Most of us have been in love with love, insisting that it is so transformative, so enlightened as a thing in itself, that between lovers there can be no misunderstandings, no restlessness, no turbulence, no roiling doubts. Tra la, trip lightly into the sunset, hand-in-hand, happily ever after.

Then love itself comes along, and like moths to the flames, we rush to catch it, to grasp hold of it with every fiber. And we discover this: Love is transformative. It is enlightening. Love’s turbulence, misunderstandings, missed connections, roiling doubts and discontents are the wildly rough trail that leads to partnership with the Self, with Another and finally with the World. Love brings us to wisdom, more often than not on scraped hands and bruised knees, half strangled by disillusionments, breathless and burned along the path.

Love is tough, love is delicate, love is exquisite, love is creative force, love is worth it, because love is beauty and love is all we’ve got … if only we don’t weaken.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Excerpted from The Jewel and the Ember: Love Stories of the Ancient Middle East — on e-book at