Live and let live; live and let love
On the Bright Side
February 5, 2022
Valentine's Day is coming right up, a holiday to celebrate love. But aside from that rather blatantly commercial holiday, we are reminded daily, all year long, in movies and songs and devotionals and everyday experiences, that love is the answer, that love conquers all, that love is in us all.
But what is love, anyway?
Well, for starters, love is something easier to describe than define, as poets have been doing for years. Some of them have done a pretty good job of it too: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." (Edna St. Vincent Millay), or Shakespeare's "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
In other places, like in "The Language of Emotions" author Karla McLaren says, "The truth about love is this: love is constant; only the names change. Love doesn't just restrict itself to romantic relationships. Love is everywhere – in the hug of a child, in the concern of a friend, in the center of your family, and in the heart of your pets." She also notes that love is not an emotion but rather a category unto itself.
Or I'd say several categories. While the English language lumps all kinds of love into one word, the ancient Greeks had, by some counts, seven words for love: Eros for sexual passion; philia for deep friendships; storge for familial love; ludus for playful love; agape, love for everyone; pragma, longstanding love; and philantia, for love of self.
I think one of the best descriptions of love, one that covers just about every form of love we can know (no matter what word you use for it) , is a poetic quote from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (this quote from the New International Version of the Holy Bible):
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
That simple paragraph is as good a description and guide for marital love – or friendship love, or love for your neighbor or mankind, or for yourself for that matter – as I've ever heard. So many different kinds of love we can know and experience, but all with the same basic message.
I'm the first to admit that sometimes love is hard, and sometimes love takes some conscious and purposeful work. Sometimes love seems out of reach. Sometimes loving your neighbor seems impossible when you've decided your neighbor is an idiot.
But the thing is, you don't have to like your neighbor in order to love him or her. You don't have to share meals or even morning hellos if you're constantly on different wavelengths. You can love that neighbor in spite of all that by not wishing them harm, by not gossiping about them, by forgiving them their incompatibilities, and doing all that for you, not necessarily for your neighbor (who may not even notice), but for your own heart and your own efforts to live in love; for your own inner peace.
By the same token, romantic love and friendship love (or even familial love) doesn't always last, and you don't have to stay in a relationship that no longer serves you or brings you joy. But when you separate yourself, the love can still be there, again by taking care of yourself and not making the other person or people wrong, by remembering to be respectful of the others, by rejoicing in your own truth without making someone else be wrong. Remember that love is constant, that circumstances may change but love remains.
Love is all around us; love is everywhere, and it comes to us in so many forms. How much easier and more beautiful and safer and rewarding life would be if we all remembered that love is kind and gentle, not jealous or devious, that love doesn't keep score. That love is already in our hearts, that love is available to us even when we are acting ornery or being unlovable; that love will sometimes show itself to us when we least expect it. That love should be cherished and guarded and should never be put in second place to anything, ever, for any reason.
That love is something in you, love that you can feel and share, and you don't need anyone else's permission; that love is something you can accept and never worry that you'll be tired of or so full of that you can't accept more. That love is the one thing you can give away and never run out of; that love is the one thing that actually grows and multiplies whenever it is given away.
John Lennon, one of those poets able to sum up the power of love in five words, said it as simply and succinctly as anyone else when he wrote "all you need is love." Indeed.
I say live and let live; live and let love.
Happy Valentine's Day.
© 2022 Marilda Mel White. Mel White, local writer and photographer, has been looking on the bright side for various publications since 1996. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.