Czeslaw Milosz, on Love

For this Valentine’s day, I’m reminded that the prerequisite to loving someone is loving yourself. Like an airplane mask, you can’t care for someone else if you haven’t cared for yourself first.

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.

~ Czeslaw Milosz, New & Collected Poems 1931-2001

In college I often found myself looking for hidden meanings in poetry, but these days I find myself surprised at how literally things like this seem to be meant.