Happy Valentines Day! (sort of)

Spoiler Alert! This is not going to be your typical valentine’s blog, so if you are looking for cupid, chocolates, and roses you may want to look elsewhere.

At the same time, this is not the equivalent of buying your beloved an ironing board for Valentine’s Day, of which, I am embarrassed to admit, I was guilty; but only once and it was a very long time ago. No, this valentine’s message is intended to cut through the fluff of romance, as beautiful as it is, and explore the depth, power, and paradox of Sacred Love.

If you don’t know me, you might assume based on the opening paragraph that I am a pragmatist and a cynic. Neither could be further from the truth. I’m French! I love, “LOVE”; everything about it. I sing romantic love songs, write poetry to the objects of my affection, cry at “chick-flicks,” and get warm fuzzy feelings when the hero and the heroine finally overcome all of the external and internal obstacles that keep them apart. Romance is in my DNA. It’s no coincidence that the French, thanks to Edith Piaf, have in their repertoire “L’Hymne à l’Amour,” (The Hymn to Love); it’s in the collective DNA.

Of course, when sung in French the stirring melody cannot help but move the most jaded of valentine’s skeptics. As Gomez Addams says, “everything sounds better in French;” even if it’s an emphatic request to take out the garbage. If, however we were to sing this ode to “l’amour” in English . . . well it gives a whole new meaning to the expression “lost in translation.”

The stirring lyrics start off well enough:

Le ciel bleu sur nous peut s'effondrer, (The blue sky above us can collapse)

Et la terre peut bien s'écrouler, (And the ground may well give way)

Peu m'importe si tu m'aimes, (If you love me, I don't care)

Je me fous du monde entier. (I do not care)

But when we continue in English, this elegy to eternal love quickly descends into a case study of enmeshment and pathological dependence.

J'irais jusqu'au bout du monde, (I would go to the end of the earth,)

Je me ferais teindre en blonde, (I would dye myself blonde,)

Si tu me le demandais. (If you asked me to.)

J'irais décrocher la lune, (I’ll get the moon,)

J'irais voler la fortune, (I would steal a fortune,)

Si tu me le demandais. (If you asked me to.)

Je renierais ma patrie, (I would renounce my homeland,)

Je renierais mes amis, (I would renounce my friends,)

Si tu me le demandais. (If you asked me to.)

On peut bien rire de moi, (You can laugh at me,)

Je ferais n'importe quoi, (I would do anything)

Si tu me le demandais. (If you asked me. )

I’m sorry, but no woman, or man is worth the price of dyeing my hair, going to jail or losing my friends and country. As touching as the sentiments may be, the truth is, no love or lover is worth the loss of my identity; and yet I’ve done it (including dyeing my hair), as have many others. Romantic love is after all intoxicating and the most amazing experience, albeit fleeting and hard to sustain.

Contrast this very “French” declaration of romantic love to the wisdom expressed by Kahlil Gibran about lasting love in his book, The Prophet:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.

Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But 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.

(The Prophet, On Marriage, Kahlil Gibran)

I love the words of Gibran because they teach me that in order to sustain my love for another, I have to know and love me; I cannot give to another that which I do not possess. And in order to continue loving my beloved, I must hold onto and love me as a separate entity, or as Gibran says so beautifully, a separate string that “quivers with the same music.”