19 May 2010

Love Cannot be Defined

I was once given a book called “Conditions of Love,” written by some Armstrong (don’t remember his first name). I try hard to remember anything from the book, but in vain. Today I realize the reasons.

Love cannot be “conditioned.” Love cannot be defined by a single individual who has only experienced one kind of love, in one type of cultural and historical context.

Because love is a slippery word. It is a word meaning cannot be attached to. It doesn't conform to the rules of the Oxford Dictionary.

Love can be gentle, it can be ferocious, it can be calm and it can be raging. It can take you up beyond the tip of the edge, and it can take you down into the bottomless well of grief. It can be happiness, but it can also live in anger. Love can be ..... fill in whatever emotion and love can be that. And it can be all these combined together and much more.

Whenever I think of the love I have, one word instantly forms in my mind: “intense.” That is the kind of love I am experiencing in this stage of my life. But of course it is accompanied by other emotions as well. Ours is a love riding a wild rollercoaster. It is at the same time thrilling, breathtaking but also scary. It is painful fear mingled with exhilaration. It is like lovemaking – with an amalgamation of feelings beyond pain and joy.

Reading “Mornings in Jenin” by Susan Abulhawa, I came across a paragraph that will remain with me always. Reading her definition of love, I was magically drawn to the concept. I felt, yes, this is my kind of love. Not the philosophical notions of love fed to us. Her kind of love touched me in a deep place of my very existence. Here is the paragraph:

“Amal, I believe that most Americans do not love as we do. It is not for any inherent deficiency or superiority in them. They live in the safe, shallow parts that rarely push human emotions into the depths where we dwell. I see your confusion. Consider fear. For us, fear comes where terror comes to others because we are anesthetized to the guns constantly pointed at us. And the terror we have known is something few Westerners ever will. Israeli occupation exposes us very young to the extremes of our own emotions, until we cannot feel except in the extreme.

“The roots of our grief coil so deeply into loss that death has come to live with us like a family member who makes you happy by avoiding you, but who is still one of the family. Our anger is a rage that westerners cannot understand. Our sadness can make the stones weep. And the way we love is no exception, Amal.

It is the kind of love you can know only if you have felt the intense hunger that makes your body eat itself at night. The kind you know only after life shields you from falling bombs, or bullets passing through your body. It is the love that dives naked toward infinity’s reach. It think it is where God lives.”

“Mornings in Jenin” is one of those few books that have made a deep impression on me. Its scents, colors, grief, pain, and hopes will remain with me always. I urgently recommend this book. But my recommendation comes with a warning: at the beginning of the book, a small ball of joy makes its home in the readers stomach, but suddenly, and very violently, this tiny ball betrays you and transforms itself into a knot of grief that keep growing and pushing itself upward, until it settles into your throat, making you unable to breath. This knot will accompany the reader to the very last lines of the book.


  1. AnonymousMay 20, 2010

    I've read Mornings in Jenin and I do agree with you Khulud. It is an exceptionally remarkable story beautifully written and very moving. and yes, intense.
    No matter, I am not getting your point. There is no need to disparage any author as 'some' if you cannot remember their name. You do not even remember the story of the book and yet you judge him (or her) as someone who 'only experienced one kind of love, in one type of cultural and historical context.' C'mn khulud, you can do better!

  2. Hey Anonymous! ya, you're right. I guess I was in a battle-mood...
    but for my life I can't remember HIS first name...

    anyway, I didn't mean it about Armstrong the "one type of love in one type of context." That was a general comment for books like that. Actually it wasn't a story, but rather a book on love, explaining what is love. I read it but really couldn't relate to any of it. Kept trying to understand this "abstract" concept of love he is talking about, but none of it actually applied to me...

    in either case, you are right! But it wasn't meant like it sounds... :)

  3. John Armstrong is the name.

    Khulud for some reason, your blog does not appear in my list even though I am a follower and that is why I missed so many of your posts. What's wrong?
    It's a pleasure to come to this post. After all I am a soppy person who loves love.

    How have you been dear Khulud? It's long . . .

    I liked your pictures here: so free, unrestrained and full of love and passion.

    Joy always,

  4. Hey Susan!
    Great to have you back. I guess you have some catching up to do since you've missed some entries. Some months back I changed the URL address of my blog, so I think that's why you're having trouble with it. I think you need to "un-follow" the old one you have and "follow" this one. That should do the trick.

    Actually, I feel some guilt as I haven't had time to visit at-length any of my friends' blogs recently, as I am in a very overloaded period in my life at the moment, but I try to drop by for a few minutes every now and then.



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