Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

To Love and Be Loved

“If so many men, so many minds, certainly so many hearts,
so many kinds of love” -Tolstoy

Valentine’s Day always gets me thinking about love. I’m not a Valentine’s Day hater-though most of my Valentine days I’ve been single as ever. There’s something exciting about an entire day that gives you the ability to liberally express love. So here are just some of my random thoughts about love. A collection of ideas from some of my favorite poets, authors, etc.

In reading the words of Carl Jung about love I found myself fascinated with his ideas of projection. Projection is the idea that we project how we see people and how we love them onto them. It’s an idea related to “romance addiction”, being in love with love and not in love with a person. He discusses the idea in such a way that made me wonder. Do I love people for who they are or do I love them for how I want to them to be? It made me think about my relationships with people and the different kinds of love that I “feel” and “project” onto them. Jung also goes on to give his view of “love”. His idea of love is so simple, yet profound. He said,

Feeling is a matter of small. And in human love we can see that it is true. The real relatedness between two people is experienced in the small tasks they do together: the quite conversation when the day upheavals are at rest, the soft word of understanding, the daily companionship, the encouragement offered in a difficult moment, the small fight when least expected, the spontaneous gesture of love. (196)

Jung’s idea of love is shared experiences. I love that. Moments in time where you heart interacts with another heart. Sometimes I like to call these moments heart pictures; small moments in time where your heart takes a picture. Life is a conglomeration of these heart pictures-gathered together to create a whole--or this idea we call love. I am amazed at how much of me is made up of all the people who have influenced my life. I am made of them and they, in turn, have a piece of me. My life has certainly been changed by my interactions with people. I strive to meet new people, learn from them, love them, let them love me, and come away with a sense of becoming whole.

One philosopher that opened my eyes to a different view of love is Robert Johnson. He wrote a book about myths and the ideology of western “romantic love”. In his book he talks about how love is based on commitment and service. Love is not selfish or something to take, but love is to be given. He said,

We can learn that human relationship is inseparable from friendship and commitment. We can learn the essence of love is not to use the other person to make us happy but to serve and affirm the one we love. And we can discover, to our surprise, that what we have needed more than anything was not so much to be loved, as to love. (201)

Johnson’s idea of love is cliché, “It is better to love then be loved”. This kind of love is familiar to us and comes from the bible in Matthew 22:36-39. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart, and with all they soul, and with all they mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The idea that “true” love comes from serving and loving others is nothing new. Many of you have experienced this selfless kind of love-either by giving it or by receiving it.

As much as I have talked about loving others I strongly believe in loving ones self. In the scripture mentioned above it says, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” To me there are 2 ½ commandments in those verses. It is clear that we must love ourselves in order to love others. When you love yourself and begin to understand God’s love for you, then you can love others freely. One of My favorite poets Rainer Maria Rilke said,

Love is at first not anything that means merging, giving over, and uniting with another (for what would a union be of something unclarified and unfinished, still subordinate-?); it is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world for himself in another's sake." (Letters to a Young Poet)

Enrich Fromm also said, “Love is union with somebody or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one’s own self.” I think this idea of 2 whole people uniting or coming together in love, not one completing the other, but adding upon their love for each other, is beautiful. There is a power that flows into your life when you first love God, then yourself, and then others.

But what about the loss of love or the pain love causes? What about the wounded hearts, the lonely nights, the struggle to allow yourself to love again? What about those who break hearts, those who leave us broken hearted, and all those whose hearts we never seem to be able to reach? Rabbi David Wolpe in his book, “Making Loss Matter” said this about love,

“…Love is an ever fixed mark in the minds of poets, but in the world, love can fade or end. ‘Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,’ wrote Shakespeare, ‘but bears it out even to the edge of doom.’ We want to believe it. But for those who have lost love, the heroic words about everlastingness are mocked by the pain of unhealed hearts…The inescapable paradox of love is this: It is made precious by time, which threatens to destroy it. Only through loss can we love, but it is loss that wracks our heart… True love is the outgrowth of the ability to have faith… To love is to accept the possibility of suffering…The root of love is bound up with a knowledge of pain and a consciousness of loss. In the end, such love connects us to God.”

All who love know there is a measure of pain that accompany it. Sometimes I think it’s the pain that makes you fully aware of the kind of love you have. Your tears will be counted, your sorrow made known, and love will find its way again into your heart.

There are so many more types of love and things that could be said, but I would be amiss if I didn’t finish up with the kind of love that sustains me. The love I feel for my wonderful family. Mitch Albom writes,

The fact is there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn’t the family... If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all. Love is so supremely important. As our great poet Auden said, ‘Love each other or perish’.

The love I feel from my family is immense, deep, and unconditional. Their love lifts, frees, and allows me to be who I am today. My mother is my fan, cheerleader, and friend and my dad is my teacher, inspiration, and guidance. My sisters are my anchors, my joy, and my confidence and my brothers are my angels, my excitement, and my drive. My family is my life! When my brother Grant died, I realized what it felt like to have a broken heart, but I also began to realize what true love is. This type of love is multi-faceted, omnipresent, and eternal. I love my family so much and as I get older and encounter different obstacles in my life I am continuously amazed at how my love changes as I change.

I know that I am the person I am today because of the love I have felt, shared, and given. My life is truly a collection of love. Thank you for being part of that love and most importantly for letting me love you. Happy Valentines Day!

(Excerpts from an essay I wrote in 2004 and some new ideas)

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