There is a well-known Russian saying: "Love is not a potato." The first time I heard this, I thought it was ridiculous. It's like thinking you're smart by stating something completely obvious, like 2 + 2 = 4.
However, I've grown to love this saying over time. I love its extremely simple language that can be understood by anyone. I also love that the more you think about it, the more you realize it means.
I recently had a long, late-night discussion (with my avid commenter "S") of all the meanings to the saying. Below are what we came up with.
1. "Love" and "potato" are very different objects and concepts. This is the base, "obvious" level of interpretation.
2. You can easily throw away a potato (if it's bad or if you don't like it), but you can't easily throw away love. (This is my mom's interpretation.)
3. Potatoes are easy: skin (optionally) and bake. Love is not easy. It takes a lot of work.
4. Potatoes are pretty much homogeneous. Yes, there are lots of varieties of them, and I'm sure no two potatoes look exactly the same. But my sense is that there are way more varieties/qualities/types of love than potatoes.
5. Potatoes are static. You park one on your kitchen counter, and it will sit for as long as you want. (Yes, it will rot after a while, but that's very slow and gradual.) Love is not static; it is constantly changing and evolving.
6. Potatoes are a staple: a very simple, everyday food item. Love is not a staple; it is unique and celebrated every time it occurs (weddings, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, etc.). More on celebrations later (apparently, people celebrate potatoes too).
7. Potatoes are finite, concrete objects. Love is infinite, a concept.
8. Potatoes have pretty much one dimension. Love has many.
9. Potatoes are easy to mold and fit to your recipe. Love is not easy to mold and takes a lot of care in "harvesting."
10. Potatoes are a side dish. Love is the main course.
11. Potatoes must be salted, or else they're bland. Love is amazing as is.
12. Potatoes have many "eyes." Love is blind.
13. Potatoes have an expiration date. Love (hopefully) does not.
14. You pick the potatoes you eat. Love, more often than not, picks you.
15. Potatoes satisfy the lowest level of your needs on Maslow's hierarchy. Love satisfies needs that are 2 levels higher up the pyramid.
16. You can't make potatoes (nature makes them). You can make love.
17. Finally, thinking about the saying at a meta/philosophical level, it seems similar to Magritte's image of a pipe. "This is not a pipe," he writes. "Love is not a potato." It is an image of a potato. (?)
After coming up with this list, we realized that this was somewhat of a stupid exercise. We wondered what object in fact could be more different from love than a potato.
Thinking about that made us actually realize that love and potatoes, after all, have a lot in common as well:
A. People have fought over both: potatoes and love.
B. Both can go stale if left untended.
C. Both have holidays: potatoes and love.
D. Too much of both can be bad.
E. Both are best when hot and sizzling.
F. You can crush both if you try.
G. Both can be enjoyed by many people together (sharing potatoes over a meal, sharing a sense of joint love in a family).
What is your interpretation of all this nonsense?