The Idea of Love


As I write this I’ve just finished unwrapping, trimming, and arranging the three dozen red roses I received from my husband for Valentine’s Day. This set me to musing about love. As is my habit, I immediately went for the symbolism of flowers and recalled a comment my internet friend, William Horden, made in response to an early post. I had written that my goal in writing this blog is to raise psychological and spiritual consciousness and here’s what he said:
“For the ancients of Mexico, the height of their Lifeway was expressed in the philosophy called ‘Flower-And-Song.’ By ‘Flower’ they meant the ability to perceive that everything is perfect as a flower, yet passing before our eyes. This boils down to grasping the emotional reality that everything I know and love is both perfect as it is and already dying. To be a warrior meant the ability to hold these two profound emotions in the heart-mind at the same time. By ‘Song’ they meant that the only types of self-expression that really matter are those that give expression to the subjective experience of the ‘Flower.’ It’s so nice to see a modern-day practitioner of the ancient art of ‘Flower And Song!’
I love that image and have never forgotten it because it’s a perfect description of the way I try to live my life. So here I was, remembering this inspiring concept while I was standing at the kitchen sink, mechanically trimming and arranging these gorgeous flowers without paying the slightest bit of attention to where I was, what I was doing, or how I was feeling!
Was I savoring my subjective experience in that moment?  Was I handling each rose with loving attention? Was I fully appreciating the fact that neither these flowers nor moments like this — perfect moments when I’ve just received a gift of flowers from my lover, when my body is strong and healthy and free of pain, when I have the strength in my legs to stand at the sink, the flexibility in my hands to hold the roses and trim their stems, the sensitivity in my skin to enjoy the cool water running from the tap, and the ability to see and touch the sturdy green stems and velvety petals — will last forever?

I wish! But no. I was off in some mental la-la land enjoying an abstract theory. I hadn’t even stopped thinking long enough to smell the roses! I was as far as one can get from being what William had said I was: a modern-day practitioner of the ancient art of ‘Flower And Song.’
I have to tell you, that’s annoying! And embarrassing. Especially for an idealistic perfectionist like me who wants to practice what she preaches. I was making the exact same mistake as every misguided seeker who has ever gone before me:  I was worshiping the words and ideas of the scriptures while ignoring the physical reality to which they point.
I truly appreciate the idea of love. Everything in me aspires to loving myself and others and every moment of my life with all my mind and heart. But here’s the thing. Mostly I still love ideas more than realities. Because, let’s face it, practicing the art of seeing and loving the fleeting perfection in everything and everyone is hard!  It’s a whole lot easier to escape into fantasies that have nothing to do with the way I actually live my life.
Happy Valentine’s Day everybody. On this day at least, I plan to practice more appreciating and less wishful thinking.

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0 Responses

  1. Dear Jean,
    I loved this post! It was so Valentine-appropriate, yet so different from the usual musings on the topic, It also reminded me– though I am not completely sure why — of an idea which I heard only very recently: that we should practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. I guess that they correspond well to Song and Flower respectively, and to do this also requires a lot of presence in our lives.
    On the other hand, I also believe that some of us are simply more theoretical than practical in our character, and that we should learn how to embrace it and live by it, not trying to become somebody else (I’ve just gone through a lot of reding on Myers-Briggs typology, so blame this last idea on that :))
    Anyway, thank you again for being so thoughtful and sharing it with us!

    1. Dear Argenta,
      That’s an interesting connection. Yes, it does take a lot of presence, and mental energy, to act out of any motivation other than self-interest and self-indulgence. It’s easy to kid ourselves that we are more “evolved” because we have high ideals and good intentions, but a few moments of thoughtless behavior can wipe out the positive effects of years of “right” thinking.
      I agree that some of us are more theoretical than practical, and I am certainly one of them, as anybody who knows me well will tell you. (I’m an INFP on the Myers-Briggs, with an emphasis on the N, iNtuitive as opposed to sensing.) And you’re right that I need to embrace this. Now if I can just embrace my perfectionism……. 🙂
      Thanks so much for stopping by! I really appreciate your thoughtful response.

