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I would like to thank my teacher, Many Dy, for requiring me to write this essay – because 7 years after I wrote it, I needed to remind myself of so many things that I should never have forgotten.


I dedicate this piece to my grandparents who taught me about love – by loving each other, and loving me. 

I can still remember the first time I decided to fall in love and to get married. I was five, sitting wide-eyed in front of our TV set watching Cinderella dance with her prince. I knew very little about the LOVE, which she kept on singing about. To me “I love you” was just a phrase that comes with “Good night” from my mom, or a hug from my grandparents. From the movie, I realized that love was entirely something else. Love was finding the perfect guy, at the perfect time, while the perfect background music is playing. Love to me then became synonymous with perfection.


For a long time, this disturbed me because I could not see this kind of love in my life. None of the people I know live happily ever after. Yet, none of them too has died of a broken heart either.


My grandparents have been together for over forty years, and they still quarrel. Does it mean that they are not in love? That the people I know do not love? I do not think so. In fact, I believe that what they have is love stripped of all its pretensions.


Love is essential to all perfect relationship but it does not necessarily make relationships perfect. When people talk about love as this spontaneous feeling of sweetness and lavishment of attention, they are mistaking love for romance. Romance is the stardust in the relationship. It provides the colors and pleasures to the partners. Ideally romance and love should come hand in hand, but they remain distinct from each other. Romance is centred on the body. Love encompasses the entirety. This is easy to say but hard to identify in reality. In fact, you only identify love in the end. You can only know it is love when you are old and cranky and you are stuck with a partner who is equally old and cranky – and yet you cannot think of anyone better to be with. Love is when the romance is dead yet your partner remains to be the most essential part in your life.


I saw the pictures of my grandparents when they got married. They both looked so good, like movie stars really. Last year my grandfather had a serious intestinal surgery. He is very different from the vibrant and driven man that he was of his youth. His skin is sagging, his back is curved, and he could hardly walk. Every day my grandmother has to bathe him, help him dye his hair black. These acts are far from being romantic – but it is as close to loving as possible.


There are cases too when people think that sacrifices like this is the core of loving. Loving does not necessarily mean that one should completely serve the other. Loving does not require servitude or sacrifice. Loving only requires complete and total acceptance of the other his body, his world, and in his total well being – what loving actually requires is dialogue.


When two people are in a dialogue, they treat each other as equals capable of growth, of seeing beauty and truth around them and within themselves. They do not try to impose their own ideas and concepts on the other. Instead, each strives to draw out the best from each other.


My theology teacher once said that the freest person is the committed person. I did not understand this paradox before. However, because of dialogue, love indeed frees the lover. It creates a willingness in a lover to will the happiness and the total growth of the beloved. From this will all the other things that love requires comes forth – total caring, knowledge, respect, patience, and trust. The beloved on the other hand, secure that the other loves him completely and totally, has more freedom to grow, to change, and to be


The people who claim that love does not exist are probably those who expected too much and too little from love. Too much because they expected the romance to last forever. Too little because they never thought that love has the power to change individuals.


There is a very interesting anecdote in the book “Memoirs of a Geisha” about a young boy named Gisuke who climbed a tree to jump into a pond. He climbed higher than he was supposed to, and when he looked down the pond was too far, and he was too scared to climb down from the branch. After a while, he lost his grip on the branch, and started to fall screaming – straight into his father’s arms. His father, upon hearing of his son’s fate, had calmly stepped unnoticed under the tree, and caught Gisuke


I believe this anecdote illustrates the role of love in our lives.  Not that it saves us, but that love ends our loneliness and fears.  Unfortunately, however we do not just plummet into love.  Like everything that is good in life, love requires constant tending, and it is in these acts of ending that love grows.


Love begins with the self, rather with the sharing of the self.  It then moves on to the willingness to participate in the becoming of the other.  Yet, it does not stop there.  It is a cycle that moves on and on, forever.  This is why love is eternal, unlike romance.  For as long as you are involved in the becoming of the other, you are showing your love.  This is why love is said to be total because you do not compartmentalize your character or your beloved’s.  You accept each other for what you are; yet see each other for what you can be.  Most important of all, love is sacred, because before you could even participate in loving, you have to make sure that what you offer – your self  – is valuable itself.







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