Whoever said love is the universal language is full of shit.

The true language of the universe is pain and loss. Everyone can testify that they’ve been hurt, be it a stubbed toe or the death of someone close. It’s a dismal, depressing reality that the basic level on which we all can relate is one that requires such a strain on the body, mind and soul.

My cohort and I came to this conclusion simultaneously several weeks ago while bitching about our past failed relationships. However, with Valentine’s Day just two short days away, I realized that complaining about how much love can suck would be a real downer, so I went in search of hope.

Like most answers to life’s little problems, I found salvation in a man named Spider Robinson. In a short story he wrote, he explained that there is a law of conservation of pain and love: neither one can be created nor destroyed, but only converted from one to the other. It’s simple. It makes sense. Pain is not the absence of love, but rather the primordial stuff from which it is created.

So for Valentine’s Day, I went on a quest in search of the vileness from which love is born.

I saw the clearest example one night while sitting on my balcony. Around two in the morning, I watched three young men walking down the street. One lagged behind the other two, his head hanging loosely and his shoulders sagging. As they drew closer I could hear the lagger muttering to himself about how he could have “taken” the other guy. He asked for affirmation from his two friends. One gave it, the other did but also told his friend that he wouldn’t have been able to take the other ten guys ready to join the fight.

I could hear the hurt in the voice of the one who kept repeating to himself that he should’ve battled. His masculinity had been beaten down like a dog who pissed on your good rug. The world was in ruins because he backed down, and that’s all that mattered. When he reached the end of the street, he started attacking a “No Parking” sign, hoping to reassemble his fragmented ego. Broken is the only word I have to describe him.

It was painful just to watch him, but at the same time, there it was: love in its rawest form. Soon that misery would be transformed into something more divine.

After that, I was able to see it elsewhere and everywhere.

Love was in the emptiness I heard in a bum’s voice when he offered to buy a cigarette off of me for fifty cents, and then looked dejected when I said he could have it for free. It was also the rough edge in his voice when he sang “Hey Jude” into the night by himself on Pardall Road at one in the morning.

I felt it when my heart tore in half as the words “Let’s just be friends” left the lips of a crush I never had a chance with in the first place, or when I realized that a fling is just a fling.

I’ve heard it on DP, in the rage and embarrassment a woman felt after a drunken frat boy squeezed her breast and then called her a bitch when he couldn’t fathom why she was so pissed off.

Among the shards of misunderstood chivalry, broken like a cheap clay pot under the fist of a modern woman, there is love.

In paper cuts, bruises, broken hearts, shame, wrath, derision and ugliness. All of them boil back down to that primordial stuff.

That wonderful conversion process by which we change our raw hurt into splendid love is perhaps the only device we have that keeps us alive and hopeful.

Here’s the lesson to take home kids: the next time the skies turn black and your life seems to go to shit, remember that it’s just love, and sooner or later, it’ll convert to something better.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Being a true cynic, Daily Nexus columnist Steven Ruszczycky is incapable of falling in love. However, he falls in like just fine. His column appears Tuesdays.