Let the World be Your Valentine

It is time we awaken ourselves from within, and play the Game of Life in Love

HeartLove, the hottest-selling product today, remains confined to mushy greeting cards, romantic songs and ballads, candles, chocolates, roses, diamonds and other ingenious products of marketing gurus and their ubiquitous sales pitch. Their only objective: promote love and make tons of money in the name of Valentine's Day.

But, the big question is: what really is love? Love has various levels: from merely seeking satisfaction for oneself to meeting the needs of others. Human love moves along a continuum, from the pole of self-centredness to the pole of other-centredness.

In Greek, there are different words for love: "storge," refers to love between parent and child, "eros," refers to passionate and sexual love, "philia," refers to real affection between close friends, and "agape" refers to unconquerable benevolence and invincible goodwill - the highest and purest form of love.

Our soul exerts us to continuously rise in our love, and in natural calamities like earthquakes, flash floods, tsunamis etc., as well as emotional calamities like incest, child abuse, abandonment etc., They shake us out of a deep slumber, acting as a Divine Catalyst. They also urge us to live the best life we can today, and the best in us is nothing but our love.

Death is a reality and life is "today." Everybody gets a chance to play the game right. Let us awaken to this wake-up call, and play the Game of Life in Love.

It's "You," not "I"

Love is not a noun, but a verb, an act where "you" are the focus and not "I."

The highest form of love is not an expensive candlelight dinner, but it is sharing what you have with your fellow human beings who have not. It is not giving or receiving diamonds and roses, but it is digging endlessly for a fellow human trapped in the debris after an earthquake. It is reaching out a hand to those lost in a dark tunnel of depression, rage, anxiety and guilt due to their traumatic past; or, rowing out in a life boat to rescue those drowning in emotional pain, or struggling to keep their heads above the flooded feelings of worthlessness.

Love is empathy

Love is not singing a romantic ballad, but it is empathic silence shared with those who have lost all that they held dear in a tsunami. It is giving hope to those who have lost their childhood as well as their feelings of self-worth in a storm of abuse, or abandonment - that a bad start need not translate into a bad finish in life. Or, that a victim can turn into a survivor.

Love is not going out for a date in a limousine, but it is sharing your life with others, inspiring them through your own life, demonstrating that stumbling blocks can be turned into stepping-stones.

It is not a fancy greeting card to your girlfriend saying "I love you," but telling a fellow human being "You are not alone."

Love is giving of yourself, as an infinite outpouring of kindness, support and hope, to uplift the spirit of man. In the words of Jesus, "Love one another as I have loved you."

Kolbe's call

Remember the stirring story of Maximilian Kolbe, a catholic priest and saint? During World War II, a prisoner of war [PoW] escaped from a German concentration camp in Poland. In retaliation, the camp commander selected 10 prisoners at random and condemned them to die of starvation.

One prisoner cried out, "My wife, my poor children!" On hearing his agonising cry, Kolbe said, "I would like to take his place in the death cell." His wish was granted. He comforted the prisoners of war [PoWs] in the death cell, praying and singing with them, reminding them that they were not alone, and that the Lord was with them, helping them to endure the suffering right to the very end. They all died one by one, hearing his songs, which filled them with peace. On the 15th day of starvation, Fr Kolbe was injected with a lethal drug to kill him. "A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends" [John 15:13].

"Ask not what life has given to you, ask instead what you have given to life" - these are profound words which I read in the corridors of a nursing home. We go through life, selfishly blind to anything and anyone other than oneself and our personal world, totally self-absorbed and completely oblivious to the fact that there can be pain other than our own. "Poor me," "I want," "I need," "I feel," and "my life," form the sign-posts of our life.

And, suddenly, something happens. The reality of death and suffering stares back at us from the newspapers and news-channels. This changes the whole gestalt - a wake-up call which awakens feelings and emotions in us which also seem alien to us, and which we did not even know existed in us. A hitherto unknown area of ourselves suddenly becomes the focal point of our lives - we discover love; and, this sweet taste of love in our normally bitter and selfish life, leaves us hungry for more.

As we step out of our self-consumed world, we understand for the first time, the true meaning of love; in the words of St Francis of Assisi: "It is in giving that we receive."

St Augustine writes, "How can we see God? Love your neighbour and observe the source of that love in you; there as best as you can, you will see God." We are transformed by love. What we receive is so much more than we can ever give. It leaves us feeling grateful to those who allow us to love them, and eternally grateful for the opportunity to experience the Gift of Love.

Ask yourself, "Have you ever lived for someone more than you live for yourself?" If not, today is your chance. Inference: make your world your Valentine!

Love is Giving of Yourself

Have you ever thought about volunteering your time to a local charity or community organisation? There are many different reasons for you to start volunteering:

  • To help others
  • To learn about an activity or organisation that interests you
  • To beat boredom [if you find yourself sitting around the house feeling totally bored, volunteering in an activity you enjoy can be a great way to change things]
  • To overcome a loss you have experienced [one of the best ways to help yourself in a time of loss is to help others]
  • To gain perspective on life [there is no better way to understand your blessings than to help people in need].
  • Your reasons for volunteering are as individual as you are, but no matter what your reasons, you can get a lot of satisfaction by volunteering. You can learn about yourself, about others, and meet a lot of interesting people by volunteering. You can help others as you help yourself.

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Minnu Bhonsle
Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills. Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle.

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