Even after all this timerumi-love1

The sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.”

Look what happens with a Love like that!

It lights the whole Sky. (Hafez)

In the Persian culture, everything is encompassed by love, or eshgh, deriving from the Arabic ishq. Icons such as Rumi and Hafez represent the ever-present passion in the history and language of the culture.  Yet there is no simple three word phrase that can be spoken like “I love you”. Man aashegh-e toh hastam is almost there, meaning I am in love with you, yet it borrows from Arabic, is too formal and rarely used.  Dooset-Daram is more often spoken, communicating a liking of anything from cake to your lover.

I have to state the disclaimer that I’ve grown up in the US and spent all of my adult life speaking and thinking in English. So perhaps I’m missing something. But in the chance that I’m right, I have to wonder why one of the richest, most complicated languages does not have a simple expression of love?

I was born in Iran and moved to the states at the age of 11, so I consider myself bi-cultural. I’ve never felt quite comfortable in either culture, for I am a melting pot of different ideas and virtues. Yet in a recent evaluation of my “love language”, I began to wonder how much my desire, ability and need for love have been impacted by the culture in which I was born into?  Is it so far fetched of an idea to think that my ethnic background and native language could have a profound impact on my style of communicating love to another?

Growing up with a language that does not verbalize love, I learned to show affection through “doing”; for women, acts of service and kindness were extremely important in expressing love. The men, however, didn’t do or say much, but were present. They showed up, regardless of circumstance, day after day, and communicated love through their presence and ability to provide for their families. Perhaps it was backward, chauvinistic, or unbalanced. But it was the milieu within which I learned my love language.

Today, I am conscious enough to know that words are important and symbolic of a deeper meaning. I can say I love you, and enjoy having it said to me. Yet I can’t deny the significance of the action that follows the verbal expression of love. These three simple words in the English language carry a weight, for they indicate something profound, an intimate connection on a soul level, needed to simply live.

James Hillman talks of love as “blinding the usual outlook”, for it is only when one is seen through that he is truly valued. Love blinds in order so I can see beyond appearances, through the literal, into the symbol of what you mean in my life. Since real love is about risking myself to meet you, it allows me to become transparent through self-acceptance; I am who I am, with all of my virtues and shadows, all the ugliness and beauty, all the uncomfortable emotions and wonderful sensations. I am whole in my foolishness, shame and humility, visibly naked and blind to the obvious.

To love another, is to walk through the fire, step out of the comfort zone of my safe life, and to expand my capacity to be with it all. How can three simple words ever communicate the impact of true love on my soul?

Perhaps at times we take for granted that love heals and forgives everything, and use the phrase as a band-aid for the pain and suffering our choices and actions cause another. What if the phrase “I love you” did not exist in the English language? How would you treat others differently? What would you do or say to communicate your love?

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3 Responses to “Love and Culture”

  1. Roni says:

    I can't place the exact rationale for this but I do not care that much for the expression "I love you." The _act_ of the expressing, however, is a different story. The gesture of saying such a thing, sharing a feeling. . . . . that, to me, means everything. And, just as with the expression, "I hate you" (or pick any expression), I only believe it if the further actions of the expressing person match their words. I have thought that if actions do not match the words then believe the actions–it is the actions that will tell how a person really feels if there exists a contraindication. So, maybe some cultures, in a way, have a similar philosophy–words get in the way if they do not already serve to point out what is being acted out?

  2. Rashin says:

    As they say, actions speak louder than words :)

  3. apaixonada says:

    Well, love is pure and genuine and "blind". I believe if that was no words to express love, actions would louder.. what would I do if I want to show to the person I love, how much I love him/her …

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