Valentine’s Day is a useful day to remember that love is not a box of chocolates, nor is it a candy kiss.
Love is an energy, but like most powerful forces, it is invisible. We physically feel it in our bodies, but finding the language to express it is difficult. As the old saying goes, “Words just can’t describe…”
In fact, the only way we can really use language to express invisible forces is through metaphors. And although metaphors can be beautiful, they can also limit our experience.
In their wonderfully eye-opening book Metaphors We Live By, the linguists George Laykoff and Mark Johnson collect some of the ways that love is expressed in English:
LOVE IS A PATIENT: Love is a drug. He hurt me. Love is pain. My heart is broken. Love is blind.
LOVE IS A PHYSICAL FORCE: You’re electrifying. Sparks were flying. We have chemistry. Our lives revolve around each other.
LOVE IS MADNESS: I’m crazy for you. You drive me out of my mind. I’m wild about you. She drives me insane.
LOVE IS WAR: He pursued her relentlessly. He won her over.
Certainly, what these metaphors reveal is that the way we describe love is wobbly—in one moment we’re weak in the knees; in the next, we’re on a battlefield fighting for it (or defending against it). We fall into it, we fall out of it. Everyone stands in a different relationship to it. If you’re out of love, you might be desperate to fall back into it; if you are no longer in love, you might feel boxed in; if you are in love but that love is not reciprocated, you might feel like you are falling apart. It hurts one minute, and is cathartic the next.
Although another person can ignite the feeling of love in you (and that’s a beautiful, amazing thing), feeling the love does not have to depend on other people. Often, the frenzied way that we search for love in other people renders us into hungry ghosts—so desperate are we to find the energy in another person, we walk around in a dazed state of seeking: mouths wide open, bellies bulging, but throats too small to receive:
Thank goodness the metaphors that describe love are not love itself and escape from the realm of Hungry Ghosts is only a breath away.
If you are single on Valentines day, find the love that is all around you. If you are heart-broken on Valentines day, surrender to what is whole in you. If you are in love on Valentines day, relish that person and kiss them madly. Love is fleeting, love is a consciousness.
“Everything is in the love, and everyone needs the love”
Sufi Sheikh Sidi al-Jamal
“I got something that you need. I got the love.”- Eels, Love of the Loveless
“One Love! What about the one heart? One Heart!” -Bob Marley, One Love
The secret is in the love. In the love is the oxygen and the pores, the opening and the heart. In the love is the blood, vein and artery that threads and pumps, pools and flows; the love keeps you in circulation.
The love is where the breath gathers in the spine and some say the lotus blooms.
The love is always in the air.
There are waves within every vibration.
It’s the love.
Return to it.
Make it known, make it circulate, make it heart, make it lung, and hold it.
Pump and crystal it.
Turn and surrender to it.
Everything is in the love.
If you’re in NYC on Monday Feb. 12, stop by the Bowery Poetry Club for the Square Root of Love, an evening of poetry and music curated by the one and only John Sims: