On Friday evening, while looking out of our office windows we saw the Empire State Building illuminated red on celebration of Valentine’s Day. Irresistibly, inevitably, our thoughts turned to a seemingly simple philosophical question: “What is Love” Attempting to share with you some reflections on love, we dedicate this love note to everyone who dares to love…
“For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” — Rainer Maria Rilke
As Rilke notes, love is a task, a work, something to be done. So we answer our question: What is love? Love is a verb! It is not a thing to have, a quality to possess. It can’t be bought or sold, stored or spent. So we should be asking: what is loving?
Loving, to love, is an action of a person – not the heart, not the head, but the integral, wonderful, complicated person – that creates a relation of profound care and curiosity toward the strange, whole, and marvelous world around us and all the living and non-living co-habitants of the planet. Loving is creating a joyful relation from the awesome uniqueness that each of us is to others.
To love is to be oriented not towards objects, but subjects. It is not goal-oriented, seeking satisfaction or complete fulfillment, but is rather a never-exhausted wanting and yearning for a connection with (not consumption of) an Other.
How do we love? Loving can be sharing stories, exchanging information, daily routines and listening. Lots of listening. Closely and with care. To love is to act with compassion, meeting to tell each other about all those insignificant particles that together make up the story of our lives.
Loving can be found in our friendships, love relationships, communities and nature. The therapeutic relationship is rooted in an act of loving, as two people sit in front of each other, seeking to communicate, listen and learn about an Other, in the voice of the Other. As the therapeutic relationship oftentimes withstands stories of horror, anger, shame, and fear, it is also a source of calmness, reflection and healing.
Creating community and fighting for justice and equality together can be an act of loving. Joining 1 billion women rising to end violence against women and girls on Valentine’s Day can be an act of loving. Volunteering at a shelter for people experiencing homelessness – in solidarity, but not as charity – or choosing to participate in economies of solidarity can be an act of loving. Because loving is always rooted in justice and ethics, for humanity, for Otherness.
Perhaps we can say that love is like dancing – for some it looks like disco, swing or hip-hop, for others like a waltz, flamenco or samba and so forth. We love like we dance – wholeheartedly – with our hearts, our minds, our spirits and our whole beings… here’s to 7 billion ways of loving…