Love is like [Blank]
[This is the original transcript taken from an email I sent a friend on Dec.1.2015. It has not been edited.]
What struck me initially was the way you asked the question: Love is like ____.
Normally I've seen the question phrased, "Love is..." and that can be simple enough to answer. I've tried multiple times, for instance, to answer that very question throughout my life. Once I brought the question to a bunch of children and asked them what they thought love was, and it was adorable to find how honest they were. Another time a website asked me to fill in the blank, and I answered, "Love is Magnanimous." Perhaps because I wanted to be different or I thought it was true, which one I'll never know.
However, the addition of "like" in your question caused me to pause.
"Love is LIKE? I don't know what love is like...does anyone know what love is like? How do you find a perfect analogy to describe it? Is there one that really fits?"
This line of questioning, henceforth, set me on the journey to find the answer.
In my thinking I tested out a few analogies from a multitude of perspectives. Love is like chopping down a tree. Love is like traffic. Love is like training for a marathon. etc. In each case I wondered how any one person might answer, and if the answer was only dependent on who you were as a person, or what you pursued in life. For instance, a carpenter might answer differently from a fisherman, and an astronaut might answer differently from an amazonian warrior. It was truly fascinating to think about, but I wanted a more universal answer. Of course, at the same time, I wanted to come up with something that also spoke to who I am. That's not to be confused with answering based on my perspective in the moment; because that could change.
For example, if you asked me a few years ago, I might've answered, "Love is like being a sculptor. You chip away at the marble little by little until you're left with something beautiful." Or a few months ago, "Love is like crashlanding on a desert planet with the only person you don't like. First you decide to survive together, but eventually one of you kills the other."
You know. Perspective. But I'd like to think I'm beyond that. I believe that the perfect analogy would set aside your current state of mind, whether one sees a bright or a dark future, and instead gives due credit to both the pros and cons of love. At the same time I'd like to leave out any spiritual, ethnical, and historical leanings completely out of it. Could I come up with something that everyone might understand? Probably not. I'm sure someone else already has. Maybe Confucius. Ghandi. Jesus. Marcus Aurelius. Plato. I'm sure a lot has been asked of those guys and they were quick to answer. Yet I decided it was worth a shot. Certainly I could come up with something I'm happy with. Surely I could find an answer that I could stand by in future conversations, that would be understood by all, and maybe helps to enlighten those who have never stopped to think about it.
Granted, I understand at this point in my thinking that this is probably NOT what you were asking for. You were thinking something simple, a quick answer, like "Life is like a box of chocolates." Maybe you WERE asking me "Love is _____" but instead you made the mistake of putting in the word like, and you asked me the question; which was the second mistake.
So regardless of what you were truly asking - This is what I came up with.
Love is like looking for the definition to a word-that-doesn't-exist; except you aren't allowed to tell anyone what that word is.
Love is like searching for a symphony that's been stuck in your head since the beginning of time. At first you're not worried about it, because it's just a beautiful song to you, but after a while it starts nagging at you. Or maybe you find out that other people also have a song as well, but it's not the same song. Then you further realize you're only hearing part of the song, because you're the cello, and there is another instrument missing but you don't know what it is. So you search for it. And at times it feels like everyone has someone to play their song with but you, and it's beautiful and imaginative. They compliment one another, and you see what finding that other instrument would be like, but you're still playing alone - so maybe you play louder. Then you find someone who's playing just as loud as you, and it fits - like a comet colliding with a distant moon - you are struck with how amazing you two sound together. You play the song together for a time and it's so loud, so fast. And sure you tell your friends that there are dissonant chords at times, but it doesn't matter because you are good with each other. Then maybe you start slowing that song down, or playing a little softer. And you realize that you were never truly playing the same song at all. And things are just not the same. So you start playing louder and she starts playing louder until both of you are trying to overcome the other until strings break and things end on a sour note.
Now you have to fix your cello.
Now you have to get back in tune.
And then you continue searching.
In your search you find a lot of things.
Sometimes they aren't playing the same song.
Sometimes it MIGHT be the same song, but they are in a different movement. Or they're on a crescendo while you're on a rest, and things just aren't aligning.
Or perhaps they are out of tune.
Or maybe she's a piano, while you're looking for a violin.
Sometimes you decide not to listen to the song anymore, so you stop thinking about it, but like any good earworm that can only last so long.
You look at other people's songs again and you're learning to decipher some things. While some people play so brilliantly together, you recognize that not everyone has it as figured out as you thought. Some people are perfectly fine playing different songs, but they just take turns playing their own part. Others, like your parents, were once playing a beautiful song together, but eventually they stopped listening to one another. Notes started to slip. Timing started getting off. Until they decided they don't want to play that song together anymore. Some people don't care as long as everyone is playing and enjoying it. Others play their song so loudly that their partner can never get heard. Or they're told to wait their turn, but that turn never comes. When you talk to your friend about the song he plays with his partner sometimes you have to give him the tough words, "Friend - I think I hear the song you're describing to me, and I hate to say it, but that's NOT the song you're playing right now." And when you talk about your song with other people you get a multitude of advice:
She's playing, somewhere, you're just not listening.
