Today’s post comes from Jessica Cohen, a senior at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, where she double-majors in political science and Spanish. Jessica is an avid writer, and her poetry and essays focus on examinations of the human condition, the intricacies of life, and the fulfillment of human happiness. Through her writing, hopes to evoke introspection and self-reflection. Read more of her writing at Who Knows When What.
Doesn’t it seem as if every time we turn on the TV or open a magazine, we are constantly being told that we need to obtain more of the revered phenomenon called love?
This deep-seated desire for union and connection can be seen in all forms of life, whether this manifests as a human’s search for the perfect life partner, or an oak tree’s endless upward venture to meet the sun’s tender warmth.
Yet, is society’s conception of love that media bombards us with really the highest form of love that we can experience? The kind of love that Valentine’s Day encourages us to celebrate is simply romantic love — and only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the infinite ocean of love that awaits dormant beneath every facet of our existence.
1. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:
In the chapter entitled “Marriage,” Gibran poignantly addresses what he perceives as a healthy marriage. He encourages maintaining distance and individuality in your partnership:
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
2. The Dhammapada
In this Buddhist scripture, it is claimed that a solitary life is nobler than a life in the companion of fools:
If a man finds a companion
Prudent, wise, upright, and righteous,
Let him go with him, happy but vigilant,
Overcoming all danger.
If a man cannot find a companion
Prudent, wise, upright and righteous,
Let him walk alone,
It is better to live alone,
Than to have a fool for a companion.
3. The Pocket Buddha Reader by Anne Bancroft:
This book, though tiny, is jam packed with words of wisdom. It advocates that the love that we feel toward our loved ones, should be cultivated in a way that it is directed toward all living beings:
A mother, even at the risk of her own life, protects her child, her only child. In the same way should you cultivate love without measure toward all beings. You should cultivate toward the whole world-above, below, around—a heart of love…
4. “If you Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda:
I find this poem to beautifully capture the transience and tumult of romantic love:
If little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved…
5. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
In this powerful book, Tolle describes what he perceives as the difference between addictive clinging and true love:
If in your relationships you experience both “love” and the opposite of love — attack, emotional violence, and so on — then it is likely that you are confusing ego attachment and addictive clinging with love. You cannot love your partner one moment and attack him or her the next. True love has no opposite … Love is state of Being. Your love is not outside; it is deep within you. You can never lose it, and it cannot leave you. It is not dependent on some other body, some external form.
All of these writings can direct us to the notion that our path toward experiencing and emitting the inexplicable brilliance of true love in the world, does not end with romantic love. May the love that is within you reach not only your partner, but also all living beings in the world; beings who so deeply ache for an ounce of loving-kindness. True love, once it takes root in our heart, emanates a radiant goodness in which no Hollywood movie could possibly capture. For this reason, let us denounce our societal conception of love, and let us further explore what it truly means to be a force of love in this word.