  2. Jeanie,
    More chuckles, because it’s so me too!
    I don’t understand this sentence: “By ‘Song’ they meant that the only types of self-expression that really matter are those that give expression to the subjective experience of the ‘Flower.” Can you clarify? bett fitz

    1. Hi Bett,
      I think it means that the flower is one who is conscious and appreciative of each moment while suffering with the knowledge of the briefness of his/her life, and that the things worth expressing come from this awareness. These things, whether words or art or behavior, are his/her song and are not shallow or thoughtless or inconsequential but rather are of utmost importance to all because they address the experience of the soul: its truths, its journey, its purpose on earth and the lessons it is here to learn. These are the things that matter. Thanks for your thoughtful question, Bett. Jeanie
      Sent from my iPhone

  3. If I read your piece correctly, then it has helped give me an explanation for a feeling which settled in me whilst first going out with my wife Susie, and I’ve never quite understood how it surfaced. We were walking along a road on the south side of Glasgow , and for the first time in our lives deeply in love. I sensed a feeling of death, of finality, but rather than being worried or brought down by it, felt deeply satisfied and felt somehow I was telling myself THIS IS IT! The concept of flower and song made me wonder if this was an opening up, a development into maturity being shown to me.

    1. Wow, Brian! That’s it exactly. Profound love is, indeed a portal to higher consciousness. Experiencing the beauty of the beloved makes one long to spend eternity with him/her, and knowing the impossibility of this brings the pain of greater awareness of one’s mortality. This, in turn, deepens our compassion and strengthens understanding, gratitude and forgiveness. It also turns our thoughts inward, toward the meaning of our own life and the spiritual aspects of the Mystery. Had you not told me that you have experienced this, having read your exquisite poetry I would have known it about you anyway. Jeanie

  4. Hi Jeanie,
    Thank you for another generous and open post. I have been meaning to write to you since I read it, and am now just getting the opportunity.
    I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine, a Catholic priest, who called me at the suggestion of a mutual friend to discuss how he was always living in his head. At first I was annoyed at being the person he was told to call, as if I had vast experience living in my head—(which I do, of course). But as my priest friend and I kept talking it became clear how much he loved ideas—theological ideas, the roots of words, spiritual concepts; he loved making connections between spiritual traditions, and so on. As he described his love for ideas, I could hear the passion in his voice, and so I said to him: “It sounds like you’re in love.” And then it dawned on him that loving thinking about God, spirit, theology was wonderful—it is just one of the myriad ways to express his devotion, and our mutual friend was trying to get him to stop doing that, which is, of course, like asking him to stop breathing. Some people dance to express their love for the divine, some sing, some paint, some write, and some think. The more I trudge and dance along this road, the more I view the intellect as divine, the body divine, and the heart, the soul, the imagination—fleeting, like flowers, yes, but nonetheless divine—divinely beautiful. My friend was making himself feel wrong for doing something he loved. Of course it also came out in the conversation that he wanted to bring that love of ideas down—into his body, into musical expression—that perhaps he relied too much on intellectual devotion. He was, in fact, yearning for a more emotive, physical experience—and because he had these new impulses, he viewed his love for ideas as inferior. But the theatre of ways to love is as wide and open as the sky. And just as they sky accepts our every movement, so does, I believe the divine accept our acts of devotion. And so when I read your post I was struck by how much you love your husband—the very act of writing about the process of accepting his gift is, to me, loving. I also feel your love for your readers and commenters, for the roses, the water, the physical body, and the holiness of all things. I also feel your love for ideas. Perhaps I am projecting (who me project?), and so please forgive me if this is too presumptuous, and I certainly do not mean to suggest invalidating your truth and experience. Perhaps though going directly into your head is just the passageway that is most comfortable and familiar, and because you are a lover of all things spirit, it is only the beginning (as your post proves), it is the opening, the gateway into the body, the heart, the soul…but a mistake? From way over here in Philly, I see it as a gift, another expression of kind, wise, brave, loving, funny Jeanie. Peace and cheers, Joseph

    1. Thank you for this, Joseph. Your assessment of where I’m coming from, projection or not, is right on. Like your priest, I am passionate about ideas, and going directly into my head is indeed the threshold to spirit that is most comfortable for me. I’ve never thought of it like this before, and am so grateful to you for showing me a way to value my “cerebral” tendencies instead of wishing I were more “grounded” in the physical aspects of life. Your generous-spirited comment is a true gift to me. Again, thank you, friend. Jeanie

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