Traveling these past two months I’ve seen a lot of different things in way of culture and the way we communicate. Despite the language barriers I’ve encountered, one thing I’ve been able to understand everywhere I go is love. Cue Hugh Grant’s opening speech from Love Actually… But really. Love. Is. Everywhere. My favorite thing about love is all of it’s faces. Crazy love. Brotherly love. Stupid love. Love among friends. New love. Long love. Love among strangers.
Love is the universal language; I recognize it everywhere I go. I see so many older couples walking every day, rain or shine, arm in arm, on the paths that surround my neighborhood. Yesterday doing some Christmas shopping in downtown there were a group of young teenagers helping up a homeless man who fell in the middle of the square. The man was visibly drunk and very dirty. I looked on thinking, “I’m not sure I could touch him.” Yet there they were a group of 14 year old teens standing this man upright, making sure he could walk on his own.
In Austria a few weekends ago I saw a mother, with her newborn, stop and give a homeless man a very large handful of cookies. She looked genuinely happy to be offering the food and he genuinely pleased. Then of course every where I go for every person walking solo down the street there are triple the amount of pairs walking hand in hand; couples, parents, friends, etc.
Yes, love is everywhere, but is it the universal language? You hear this or something similar in romantic comedies, see it on artsy overly priced signs, and read about it in bad blogs like this. We all get it. Love is everywhere, we all like it and hate it… we get it. But is it really the universal language?
My questioning love as the universal language started with a bridge. This bridge was covered in locks and it was in Salzburg, Austria. Walking along the bridge in Salzburg I was so intrigued by all the locks. I’d never seen them and my friend had to explain them to me. Couples will fasten a lock to a bridge and then throw the key into the water therefore symbolizing their forever love. I thought to myself, “what a romantic idea.” When I got home from Salzburg I decided to research these “love locks.” As it turns out, according to a NY Times article (see below), Parisians hate the idea of love locks and not just because it makes their bridges look bad.
Historically this tradition started because young women were afraid of being left by their lovers. These young women started putting the locks on bridges in essence to lock up their love. Not quite as romantic now, is it? The article goes on to talk about the Parisians’ idea of love. Two people in a relationship should each feel free; love is not something that we should lock up. Despite agreeing whole heartedly with that, I felt quite a bit affronted by the Parisians. “Pssh, jerks…you would judge the way the rest of the world shows their love.” I felt personally insulted. Then I realized that this article quoting the opinions of however many Parisians it interviewed does not exemplify love for everyone, just for the people it quoted.
A long time ago a young girl put a lock on a bridge for fear of losing her loved one. Many other young girls did the same. Some time later a tourist couple saw some locks on a bridge and followed suit, a tradition began through out the bridges of the world. A NY Times article, An Affront to Love, French-Style, interviewed a group of Parisians who thought the locks did not symbolize what love is actually about. And a 26 year old girl travelling stumbles upon a bridge of love locks in Salzburg, Austria and gets to thinking.
The thing is none of the people listed above have experienced one another’s love. So why then does it matter what I think of your love and you think of my love and the ways that one another expresses or symbolizes it? It doesn’t. Every culture, every person, everywhere, knows what love is. How they show it, how it affects them, the traditions that surround it- that’s what’s different. It’s not the way we communicate love that makes it universal, it’s that it drives us. As humans we all seek to feel loved.
Love is the universal language and how we communicate it, well that’s just what makes it special.