So I have had just over a year of living and studying in Rome. Learning italian and, at the same time, learning latin and studying philosophy in this new language has been a very interesting experience… one I can only compare to learning to play a really intricate guitar piece and singing the song at the same time… both actions actually require all your time and attention but without the other, each one would seem incomplete. But I digress…
One of the things that I learned in my first week here is how to say “I love you” in italian. There are, in fact two different ways. The one is “ti amo”, it is usally used to express intimate love, say between husband and wife. It literally translates to “I love you”. The second way is “ti voglio bene” and it is used to express other types of love: love between family members, friends… The reason this is interesting is that this phrase also means I love you but, “ti voglio bene” actually translates to “I want your good”, or “I want whats best for you”.
You may see where I am going with this. It is an idea that you may have heard before but it such a vital one! We so often fall into the habit of thinking that love, in its’ essence, is only a feeling. Instead if we really think about it, the Italians have it right – love is about wanting the best for someone before one’s own good.
THE PREACHEY PART (READ IN AN ALOOF, PREACHY VOICE)
Love is not just about how someone makes me feel. It is not about how I feel about a person. It is not about what I want. It is not about me. Love is about what I am willing to give for the sake of the other, for the good of the other person… for everyone (I’m pretty sure it is in the bible that we are supposed to LOVE our neighbours). It sounds nice and romantic but it is actually challenging. Love is when you would much prefer doing something else. Love is when you would prefere doing ANYTHING else. Love is active. Love is getting up and doing and planing, instead of wasting time and “giving myself a break”. Love wants the good of the other. “Ti voglio bene”. And love is not only when we feel like it. It is always. It is forever or it is not love. We want our love to be sincere, that makes sense. But my love can’t just be driven be my feelings of wanting to help someone (even the tax collectors do that). We are not perfect, but God is, because He is Love. We won’t live up to love every moment of every day. The good news is that it is not by our will and strength but by the power of our God who is love that we will become those who truly love.
So in my opinion, Italians have it easy. The real meaning of love, that we have forgotten as a society, is literally written into their language! And don’t even get me started on the beauty of their churches. How can you NOT see that going to mass is going to experience heaven on earth? Are you kidding me?
Instead of writing a thesis I will leave the ending to St Theresa of Calcutta and her uncanny ability to sum up complex situations in a few words.
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
-St Teresa of Calcutta
Image by Michael Bolli from Pixabay