This afternoon, the trainer for the program I run pulled out sheets of notebook paper and gave them to our high school students. It is Valentine’s Day week, so naturally we have been exploring ideas of love, affection, compassion, and how they affect our ability to make peace. Our assignment today was to fold these sheets in half and use one side to depict our own idea of what can be used to symbolize “love,” apart from the traditional symbols of hearts, flowers, chocolate– all those over-commercialized, burnt-out symbols of adoration. My mind surprised me with what it came up with.
It’s a paisley. I have a pair of earrings like this that I absolutely adore, but that isn’t where the meaning for me starts or ends. The curvy, curly shape is warm aesthetically (just like the heart) which is why I think it is so appealing and so representative of the most incredible emotion in the universe. The teardrop in the middle represents the depth of sadness, sorrow, and vulnerability that can be borne only of the purest love. The jubilant little dots around the edges remind me that joy always overcomes sadness if we approach it from a disposition of true love. I do like that I can quite literally wake up and choose to “wear” love– accessorize with it, make a fashion statement out of it, fit it into my wardrobe– when I revisit the design of my earrings. To me, this icon of love is starting to feel more purposeful, all-encompassing, and descriptive of love than any other image.
But the biggest epiphany I had in regard to this exercise is rooted in my days as (surprise!) a Loyola Companion. At one of our evening meetings my senior year, a fellow Companion shared a quote about infinity. It was so beautiful. I wish I could recall it word for word, but the meaning alone is enough to crack open my soul and shed the glow of enlightenment across the surface of the Earth: there are two ways to see infinity; the first being the vast incomprehensibility of the universe, of mathematics, of expanses we will never be able to even wrap our minds around because they grow and expand and stretch farther than our human thought ever will, and the second, the incredible intimacy of discovering that an infinity lies in every atom as it breaks down, in every person as they learn something new or feel something different or become dissected into somehow even more minute pieces and parts. IN EACH OF US LIES THE INFINITY WE ARE SO AFRAID OF YET SIMULTANEOUSLY SO INTRIGUED BY. And I think paisley’s succinct, gentle point is that, whereas its bubbled round bottom is all about the reach, the width, the amplitude. I truly believe that love is both these forms and everything in between.
What does this have to do with you and why are you receiving this in your mailbox? Well, the second task given to us today was to write a love letter to someone. You are the someone I keep coming back to, even though I never see you (unless it’s serendipitous), never hear from you, never have had any truly romantic interaction with you. But I think I do love you in ways unknown to you AND to me because I’ve not yet been given (or just simply TAKEN) the opportunity to try my love for you on like an article of clothing, to explore its comfort and functionality and depth of pockets and durability. I want to love you, infinite you, and I want to love you so endlessly that I finally realize after long explorations of years and years that I will never, ever reach the bottom of that love. That the potential will never run dry.