LOVE — an Etymological and Mythological Approach

For several years now, but especially since the 1990s, the ‘love for love’ – both the reality of it and the idea(l) of it, has steadily been gaining momentum among all strata of society. In this section, therefore, let us explore the origin and meaning of the word ‘love,’ and do so in an unconventional manner. First, interchanging its third letter V with W (as is often done; witness ‘vin’ and ‘wine’) proposes a notion of similarity between ‘to love’ and ‘to lowe’ – the latter being an alternative Scottish expression for flame or ‘to flame/fire’ (OED, Johnson), respectively. If so, then ‘being in love’ would literally mean ‘being in flames,’ or ‘being a [new] flame’ in someone’s life. Likewise, the similar formal properties of ‘love,’ or, the Old English ‘luf,’ and ‘life’ as well as the concepts they express (i.e., heat/health and existence) can each be traced back to the same primal source point (or ‘seed point’). In the same vein, we may include other terms such as the Latin ‘œstas’ (summer) or ‘œstus’ (heat) in the same linear formula (definition) – while, simultaneously, their root ‘œs’ is also equal to the Hebrew ‘ēsh,’ or alternatively ‘as,’ meaning fire. For example, the country’s name “AZərbaycan” – Persian for ‘protector of fire’ – could just as well have been translated into ‘protector of love,’ figuratively and literally; in fact, Persian poets (nearly all of them mystics, unlike their ‘purist’ Arab counterparts) were certainly not unaware of this connection when they compared that which cannot be compared (apples and oranges, as we say). Yet they did…

Upon closer examination, it becomes clear that love as well as the etymological source point – and all its possible semantic constructions operating along encoded trajectories (I call them ‘trajectory seeds,’ but more of this later) – occupied a core area in the poetico-religious modes of thought of Azerbaijani-Iranian (Persian) literary worlds, symbolized, inter alia, by Zarathustra’s fire or the ‘eternal flames’ that were venerated, not only among the Zoroastrians, near Bakı (Baku). Indeed, ‘culinary’ metaphors were often used, so there was very seldom any Persian (or Arabic, or Ottoman) poem that did not transform the heart into ‘kabāb’ (fire-roasted meat), or the love-poisoned blood into ‘lāl-sharāb’ (red wine). It is not by accident, then, that the Persian mythical bird Sīmurġ (Phoenix) with its “brilliant” blue, red, and green feathers, consuming itself in fire, before rising from the ‘ashes’ [see also: Roman ‘ash’ or Hebrew ‘ēsh,’ which equals love; – thus, the Firebird dies and rises in love] again, is so prevalent in the Caucasus and Central Asia, if not all. And what is Phoenix (or ‘Phenix’) but another name for Venus [as Φ is equal to F, V, or PH], the goddess of love, who, too, ‘rises’ up from the sea, from foam; while it seems worthy of note that the foam Venus had risen from is just an alternative term for ‘froth,’ which cannot possibly differ from ‘broth’ (from B and F interchanging; witness English ‘brother’ and Latin ‘frāter’) – the flame-broiled stock of a ‘soup,’ the latter being a linguistic and conceptual metaphor for the ‘soul’ (or Sole).

In order to prove that the above derivation is logically sound, one simply needs to translate the English ‘soul’ into French, where it means ‘âme’ – the root part of ‘amour’ (love) or the Latin ‘amór’ (otherwise known as Cupído), the god of love. Therefore, it becomes obvious that ‘apples and oranges’ can indeed be compared: in fact, they share many properties, anyway. – So does love, as it is able to synergistically combine linguistic and conceptual structures, which are ultimately not as far apart as they might seem at first glance. In medieval French, for instance, the Latin ‘amór’ once signified both ‘amour’ (love) and ‘amitié’ (friendship), or ‘ami[e]’ (friend), but while the former idea was called after the ‘soul,’ the latter draws a specific connection to forms [from Latin ‘forma’ (beauty), as well as ‘formus’ (warm); for warm blood produces beauty] and formal features, such as the face. However, there is a difference between the concept of the soul/love and an Aristotelian friendship-love (agapé), as much as there is a linguistic difference between ‘to love’ and ‘to like,’ since the second was called after the ‘image’ [see also: Latin ‘imago’ (imitation [of love]) and German ‘mögen’ (to like)], and ‘look-likeness,’ so to say. In some ways, the conceptual framework of Aristotle’s theory of friendship could have only been developed because of love’s inherent “trajectory seeds.” – The radical part of friend, ‘fri,’ which is also the root of “FRIday” – or ‘to fry’ – leads to the derivation of the name Frøjya (Northern Venus), the fiery goddess of love.

