Love isn’t theoretical.
It isn’t the words we use to describe it, the songs or the poems or the paintings we create in its honor. It isn’t the churches or synagogues or mosques, the crosses, verses, prayers or chants. It isn’t even our relationships as parents, children, brothers, sisters, lovers, friends.
It’s smaller than that, I think, ten thousand tiny things… and then ten thousand more.
It’s the angry silence of words we don’t say, and the flash of insight (or wisdom or caring) that stops them in our throat, on our tongues at the very last instant, where we can taste them, hot, cruel, bitter. And then it’s the noise of the words we do let fly because we love ourselves enough to get angry, enough to risk whatever happens next.
It’s the pitch, tone and cadence of a voice wrapped around a lover’s name, the same voice that reads bedtime stories to a rapt and precious audience, answers the phone and soothes a friend. “Breathe,” the voice says, gently, and then it says it again at night whispering to itself, to limbs that won’t relax, a mind that won’t trade thoughts for dreams.
It’s in our contact with each other, the actual, physical touch – urgent, elemental, comforting, protective – and it’s before that, in the impulse to reach out, and before that, in the ten thousand everyday actions that happen over breakfast, in traffic, across rooms and yards and streets and oceans, in the closeness of doorways and the vastness of the ether, all of it leading up to that moment, that impulse to reach out… and someone else’s decision, made in an instant, to reach back.
It’s in the yearning too, in the absence of touch, in the empty space that should be filled, the knowledge, absolute and unshakeable, that we are worthy, that we have amazing reserves of untapped joy and passion and emotional daring to give. It’s there, behind our defenses, under the bullshit and baggage and resentments and debris, the part in each of us that can’t help believing, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that we are capable of more than anyone realizes, including (and maybe especially) ourselves.
It lies in our vulnerability, our openness, our willingness to be broken and our truly astonishing resilience. It’s in our moments of understanding, and it’s in the times when we don’t understand at all but grab hold anyway just so someone – some fellow human – doesn’t have to go it alone. It lies, I think in the tenderest, toughest parts of us… the parts we give away again and again, ten thousand times.
And then ten thousand more.