Wednesday, February 14, 2018


T H E   G U I D E  | A R T   O F   L O V E 
An unconventional free gift guide to repaint the picture of Valentine's Day: from commercial commodities to love that is intangible . . .

Although I'm not one for late capitalist commercialism, I am for taking up any opportunity to celebrate love. That has always been the case for me, whether I was coupled with a partner or not. Because in the end—and the beginning, and the middle—love is the shirt on the back of a chair. It's in carrying the scent of a mother, father, or partner. And it's the fabric of kindness that binds the sweat off the back that bends to other sisters and brothers. It's in learning by heart, rather than by the book & mind, the lesson of being a part of humankindness.

But love also begins and ends with being alone, and only that sense of silence that can speak to the self. It's in the separateness in sleep even when we are with another, in the memories apart recalled only in our eyes. It's in the version of ourselves unclothed, unsaddled by any tangible or shared form of love that protect us. 

This form of love, the love of the self, is in being naked, a sense of being with and within oneself. While as we experience love with others, we are nude, seen naked still but not seen as who we are. Loving others and being loved by them teaches us how to love a form of ourselves we are incapable of seeing through our own eyes. A version of ourselves we can't see because we know how we are as we are naked, emotionally and mentally. It's this nakedness through which we can experience the orphan, original form of love: to be one as me and I.

Here are free and accessible ideas to celebrate you, me, and we on Valentine's Day, or any other day for that matter. A guide that can be adopted by anyone from celebrating a party of one to thanks the single mother who works two jobs; to the father who sets a respectful example of how to be a (hu)man; those who have lost a partner; those who had the courage to separate; and others in which we have found a home after our own broken ones. Loving is free, and this is a simple guide to sharing it . . .

Call a Friend or Family Member
We're all guilty far too often of intending to call or make a date with a friend but somehow not getting to it. Take this day to call a friend, a close one or one with whom you've been out-of-touch, or even a family member, and make them feel appreciated. 

Write a Letter
Technically, this costs forty cents . . . but let's lick that note up and seal it with a forgiving kiss. Similar to giving a call but different in that sentiment of sitting down to put pen to paper. We express ourselves differently through the spoken versus written word. Take the time to reflect on an experience or quality that you admire in them and make a letter of it!

Read or Watch a Movie Together
Take the time to either put together a few of your favourite poems or pick up a novel that you've enjoyed or the one you're currently reading. Ask your partner, friend, or family member to do the same. Make a date out of sharing pieces of literature together. My current & forever favourite poets include T.S. Eliot, Pablo Neruda, John Berger, Sylvia Plath (this is read by Plath herself!), James Schuyler, and John Keats to name a few. There are also powerful contemporary poets such as Warsan Shire, Gala Mukolomova, and Morgan Parker

For films, choose an underrated classic like one of these or  Waterloo Bridge, a pioneering movie for its time where Vivien Leigh's character develops her own character on her first date rather than portraying the clichéd female character who politely agrees and nods to everything.

Touch One Another
And no, that does not only mean sex with your partner. Hug a friend, with both arms, and squeeze them with all of your mighty love! Give a neck or foot massage to the most tired loved one you know. Pet your pet. And when was the last time or ever you gave yourself a pat on the back, a compassionate touch? Put on a silly smile and hug yourself . . .

Build a Fort & Camp Indoors
Although this requires more time and effort than may be available to you or your loved one, it's one that pays off in nostalgic recalls of juvenile joy. It doesn't have to be a complex construction; the point is to spend time together. All you need is some sheets, blankets, and candles carefully placed to avoid catching fabrics on fire. 
Bonus if you bring flashlights and a short story to read. Haruki Murakami's new short story collection Men Without Women will certainly spark conversation. You can pick it up for free at your local library or read this excerpt featured in the New Yorker. And yes, Hemingway also has a collection by the same name. There's also this literal spaghetti to feast upon.

Plan a Scavenger Hunt at Home
Another one that might seem like it would take extra time but that's only if it's complicated. Pick a few mementos, trinkets, and or even treats to hide away for a loved one to find. These can even be small letters tucked away in commonly-used but unexpected places. I do this often before I leave my mum's home as she lives alone and leaving a trail of notes for her uplifts her spirits by leaving a bit of my own.

Learn Something New Together
There are innumerable platforms and videos to learn something new, whether it's a free lesson online or a documentary. My partner and I watch interviews on his own and now my literary beloved John Berger. His poesy and insight bring about our own into discussion. 

Other ideas are taking today as an opportunity to begin a new, free course together to take whenever time allows and making a date out of it. Ask a friend who lives afar to join in on a course you both might be interested in online and discuss later via Google Hangout or Skype. Make a weekly date of a course with your partner. Coursera is a great option and they have courses ranging from the underrated lesson on Classical Music to Postwar Abstract Painting which, as a side note, was a large focus of my own Art History studies.

We grow in love as we learn together, as we not only learn about a new subject but about the workings of our partner, friend, or family. We get new insight on their perspective on the new intake of information and how it settles within their memory, prior knowledge, and values.