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Since it is the month of February, the month we celebrate Valentines Day, I thought I would focus my writing on the theme of Love. Honestly, it hasn’t been easy. I find Love, as a theme, to be complicated. There are so many kinds of Love; love for partners, parental love, sisterly love, brotherly love, love for friends, love for children, Divine Love, love for self. And let us not forget Romantic Love, for Valentines Day is a celebration of Romantic Love.
Romantic Love with all its excitement is a gateway to real love. Romantic Love is a lovely thread to weave through the journey of real love. And, Romantic Love is only a part of the picture of love. So much of our culture idealizes and focuses on Romantic Love. Why not? It’s a good story line, it usually has a lot of drama. But there is another kind of love which is the day to day love which has other kinds of dramas and requires a completely different set of skills to navigate.
As I set out to understand love, I found it hard to find satisfying definitions.
From the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary love is defined as:
1a(1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties: maternal love for a child
(2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers: After all these years, they are still very much in love.
(3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests: love for his old schoolmates
b : an assurance of affection: give her my love
2 : warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion: love of the sea
3a : the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration: baseball was his first love
b(1) : a beloved person : darling —often used as a term of endearment
(2) British —used as an informal term of address
4a : unselfish loyal and benevolent (see benevolent sense 1a) concern for the good of another: such as
(1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind
(2) : brotherly concern for others
b : a person's adoration of God
5 : a god (such as Cupid or Eros) or personification of love
6 : an amorous episode : love affair
7 : the sexual embrace : copulation
8 : a score of zero (as in tennis)
9 capitalized, Christian Science : god
Does that clear things up for you? Not for me, hardly at all.
Same source, 2nd entry:
1 : to hold dear : cherish
2a : to feel a lover's passion, devotion, or tenderness for
b(1) : caress
(2) : to fondle amorously
(3) : to copulate with
3 : to like or desire actively : take pleasure in: loved to play the violin
4 : to thrive in: the rose loves sunlight
I think that gets a little closer, perhaps because there is some emotion in there.
Here are the synonyms:
Noun: affection, attachment, appreciate, cherish, prize, treasure, value
Verb: attachment, devotedness, devotion, fondness, passion
Words like: affection, attraction, assurance, concern touch upon how I define or describe love but they don’t completely embrace it. Devotedness and devotion come much closer to what I would define as love.
To me, love feels big, transcendent. Love feels like a sacred act or expression. For me, love is bigger than human. And although I use the word often and try to live it in my everyday life, I often stumble over myself in my expression of it. Love feels like something I practice versus something I achieve or accomplish.
When I try to define love, I come up with these words: commitment, kindness, understanding, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, joy, compassion, honesty, enduring. Perhaps these are more like qualities but I find them to best explain what happens in love. When I think of the love I share with my partner, it is a daily practice that engages these qualities. And to partake of this kind of engagement takes awareness. Like other spiritual practices, it is about living in the moment and being present, to my partner’s thoughts, feelings and needs and simultaneously to my own thoughts, feelings and needs.
We are all fragile humans, misfits acting out the painful karma drama of our inner and outer worlds. And through the actions we create or act upon in the name of love, I find the relationships that endure with partners, parents, children and friends are the relationships that forgive, are kind, are willing to move forward no matter what blemishes or thorns that show up. I have learned about love from the people who have forgiven me.
In Kahlil Gibran’s essay about Love, he is referring to Transcendent Love. In writing about Marriage, Kahlil Gibran gets much closer to what I will call for this essay, human love. Within his essay on Marriage he says:
“… make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”
I love those words. I think they describes how to keep love alive, well and healthy. We can’t box it, we can’t control it, we can’t compartmentalize it. To make it small or narrow in any way is to deaden it. Like life, love is flow. Love is grace. To experience it, we open to it and let it touch us from within and without. We participate in it by being committed, kind, understanding, patient, forgiving, compassionate, honest, and enduring.
I do hope you will give yourself the opportunity to grow love in your life. It isn’t always easy but it is always kind. And when we open our heart to love, we grow, like a flower in the summer sun, beautiful and warm and full of color and the vibrancy of life.
Happy Valentines Day!