On Love


In generosity and helping others
be like the river.

In compassion and grace
be like the sun.

In concealing others’ faults
be like the night.

In anger and fury
be like the dead.

In modesty and humility
be like the soil.

In tolerance
be like the ocean.

Either appear as you are or
be as you appear.

– Rumi, 7 Advices

There is very little for me to add to Rumi. My usual philosophical preoccupation with the question of what it is to love — which often magnifies as we approach Valentine’s Day — is fragranced this year by his distillations, as if he’d gone out gathering and made an extraordinary essential oil of Love itself.

Yet Frenchman and I also visited the Yeats exhibit at the National Library this month. We arrived too late and had but a bare five minutes of wandering through the dense collection. Several artifacts were positioned too high up for me to see.

But I didn’t need to see, as I was full of something the poet once said:

I think a man and woman should choose each other for life, for the simple reason that a long life is barely enough for a man and woman to understand each other; and to understand is to love.

And perhaps both these musings with their different facets — one more universal, one directed to a monogamous union — can be extended to our relationship with the Earth.

If we choose to act this way towards our environment as well as the people therein, what ineffable changes might come into being?

And what if, instead of offering cut flowers as a symbol of Love this year, we offered roots?

Gifts in the form of houseplants and wee trees and even seeds that could grace the house at the end of winter, and then be planted outside in the spring — to beautify the world for ourselves but also for others, to protect it from waste, to set forth a symbol of something more enduring that needs nurturing and thought as it faces the elements?

How do you celebrate the many faces of love as Rumi or Yeats suggests?

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