Find a nice flute. My wife is a flute. You'd go great with a flute.
It doesn't matter what song you're playing as long as you can agree that you're playing a song.
Maybe you need to work at playing a new song.
Have you tried playing the solo part?
"Yeah. There's a solo written right here, have you worked on that at all?"
And maybe you haven't. And maybe you try. And maybe you start practicing at it every day for a while and you learn what it means to understand your own instrument and your own place within this song. And you begin to love this part. And you think to yourself that you can play this over an over again for as long as you want. Then you hear it: Another cello. And she's on the solo too. And it's...yes...it's the same song! So then just like before you begin playing this song with another cello, someone who understands you and you understand them and things are melodic and on time and in tune. You think the way she plays the solo is amazing, and she enjoys the variations you've put on your own. It's great, you're fine, and everything goes smoothly. Until someone wants to start playing a different part of the song.
Or maybe you want to move on to the harmony, but she wants to stay on the solo.
Or perhaps you realize that playing the same song, with the same part, isn't really getting you the compliment that you need.
So while it was a beautiful song, and you could have played it forever if you wanted, you both decide to move along.
You slow down. You play a little quieter. Maybe you're not sure what part you want to play next.
Just when you think that you'll never find someone else to play your song with - here comes a violin.
But you're not sure that she's playing the same song.
t's soft, and beautiful, but you know better than to get caught up with all that right away. So you take the time to listen first.
And you can't believe you haven't heard this before.
But maybe you have, but you were just playing so loudly with someone else that you couldn't hear.
Or maybe you were both playing different parts.
Or maybe she needed some time to get retuned while you were doing just fine.
Either way you suddenly hear it. This is the same song. This is the right part. It comes in slowly but you're both sure of it. She knows what comes next and you know what comes next and after a pause...you go for it.
And it's amazing this sound, together, is everything you've been searching for but could never find. And yet it come so easily here and you wonder, how did I not notice this sooner?
As you continue playing you even begin to learn parts of the song you never knew. You hear her solo and she listens to yours, but even then you can't wait to start playing together again. There might be some improvisation. And at other times there might be some mistakes, but you fix them anyway and agree that you're both still playing the same song. Even during times of compromise - where she wants to play slower or you just want to play louder - you begin to figure things out together. And always you are hearing new things from her, and that inspires you even more. Until one day you come to a pivotal moment of the song and she stops.
She's afraid. Because she's played this part with someone before and things didn't go well.
But you're both willing to try.
And every time she hesitates you don't move forward. You wait. You allow her to find her place.
Then you play and the notes are slow at first. You're both timid and wondering if you can do this, but you keep playing anyway.
And when you don't hear a sour note you pick it up - and you gain some confidence - and eventually you're playing the part and it's more beautiful than you ever imagined.
That's when you realize you never want to play this song with anyone again.
And she agrees.
So you tell every one of your friends that you're going to play a new part of your song soon, and you want everyone to be a part of it. You send you orchestration and sheet music and you plan every detail from the venue to where everyone in the orchestra will be sitting until the fateful day arrives. And it's scary. Because you begin to get nervous. And maybe she does too. And maybe you're wondering if this is truly the song that you should be playing and your friend says, "Yes. I've heard the song you've described in your head since we were children. And at first I didn't know what the song was and I couldn't imagine it in my head, and honestly your part was pretty boring. But then she came along, and I've heard the song you two play together. And now I think I know what you were describing all those years ago."
And for one day only, as the both of you begin to play your song together, everyone agrees to play your song as well.
(Except your ex - but she gets too drunk and eventually you get her a taxi home and everyone laughs about it later. Saying things like, "She's such a triangle." and "Yeah...not one likes the triangle.")
But the song isn't over. And even though everyone is off playing their own songs now you're finding new parts of the song to learn. Each new piece is another challenge, and though at times you like to approach things differently eventually you both start playing and it all comes together. And sometimes you go back to other parts of the song you never played together. Or you want to take a rest and let her do her solo. Or she wants you to play your part more passionately here because she thinks you'd be good at it.
And you both agree that neither should ever try playing the other's part ever again.
It was a stupid experiment.
Let's never speak of it.
And just when you think you couldn't play the song any better. Along comes a new instrument. A tiny one. Percussion. And it adds even more elements to the song that you never knew could be there. It's amazing, this little drum, just seems to fit into your song so well. He plays with the cello at times and with the violin at times, but always when they play together things never sounded better.
But you know it's only a matter of time before your little drum starts hearing his own song.
And your best friends come over with their own little xylophone one day and all the parents marvel as the little ones try to understand how to play together.
And your friend looks at you and asks, "That's funny, do you think they're playing the same song?"
And you say, "I dunno. But I'm going to let him figure that out."
I think that's what love is like.