Love is a many splendid (or multifaceted?) thing

I've been thinking a lot about love lately - and not because Valentine's Day is only a few days away.

I've been thinking about love because Dan Harris keeps bringing it up on 10 Percent Happier, one of my favorite apps.

He's not a mushy guy, and he's not talking about sappy romantic love - or even sappy self-love, although self-love is an important part of his message. Here's what he has to say about it:

"Self-love, properly understood, not as narcissism, but as having your own back, is not selfish. It makes you better at loving other people." - Dan Harris

And loving other people is what's it's all about, according to Harris, the Dalai Lama (a recent guest on the app) and lots of other folks.

Love gets a bad rap, Harris says, when we chose to limit our ideas of it to the kind of romantic love we might see depicted in a Hallmark movie. He notes that we use the word to describe all kinds of things, from our significant others to our kids to our favorite foods.

Nineteenth-century Russian writer Leo Tolstoy observes something quite similar in a passage from "Anna Karenina."

"I think ... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts."

So do the opening lines of "Love Actually."

"It seems to me that love is everywhere," Hugh Grant narrates. "Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends."

Of course, romantic love get the most attention, from poets and filmmakers to authors and songwriters - perhaps because it can be rather dramatic.

"The truth is that love smashes into your life like an ice floe, and even if your heart is built like the Titanic, you go down," author Jeanette Winterson writes.

That sense of romantic love changes, though, with time and age, I believe, developing into something more meaningful.

Writer James Baldwin says "Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."

And while the notion of a soul mate might strike some as the epitome of romanticism, "Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert sees it differently.

"People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life," she opined.

When we have children, someone once told me, our capacity to love grows exponentially, opening our hearts in new ways.

Of course having children isn't the only way to open our hearts. Harris, the Dalai Lama, meditation teachers, Buddhists (and others, I'm sure) believe we can train ourselves through practice to be more loving and more compassionate toward ourselves and toward others.

"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive," the Dalai Lama said.

French Jesuit priest, scientist, paleontologist, theologian, philosopher and teacher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin believed one day we would learn to love one another in a way that would change the world.

"Some day, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire," he wrote.

Or, if you're looking for a simpler way to summarize all this, look to the band (The Beatles) loved the most by one of the people I love the most (my daughter).

"Love is all you need." - John Lennon

- Pamela Lannom is editor

of The Hinsdalean. Readers

can email her at

[email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean