What is love, and why does it matter?
Before I begin…
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A "cheshma" is a way to capture natural spring water and turn it into a gathering place for people who go to fill up their jugs. They share life stories and whatever comes to mind. Sometimes, a cheshma is as simple as a small pipe sticking out of a stone on the side of the road. But, in the middle of a village, a cheshma stands proud like a monument adorned with engravings and flowers. "The Lovers' Cheshma" in the center of Tryavna, a 12th-century town still hustling and bustling with lively streets, anchored by art, and surrounded by mountains, commemorates a love story.
The stone engraving next to it speaks about a young craftsman who fell in love with the most beautiful girl in town. Slander and elegant, Kalinka had blue eyes and lips perfectly drawn as if "with a silver coin." Theirs was love at first sight. But her strict father disapproved of the budding craftsman as a good match for his daughter. Eloped, they did and lived inseparably. One day, Kalinka confessed that her heart ached to see her white-haired old man just one more time, even if she couldn't talk to him. The lovers journeyed to her father's home but arrived too late. He'd passed away, succumbing to the grief of losing his child by inadvertently chasing her away.
The young madden sobbed, and where her tears fell, a spring sprung. Her lover built a marble statue to capture the water and commemorate their love and grief. He carved her beautiful, sad face in marble and built a bench for people to sit, rest, and remember what they love. To this day, everyone who drinks the water returns to remember their past. Legend has it that every young man who drinks the water from this spring receives God's blessing to wed the girl he loves. Regardless of the weather, the stream never stops, symbolizing the consistency of true love that never ends and never wanes.
The power of love inspires and tortures but try to define it.
In 1850, Alfred Lord Tennison wrote the famous phrase, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," while grieving for his best friend. Shakespeare made a profound point, "Love sought is good, but given unsought is better." We live for love, die for love, and sing to love. We even have a lover's holiday that transcends sweethearts and extends to parents, friends, and even pets!
Right now, in Ukraine, people fight and die in the name of love for their country and freedom, while animal lovers rescue and care for pets who also suffer because of the war. Even in the absence of war, parents sacrifice themselves for their children the world over, and good Samaritans risk their own comfort, lives, and safety to help strangers in need.
Perhaps, love is the most human experience possible as it connects us and helps us rise above our own concerns and individuality. It turns ordinary people into heroes. It gives us meaning, courage, and purpose. It inspires creativity.
Religion claims that God is love and that we are made in the image of God. Therefore, it follows that we are love. Could this be a way for pondering humans to put a face to the emotion and find an explanation for the unexplainable?
The complexity of love prevents a simple definition. Yet, it manifests in predictable ways that also differentiate it from other emotions. It involves passion, commitment, and intimacy – whatever, or whoever, you may love. Passion fuels desire and motivates connection. Commitment sustains the process. Intimacy makes you willingly vulnerable and builds a bridge between you and the other person, or piece of art, a cause.
Stephen Covey said, "Love is a verb." You DO love. You show up. You go the extra mile. You try. You troubleshoot. You negotiate. You deliver! Always. What you don't do is look for excuses and take the easy way out. In that sense, infatuation is NOT love. It's motivated by lust, not passion, and it lacks commitment. Few consider the difference between lust and passion, between infatuation and love. We confuse the process from the start by calling it "falling in love" when frequently we experience lusting glorified. There is nothing wrong with lust among consenting adults, but these fancies create loose ties and often pass, after which people look at each other, not sure what they are doing still together.
In contrast, love starts with the other, focuses on the other, and exists for the other. That other does not have to be a person, though. If you've ever had a dog you loved and served, you know what I mean. If you ever slaved for a cause without the need or want for recognition, but wholeheartedly, you know what I mean. If you ever poured your soul into a creation, you know what I mean.
Love is a prerequisite for compassion, forgiveness, and goodness.
Then there's tough love. It knows the difference between what someone needs and what they want. It gives us the courage to cause someone anguish and discomfort short-term, to help them find a long-term opportunity to be better and do better. Tough love gives us the strength to risk being hated by the very person we love, knowing that we provide what they need.
Last but not least, there is self-love, not to be mistaken for self-indulgence. It asks for self-awareness, self-reflection, and honesty in addition to passion and commitment. It asks us to be passionate about our own development, refinement, and growth. It needs us to commit to authenticity and to care for ourselves physically, mentally, and environmentally, to strive for balance and well-being.
Why am I talking about love, not on Valentine's Day?
Because in a complex world with ever-increasing uncertainty, we slip into a fear-based, self-preservation mode. We can easily misunderstand the intentions of others, over or underestimate our individual abilities, miscalculate our responses, and hide from the world. We fall prey to depression and anxiety. In a reflexive attempt to alleviate this misery, we blame others and seek to limit their experiences and expression, claiming victimhood. We lose rationality, compassion, and curiosity. We grow rigid, limited, and suffer from a never-ending bad mood. We close up, expect the worse, criticize, demand, and complain.
I don't know about you, but I am not very excited to live in a world full of "Karens." When I forget, I remind myself of this poem:
Touched by An Angel
by Maya Angelou
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
Read this heartwarming story of the US Army replacing a cake they stole from a 13-year-old girl in 1945. It wasn't their fault. The cake was left on the windowsill to cool off 😊All is well that ends well, and sometimes the ending is the best part!
Would you board a plane if you get a picture texted to you of a plane crash? What if you are not the only one who gets the picture? This just happened!
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