As we approach Valentine’s Day, many of us are planning and preparing to celebrate love, but do we really know what that is? What is love? My brother summed up the answer to this perennial question best: Love is a verb. No, it’s not just a morpheme used to make a syntactical structure grammatical, but an action. Love is acting selflessly, doing what is best for others, and giving unconditionally.
For eons we’ve tried to understand what love is, but we’ve gotten stuck thinking that love is a noun - an object or person to be possessed. No one can ever own another’s feelings, choices, or actions. Love is not something that can be bought, earned, or taken. Love is a choice to let go of our selfish egos, and live with compassion and kindness. Selfishness and love are like oil and water. They just can’t mix.
Many of us go through our daily lives saying: we love this, that, him, or her…but then turn around and not take care of and disrespect those very things and people. What we really meant to say was that we like, desire, lust for, and wish to possess those things and people. The drives of the ego usually end up damaging and hurting others in some way. That is not love.
Love is unconditional and selfless. To love is to be responsible for everything that our intentions, thoughts, and actions do to both animate and inanimate objects. When we love our homes, we keep them clean and maintain them. When we love the planet, we do our best to reduce, reuse, and recycle. When we love our pets, we give them the care, discipline, and the attention they need. When we love another person, we repect their needs and do nothing that might contribute or lead to their suffering. When we love, we have compassion and the wish to do what is best for others.
All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others.
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.
- Shantideva 8:129
Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that – it lights up the whole world.
- Hafiz, Persian Poet
Love is a truly selfless act. Let’s celebrate this Valentine’s Day, and every day, with acts of love for our family and friends, for strangers, for animals, and for our whole planet. Love is the highest vibration. All we need is…to love.