Before the smiley face 😊, before the peace signs,☮,✌, before LOL, BFF, and #Hashtags, there arose an ideogram that encapsulated one of humanity’s most primal emotion. This shout-out goes to the OG emoji, the heart ♥. Simple yet powerful. The heart conveys affection and love on Valentine’s Day, and without this universal symbol, the iconic I♥NY would never have been.
What is the ♥’s origin? And what is this primal emotion called love?
Although the heart shape is known worldwide, theories abound as to its beginning. Some scholars speculate that the heart shape came from the shape of ivy leaves; some believe it came from the figure of breasts or buttocks. Some academic sources assert that this symbol of love dates to the 12th century, while others claim that the symbol originated in the 15th century, gaining popularity during the Renaissance of the 16th century. However, as time went on, the heart motif continued to gain popularity and prominence during the 18th and 19thcenturies. Suffice to say, however, and whenever this symbol broke onto the scene, it is and remains an OG.
In 1993, the artist, Haddaway, had a smash single titled, “What is Love,” perhaps the song now is playing in your head, regardless, he was asking a very poignant question.
What is this emotion? Was there ever a time that love didn’t exist? Religious texts assert that love is a quality of God, Jah, the Atman, Yahweh and Allah, along with many other names. Still, defining love is elusive.
Love is invisible; it has no mass, and measuring it is impossible. You can see and feel the effects of love but not love itself. Love takes many forms and is tough to define due to our interpretations. To some people, love is personal; to some, it sexual, others it is a compassionate concern; still, others equate love to loyalty or adoration. This simple word garners a multitude of meanings in infinitely diverse ways. None the less, we all want to compare our thoughts about love to a definition.
So how do we define this enigma? I guess the best way to define love is by describing its qualities. With or without a spiritual philosophy, love has been and will always be. Love is greater than us; love is part of our nature. We cannot lose love; only choose not to express it. We cannot coerce love; it comes of its own accord. Even if we give love, we cannot command or demand love. We cannot make someone love us, nor can we prevent someone from loving us. Love is unpredictable; it has no addenda; love is free. As much as we would like to, we cannot buy love, nor can it be sold. Love cannot be caged. Love protects and teaches.
One of my favorite descriptions of love comes from Kahil Gibran’s book, The Prophet (1923), titled “On Love.” Here’s an excerpt: “Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. When you love, you should not say, ‘God is in my heart,’ but rather, ‘I am in the heart of God.’ And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.”
The nature of love knows the interconnectedness of all things and understands that although we don’t entirely comprehend what it is, love honors our sovereignty.
Although the ♥’s origin may be blurry and the meaning of love varied, let us all share our versions of this infinite and universal gift with each other and enjoy this month of love.
If you’re not feeling it, here are some quotes to get your heart beating again:
“Today, see if you can stretch your heart and expand your love so that it touches not only those to whom you can give it easily but also to those who need it so much.” ~ Aristotle
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~ Lao Tzu
“There is no remedy for love but to love more.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” ~ Carl Sagan
“Could you be loved and be loved?” ~ Bob Marley
Photo by Cristian Dina.