Valentine’s Day is such a strange event. Since I grew up it has changed from the little paper cards we gave out in elementary school to long love letters, flowers, investments in dinners, gifts, grand gestures of love and affection I know the technological pixelated gifs and images we send on social media and text messages. Commercialized more and more as I got older. Disenfranchising so many because it became something you had to invest in. You were expected to do. Like a church obligation. A socialized love initiation. A kind of weird social tribal event to show that you truly loved someone by investing in pink and red hearts ,cupids and seasonal chocolate, romantic encounters.
I cannot say my life has been filled with these sort of romantic displays and encounters with other human beings. I tend to be pretty disinterested in the commercialization of most of the holidays that I grew up with. I feel if you love somebody you show that everyday in little and big ways. In ways that are genuine and real that come from the heart. That show your appreciation and your acceptance of who they are as they are in your life. Upon reflection this doesn’t always generate longevity in relationships. But it keeps it real. And I don’t contribute to more pink plastic and cheap red velvet hearts and the other confections of this day.
All these things aside I would like to tell a story…. A story that I think captures how I feel about the world. That naive Big Love kind of way. I think it also has defined how I am in the world more so than I really thought of until the last few years.
When I was in kindergarten my teacher Ms Dolan had us all get her crayons out to do a project. And the project was we were to draw a picture of our family. I got excited cuz I love to draw I love to get crayons out I love to play on that weird sort of yellowy paper we got when we were in kindergarten. I remember the crayons were primary colors they were flat on one side so they wouldn’t roll off our desks. And they had to smell that I found pleasing. So I got my green, blue and my brown crayons out. I drew a big circle and then I began to draw the oceans and the landmasses and I try to do the right amounts of brown and green and blue to make a beautiful globe…. a beautiful Earth. Because in my small 6 year old child mind everything was my family. I love talking to the trees I love listening to the ocean I loved all the creatures great and small. The ants in the bugs and the worms and my kitties and dogs and all sorts of flora and fauna. And from all my trips to the local library. All the books I was able to take out and explore things, place and people far and wide. The large collection of National geographic magazines my mom had piled up around the house. I just thought all people were beautiful and were part of my family. In my young mind I saw no separation. We were all in this together it was an incredibly magical experience and there I was in it with everybody else.
And with all of this swirling around in my little happy heart and coming out through my hands into this magical drawing of the globe I was drawing my family. When time was up Ms Dolan got us all to stand around in a circle with our drawings. She went around asking each of us about who we drew and asked us to tell us about their family.
When she got to me I started to say it’s the globe. It’s the world… She cut me off…. She said I didn’t listen and I didn’t do the assignment. I felt myself turn red with embarrassment. I felt humiliated. She wouldn’teven let me explain. Then I got angry. She told me to go back and draw my family. I could feel the tears welling up inside of me. I could feel the anger and rage inside of me. a I got a black crayon and I drew my family as stick figures and I came back and I told everybody who they were. I was crushed….
Of course when I became an adult and I reflect upon this experience in my meditations and also in therapy I now realize what Ms Dolan was trying to get us to do as an assignment. What I do realize as I have grown older is that I do think in those large terms first. Those inclusive terms. The first time I read about Thich Nhat Hans interbeing I felt that resonate inside my heart because that’s really how I’ve always lived. My life it’s all about interconnection. Seeing those interconnections. Understanding of those interconnections. Mending those interconnections. On this Earth nothing, no one is in a vacuum. Nothing exists by itself and isolated. We have recently created conditions in which we perceive our isolation due to the breakdown of families and communities. The lopsidedness of working conditions and economic inequities. The most current issue being the pandemic and it’s isolation due to trying to keep ourselves and loved ones safe.
So on this day one of the things I’m thinking about is how do we awaken that bigger grander wider love. That love that is as wide as the world that encompasses everybody. That is grounded in the ethics of how we treat human beings and the planet. That builds a sustainable future that radically departs from our destructive behaviors. The recognizes the sacredness of all life on this Earth. It’s fragility, strengths, adaptation and its magic.
So perhaps love isn’t a gesture of paper hearts and plastic tokens. Love is an understanding of this deep profound connection to all things around us.