Sunday, June 5, 2011

That Four Letter Word - Love

Ah, love. The "something" most of us say we are looking for. The centerpiece of our most intimate relationships we say. That which makes the whole world go round. We say.

I remember the day I was going to say "I love you" to a girl for the first time. I was 16. We'd been dating for about a month a half. This feeling had been growing all that time, something I'd never really felt before, but believed must be it - must be love.

There's something about the word itself - love. So small. Just four little letters. It's so easy to say. To let loose from the lips. Like a little box we try and put around a huge set of experiences.

On a set of steps, on the edge of a hill overlooking part of the city, my girlfriend and I sat, exchanging pleasantries as we each held onto a secret we were about to release into the world. The leaves were fading as the autumn was now full on, and passing it's flourish of colors. The light wind blew a few of them about down below us, as the sun started to set in the late afternoon sky.

For me, it felt as if the world were about to explode - you have to love the teenage drama of it all.

Should I do it? I kept thinking. What's the right way to do it? I kept saying to myself, the perfectionist merged with naivety.

This dance seemed to go on forever. In actuality, it was probably less than an hour and a half that we sat there together, waiting - apparently - for the right moment to say what we needed to.

Then, suddenly, the end of the dance came. And it was as if the entire world changed to a shade of gray right before my eyes.

She turned to me and said something to the effect of "I really like you, but I think we should break up."

I blinked, the sound of my heartbeat merging with the swirl of brown leaves all around us.

From the blog Dating Thoughts comes the following, from a recent post on love:

In Greek there are 4 different words for love: éros, philia, storge, and agápe. Eros is the love we all know in the world of romance to mean intimate, or passionate love. Philia refers to friendship among family and friends. Storge is affection such as felt by parents for their children. And agape is unconditional love coming from compassion and understanding. These are rough translations, because in Greek, all four of these words are used to describe truly romantic marriage.

In English, love has been reduced to a buzzword. We say “I love you” even without romance. Even natives of other languages say “I love you” in English more than in their first language. This is ridiculous.

What's interesting to me is how humans both seem to struggle to exude a sense of love on the macro-level - loving all of creation as a manifestation of the divine. And we also struggle to be accurate with our labeling when it comes to the specific people, places, and things in our lives.

I know there have been times in the past where I was quick to label something love out of a fear that, if I didn't offer another that label, the whole thing might disappear. This wasn't true of the moment I described above. I don't know if what I felt was love exactly, but the motive behind my desire to say "I love you" was loving. However, I can remember another relationship, during my college days, where saying those words was mostly about keeping things going, maintaining a connection with a woman I liked, but really never loved in that deep, intimate way.

And when you think about it, this mislabeling happens far beyond our most intimate relationships. Consider anything you might be addicted to. Like cigarettes. I have heard many people say they love cigarettes, but actually, when it comes down to it, they don't cigarettes at all. In fact, some folks downright hate cigarettes, but the feeling that comes with smoking them feels like a kind of love, like a warm embrace when all the chips are down, and things seem hopeless.

One of our biggest problems in actually finding love, and embodying love - whether with a beloved partner or for the whole of the universe - is that we're usually coming at it all from the outside in. Thinking that someone, some thing, some experience will bring it to us, failing to recognize that we are it. That we all contain love within, if only we'd stop and listen to ourselves more closely.

Whatever love actually is, in the end, it has to be experienced from the inside out. It's only through tapping into what is really your inherent nature, that you can discover that which is the stuff of intimate relationships with others.

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