What love means | Editorial

One of my favorite definitions of love I discovered in RZA’s book “The Tao of Wu” when I was a 20-year-old living in New York City. At the time, I felt about the Big City the way Toni Morrison wrote about it in “Jazz”: it was the paragon of love, and I looked to it for wisdom and guidance. Several years later, on an old, wooden, John Alden schooner, the definition developed even sharper meaning when my new partner read it aloud.

“Love, like water, dissolves you then resolves you. It breaks down your ego and puts you back together again properly.”

Love is surely boundless and limitless, but also irrational — equal parts vulnerability and strength. Perhaps love really is the true philosopher’s stone — a catalyst for transformation, turning anything to gold and whistling to you from the doorways of immortality. People who exude love are apt to give things away. They are, in every way, like rivers; in other words, they stream. Do you ever notice when you start giving things away you keep getting more? To give love is to receive it.

In the Greek language, there are six different words for love: eros, or sexual passion; philia, or deep friendship; ludus, or playful love; agape, or love for everyone; pragma, or longstanding love; and philautia, or love of the self. While the English language only has one, this Valentine’s Day, and/or Galentine’s Day, we asked islanders to share what love means to them.

And let’s face it, whether you love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day just seems unavoidable.

Community responses:

“I read this somewhere once and it really resonated, ‘Everyone carries old baggage, love means helping your loved one repack.’”

“Someone knowing your favorite flavor of Gatorade and getting it for you when you need it the most and without being asked.”

“My man is constantly willing to grow, boundless in his dedication, handsome obviously, tall (I love that) and he makes me laugh.”

“Acceptance, companionship and safety. Her intelligence.”

“Love is the essence of life, the means to our well being, and the key to happiness. Without love and the love of family we are empty vessels in a world that is desperate for it.”

“Love itself is infinite and has many forms. Love for my partner means honesty, knowledge of self, commitment, passion, respect, help me up when I’m down, big dreams, someone to come home to, someone to laugh with, someone to wipe the tears away. All the challenges and woes of daily life in this world can be made bearable when met with some Love and Compassion.”

“In the simplest terms, love is acceptance (as opposed to fear which is rejection); it is attraction, not repulsion, inclusion, not exclusion, an open heart as opposed to a closed one. True love is unconditional. And it is a spectrum – from the spiritual (the intuitive and intellectual knowledge that we are connected) to the physical (the arousal and euphoria one feels in every cell of the body, not merely the genitalia). Alan Watts has a great lecture on the “Spectrum of Love,” by the way.”

“Love is listening. To listen means to love, we listen to who or what we love, it entails being receptive and open, listening with an open heart not just hearing with your ears.”

“I think the English language does not have enough words to appropriately break out the different versions and levels and depth of love but to avoid being unnecessarily pretentious… I believe love should be totally and completely Selfless, honest about everything and never afraid to be honest, non-proprietary and lacking any need to own or control. To me, it’s a friendship that you can share your entire soul and life with … facing fear head-on and fighting jealousy and envy and living to let the person you love be all of themselves.”

“The thing about love is it can often feel elusive, but in my humble opinion, it is in fact the pulse of the universe. The English language is sorely lacking in vocabulary to describe the many facets of love but I think the attributes are the same regardless of the nature of the relationship. For me, it’s something like this: an acceptance of the other person’s choices, dreams, and struggles; the ability and willingness to be vulnerable and truly seen by another; a fierce desire to protect each other in whatever capacity the other needs; nourishing each other’s inner lives with food, affection and a desire to deeply understand one another.”