i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)
– e.e. cummings ‘I carry your heart with me’

People devote weeks and pages to discussions on dissecting cap tables, getting through email efficiently and condensing investment strategies of the rich and famous into top-ten lists.

But no-one it seems, wants to write about love.

Partly, it’s because love has been hijacked by pop music. You can’t talk about love without invoking the cliches of Rihanna and Taylor Swift and Usher.

Partly, it’s because love has been hijacked by movies. You can’t talk about love without sounding like you’re quoting from The Notebook.

And partly, it’s because love appears to be all art and no science. It’s almost impossible to distill (though magazines try) into something pure and clear.

Here I love you.
In the dark pines the wind disentangles itself.
The moon glows like phosphorous on the vagrant waters.
Days, all one kind, go chasing each other.
The snow unfurls in dancing figures.
A silver gull slips down from the west.
Sometimes a sail. High, high stars.
Oh the black cross of a ship.
Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet.
Far away the sea sounds and resounds.
This is a port.
Here I love you.
Here I love you and the horizon hides you in vain.
I love you still among these cold things.
Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels
that cross the sea towards no arrival.
I see myself forgotten like those old anchors.
The piers sadden when the afternoon moors there.
My life grows tired, hungry to no purpose.
I love what I do not have. You are so far.
My loathing wrestles with the slow twilights.
But night comes and starts to sing to me.
The moon turns its clockwork dream.
The biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
And as I love you, the pines in the wind
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire.
– Pablo Neruda ‘Here I Love You’

Love is probably the most important thing in the life of everyone you know.

Not just its existence, but its absence too. Love, and sometimes the lack of it, drives every person’s decisions more than any other factor.

And yet we lack a framework for understanding it. To most of us it appears in our minds like a mist. We know it when we’re in it. We can see when others are too. But we can do nothing to draw it towards us. It descends on us or it doesn’t and as much as we try, our best approach is simply an honest wait.

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left overwhen being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.
- Louis de Berneres ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’

There must be something to love’s universality. There must be a shared experience which could allow us to find a better description of love’s role, love’s value and love’s roots.

I think about love a lot, like most people. But for who’ve shared their honest feelings about it, there seems to be no common thread.

One friend told me when I asked him that he thinks of his partner as “my best friend, the person I’d most want to spend time with if given the choice”. Another friend shared with me his father’s description of his mother, “all my life, in a crowded room, she is the only woman I can see”.

Some friends undoubtedly believe they have love. Some aren’t sure. Some do not, but convince themselves they do.

The only thing that links us all is that we always have to work at it.

Love is not static.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

At funerals, you see love clearly. You see the outline of the hole that’s left by loss. That outline defines love’s shape.

At weddings, you see love’s hope. You see every person suspend disbelief for a few moments and bask in the glory of love’s potential.

At airports you see love’s sparks. People run to greet each other and hold each other as if they were two pieces of a puzzle. People sob as they hug each other, saying goodbye. Red faces. Heavy chests.

But none of those experiences seem to resemble love in real time.

You love people more at weddings and funerals and airports.

But that love has to subside. And you have to find something else to nourish it.

That’s what I think love must be.

That’s where I think it must exist.

It peaks on holidays and picnics and over long dinners. It finds its trough in sickness, in impatience, in hunger and annoyance and accidental insult.

But somewhere on the curves between those two points, that’s where love becomes real.

If you can find someone who believes in you irrationally. Who wants you to succeed in the same way they wish success on themselves. Who has as much joy in your highs as they do despair in your lows, and yet maintains a distance enough to never believe too much in either.

When you’re not trying to be someone. When you’re alone, unaware you’re being watched. Being fully self-defined. If you find love with someone in those moments, then I think that’s all you can ask.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.
I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
- Viktor Frankl, ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’

(Originally published April 5, 2012)