Love

by Czeslaw Milosz

English version by Robert Hass
Original Language Polish

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills.
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn't matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn't always understand.

-- from The Collected Poems, by Czeslaw Milosz

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Another delightful poem by Czeslaw Milosz. Reading this, I immediately settle and grow still.

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.


This seems like such a gentle way to conceive of dethroning the narcissistic self. It doesn't need to be about great effort or a violent overthrow within the consciousness, we just need a shift in perspective. We just need to broaden our vision. Then we can see the many things of existence. When we gently, honestly compare this human being that we each are against everything else, we develop a much more humble sense of self. And we begin to see how we actually fit within the community of the many; we discover our interconnectedness.

And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills.


The false sense of superiority, centrality, and separation are such a strain on the heart, that when we finally see our relationship within existence clearly, the contraction in the chest eases, the heart relaxes and expands, and we are finally capable of discovering what love means in its most natural, unrestricted sense.

A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

We come to live in the community of being.

And when we stop trying to make our lives and every encounter somehow reflect back to us our own self-importance, we begin to relate to ourselves and everything as an expression of the universal impulse toward ripeness:

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.


We don't have to have an intellectual understanding of these things, we don't need to label it according to religion or philosophy.

It doesn't matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn't always understand.


Opening, seeing, and serving, these are enough.



Recommended Books: Czeslaw Milosz

New and Collected Poems 1931 - 2001 The Collected Poems Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness To Begin Where I Am: The Selected Prose of Czeslaw Milosz A Treatise on Poetry
More Books >>





Love