LOVE — “Laylī and Majnūn” Meets “Romeo and Juliet”

Some of these “seeds” still live on in Islamic mysticism, where the ‘scarlet light’ [see also: Persian ‘azər’ (brilliant red, flame-colored veil/flammeum)], for instance, plays a more important part in establishing a thematic metaphor (majāz) of the ‘acute yearning and burning desire’ to unite with the reality of the Divine, the reality (ḥaqīqa) of LOVE [here: Soul, devoid of any romantic aspect; hence in capital letters] – the so-called “Ḥaqīqa,” point of origin and final goal –, which can be well observed in Niẓāmī’s famous work “Laylī and Majnūn,” a precursor to the Western “Romeo and Juliet.” Though conveyed in a rather veiled manner where pre-eternal (qadīm) beauty in created forms is purposefully concealed [see also: ‘iltibās,’ meaning “becoming clothed”], Azəri poetry (e.g., Nasīmī) which grew out of the “seeds” of its previous line of Persian poets, such as Niẓāmī (1141-1209), located the ultimate source of compassion and mercy [raḥma; witness the homophony with ‘raḥim’ (womb)] in the Unity of the Solitaire (tauḥīd): “Everything is the beloved, and the lover a veil; living is the beloved, and the lover is dead” (Schimmel). Following Rūzbihān’s mystical flights, that is, meditations on the inner fire (Tibetan: gtummo; Sanskrit: caṇḍālī), the lover Laylī – a lady with night-dark hair, Snow White’s prototype, and a representation of “Maryah” (the Lord) – draws an ever-widening circle of her love, encompassing even the farthest shore of her Divine Beloved (“Alaha” or God), Majnūn, who is akin to certain Ṣūfīs assuming ‘mad’ behaviors.

Of course, Majnūn/Qays, the son of a wealthy Arab family, becomes a ‘roaming’ mendicant acting like a madman or MAJNŪN, after he had been denied permission to marry his lady-love Laylī (who is forced into a marriage with the rich merchant ‘Ward,’ instead); – owning his ‘name’ to the Zoroastrians (called MĀJŪS). It seems quite obvious to me, however, that Qays-Majnūn’s love-rival ‘Ward’ – which is Arabic for “rose” – is but a Jungian type of fragment, typical for “symbol characters,” of his own. After all, the Red Rose is venerated as the materialization of God’s glory in Islamic mysticism (Muḥammad); it is the ornate vision of “clouds of roses” – an analogy of the Divine Presence – as described by Rūzbihān Baqlī, which is a revelation of beauty or the vision of love [here: form, appearing purposefully romantic; thus in lowercase letters]. Even today, it is common to give red roses on Valentine’s Day. While, at the same time, Qays-Majnūn – the other side of the same coin – could just as well be portrayed as a ‘nightingale,’ ‘singing’ his poems in praise of ‘divine LOVE’ (‘ishq-e haqīqī), which is the soul. Qays’ poetry, therefore, becomes the prime example of a prototype Azəri “muğam,” a trance-like meditative musical style. The countless roses and nightingales in Persian miniature art, almost always shown together, are a ghostly remnant of this mystical connection between form-rose and soul-bird, and it is the former ‘metaphoric love’ (‘ishq-e majāzī) which foretells a forceless force that “moves the sun and the other stars” (Dante).

Which leads us to the next pair of ‘star-crossed’ lovers: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. – Or are they? Shakespeare, very probably a Rosicrucian himself, re-introduces the mystical rose imagery in the form of Rosaline (‘fair rose’) – interestingly enough, an invisible, mute character – into his medieval play. In contrast to conventional interpretations, it is she, and not Juliet (the Damsel/“Talitha”), who takes the central position, creating intercrossing concentric circles that radiate from the original hard core, until she is uprooted (from the middle point – Romeo’s heart) and forcefully exiled to faraway shores, while Romeo, who is either a Romantic, a Roman citizen (or the empire itself), or a Roamer, that is, a ‘pilgrim’ (which is also the meaning of his name; thus, making him a linguistic doppelgänger and ghostly double of the beggar-mendicant Majnūn), quickly forgets his First Love, thereby ending his madly melancholic pilgrimage upon arrival at the masked ball. Throughout the whole play, Shakespeare deliberately takes up a mocking attitude towards the medieval concept of courtly love by making a farce out of this affair between a Neoplatonic Eros and an ever-annoying damsel in distress, mantra-like reciting her endless, meaningless torrent of words of love (whatever these terms may be). – So is that what has become of us because of this love; or what has become of LOVE itself: a bland ‘Renaissance’ ornament as well as a decadent product of erotic symbolism – an empty container, an empty shell made of pure nothing?

LOVE — Isolation/Insulation and Solitary Confinement

Indeed, it has. Blissfully unaware of the looming doom, we continue down this primrose path, just like Romeo before us. – But let’s not go that way, and instead take a look at today’s design, art, and fashion markets, which may seem like a big leap at first glance, yet they also bear direct reference to the ‘form’ love has taken in our times – most prominently expressed by the now-iconic heart shape, and how the latter came to inhabit the space the “soul” left out? There are two things to know about contemporary fashion (or art): first, it is ugly; and second, it has nothing important to say whatsoever. Yet, somehow, these two ‘qualities’ have been elevated to the highest pinnacle of beauty and wisdom in our collective understanding. Viktor&Rolf’s spring 2019 haute couture collection, titled ‘Fashion Statements,’ serves as a perfect example of how shallow, and totally uncreative, slogans crudely plastered over the already hideous ‘dresses’ (among them a “GET MEAN” within a frilly heart, and a “GO F*CK YOURSELF” spread over three clipart-like hearts, because why not?) are celebrated as great intellectual expressions; while the audience is taking photos like there’s no tomorrow. Prada’s eccentric fall 2019 men’s collection is in no way inferior to them; an array of (unlovely) hearts, roses, and fluffy bits of ‘fur’ in various shades, which seems to be a favorite with them, as well as some other quite outlandish ‘fashion’ items for the inhabitants of – I don’t know – Mars, give us a glimpse of hell. But fashion is not the only voice of…

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