“Who am I?/ What is the purpose of life?/ Where did I come from?/ What am I really made of?/… Why are we here?/ The answer… LOVE.”
The Return To Love: A Users Guide to Mending A Broken Heart (Timeless Press Productions, 2010) is a playful, beautiful book exploring the nature of human emotions and how all of our feelings, in essence, lead back to or stem from love. Written by Robert Peter Jacoby, a psychotherapist who has worked with patients in North Carolina for over 15 years, and illustrated by Brian MacGregor, a full-time artist based in Savannah, G.A. who travels around the world for inspiration, the collaborative project pairs inspirational words with brilliantly colorful works of arts. It’s goal: To steer readers towards embracing love by realizing that love is “everything.”
The Return to Love reads like a psychological prose poem. Jacoby’s insightful musings are expressed in many forms: complete sentences, lists, short stories, diagrams and even in a single word that consumes an entire page. The book is also written using a range of font types that include bold, large words, sentences written in all capital letters, small curling type faces, red fonts, green fonts, blue fonts, all of which visually relate or emphasize the topic at hand. For example, when Jacoby writes, “So, you believe that your have a broken heart” he stresses the word believe by writing beLIEve, where LIE is written in extremely large, blotchy green letters.
One of the key points to living a life saturated by love is, as stressed in chapter one, to live in the present moment. As Jacoby emphasizes, life is but a series of moments, and each present moment is all we every really have. “The past is our history, the future our fantasy, and the present moment, now, is reality.” To live in the past, is to slow one’s experience of time: “When you dwell on the pain that you have experienced in your life you feel… heavy, sad, depressed, weighted, guilty regretful.” In turn, living in the future, a fantasy, speeds up time: “When you constantly live in and worry about the future you feel… anxious, fearful stressed, worried, panicked.” These ideas, which are explored in Zen psychology and in contemporary works like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and A New Earth, stress the importance of living for each breath, for each precious moment of life.
Another memorable point in The Return To Love, which especially resonated with this reader, focuses on the notion that pain and heartache is a reflection of love itself. When one grieves, that pain is a testament to the depth of the love shared and experienced between former lovers or estranged friends. Jacoby writes: “Pain is essentially a form of love, whether you have lost yourself, someone else, or something, pain is the measure of how much you have truly loved.” Jacoby compares the pain of heartache to the pain experienced by every other muscle in the body, which once stretched and torn, only grows stronger. In essence, pain will strengthen the heart and ones ability to love again, which is an extremely empowering point for the weary hearted (for they will emerge stronger then ever before).
“Without the experience of sour, there is no sweet; … Without the experience of silence, there is no music; without the true experience of pain, there is no true humble, gentle, and fragile appreciation of love.”
MacGregor’s striking artwork is elegantly linked with Jacoby’s philosophical understandings. An especially beautiful and haunting piece titled “The Broken Heart,” (also the title of chapter 4) depicts a face framed by a tree and by two figures (or statues) sleeping on ground. The face, with narrow, almond-shaped eyes and wide lips, is weeping. White waterfalls, a constant flow of grief, pour from her eyes in an image that captures loss and the feeling that the tears of heartache will never cease to fall. MacGregor’s art elevates The Return To Love from an inspirational self-help guide to an object of true beauty.
The official book launch for The Return to Love will be held at Malaprop’s Books & Café, 55 Haywood St., on Friday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. Info: http://malaprops.com or 254-6734.
A cocktail reception and book signing will be held at The Marketplace Restaurant, 20 Wall St., on Saturday, Sept. 25.