk: overnight. You learn a lot. You soften around the edges. Food tastes better, and you begin thinking again about healthier foods because you want to be alive longer. The sun feels deliciously warm on your skin, now sun-blocked. Colors begin to sneak into your all-black wardrobe. You become lighter than air, hotter than fire, more solid than earth, clearer than water, faster than light. Or at least you so imagine.
You must. Be very. Careful. And. Very. Brave.
You start to see everyone in your life — and I do mean everyone — in a new light. Some old hurts may heal. You find yourself feeling softer, more compassionate in general, and more loving toward certain people and situations in particular (a real test!)
More importantly, you also begin being more gentle, compassionate and forgiving with yourself, giving yourself the freedom to let more peek from underneath the protective covering you know so well. You could argue, in fact, that all love starts — though, obviously, should not stop — with self-love. For if you do not love yourself, how can you love someone else? If you do not know your own heart, how can you seek to know that of another? But when you know your heart, you must be able to pole-vault and/or crash through those barriers that silence the sharing of it, especially the old ones erected for threats – or pains – no longer present. You can not let your heart be afraid.
So. Love is not this, OR this, OR this, OR that. Love is this, AND this, AND this, AND that. It is all. It is everything. While we are limited by our own perspectives and desires, and, thus, do not see the bright and magnificent whole, we are all connected in a grand design. And we grope and grasp to find that piece that, connected to ours, helps form a larger piece of that design.
And then one day you hear a voice; perhaps it is singing, or laughing, or maybe it just calls a name, a name that’s yours. Or it’s been calling you all along but you let it be drowned out. Pay attention, because you didn’t think a voice would call you again. Because you didn’t know you were meant to answer to it until that very moment. Because it didn’t sound the way you thought it would sound. But, finally, because it is the voice meant for you, the ears of your ears awake, and the eyes of your eyes are opened.
(updated July 10, 2018;)