PERHAPS it’s because love extends so far beyond the visible, tangible world of habitation while, at the same time, being so immediately, intimately and powerfully experienced that it’s is so easy to sing about love but so hard to write about. Yet, it seems to me, it’s necessary that we not only write about it but also talk about it, think about it, express it, live it… openly express it and publicly require it.
Love is easiest to express directly; it so readily becomes the expressive force behind the action; it leaps and dances and staves off every other emotion in its need to animate us. Love is the energy that that makes goodness possible, appropriate and effective.
I’ve seen it push aside good sense, hunger, need, fear and self interest… even sleep, sex and selfhood. It is love that makes hope not only possible, but also practical.
And, while I’ve seen love make apparent “mistakes”, it’s always brought with any mistake a gentleness of consequence. In fact, that gentleness of consequence, or otherwise, is probably a good indicator of love’s place in the original motivation.
Given its compelling, transforming power, and its essential goodness, it strikes me as odd that love is not more explicit in what we are allowed to see of “public life”… could love become an election issue? I think it should be THE election issue.
But it would have to mean much more than the word “love” that pops up in a few clichés, as a euphemism for sex or, most tritely and irrelevantly, as a synonym for “like”. It has to be about other people because that is where love compels us to go. We love ourselves by throwing ourselves into love, not by gathering it in and holding onto it; love is dynamic, it is like a wind, it is like the interface of matter and energy, it moves, it cannot be confined. And it is so crucial that it be available to every person. To be secluded from love is crueller that to be secluded from food or water, and more darkly lethal.
So, yes, it should be a political issue. It should saturate public affairs and international relations. What a joy it would be if, somewhere in the flood of Wikileaks documents, there emerge classified messages expressing unbridled, self-sacrificing love for other peoples as a diplomatic priority and a democratic necessity. What goes around comes around. So imagine how liberating it would be to discover that our “enemies” love us, despite our flaws and blindness… imagine our enemies covertly discovering that our priorities were focused on our love for them.
This may sound flippant. But how much sadder and duller is it to go around saying things like, ‘I’d love a cold beer’, ‘I love my i-Pad’, ‘I love that ad where they…’: you mean you would lay down your life and everything you have for the sake of that ad, i-Pad or beer can? I don’t think so. Please, for the sake of all it truly stands for, don’t diminish the word by shrivelling it to parity with its opposite: to “like” is to want for oneself; to “love” is to empty oneself into what is loved — so it had better be worthwhile.
Love is often ignited involuntarily out of some sense of affinity or admiration; it begins as a yearning to give your whole life over to the object of your love, and as recognition of the need to push obstacles like ego and old hurts as aside. This is what takes the discipline of deliberate will.
If love is not to die, then this clearing away of debris from the past — of fears, of irritations, of angers, hurts and anxieties — must become a delicious, liberating discipline, a broadening embrace of widening circles of love, simply because of the connections that link the living world together and form its dependence on the inanimate world.
When you know your lover needs to eat, you will not poison the food sources; when you see your lover’s sleeping breath, you will not contaminate the air. When your lover drinks, will you spoil the water or sour the wine? And, when your love has extended into the places of air and food, you will yearn to reach beyond that… your curiosity and all that is beautiful lead you on… you will be led to the fragility of their essence. And nothing in life holds more value than experiences of that essence.
So… what is worthy of love? Well, we are… you are and I am. And we should, I guess, be striving to make that evident. How do we do that? The best way is for our selves to discipline ourselves to outpourings of love. The more determinedly we do that, the easier it becomes to love existence itself, and all that supports it: the blade of grass, the person in the passing car, remembered joys, the air, the sun, the planet… the universe. The universe? Really? Why not?
So much of our experience of it has to do with its ample capacity to sustain all of us. If, out of love, we will only stand out of each other’s sun and let it reach us, it is enormously generous to us… and the more love we pour into the small part of it we can touch, the better prepared we are for experiences of it.
In this way, we can move past “doing” some loving towards “becoming” a source of love.
I once watched an elderly Samoan canoe builder working on the hull of a paopao (a carved fishing canoe). He had chosen the log in consultation with local indigenous people and it’s cutting was a ritual that recognised the life of the tree and its various bird and insect inhabitants, and the gap its cutting created.
He wouldn’t let noisy, fast European tools touch the log. Instead, he swung an adze, hollowing out the canoe’s interior… chip, chip, chip, chip. And on the outside of the hull he held his other hand flat against the wood. His son explained to me that he was gauging the thickness of the hull: if it is too thick, the canoe will be too heavy and slow; too thin and a split will open. The “right” thickness depends on the wood — the master canoe builder knew when the thickness of this particular hull was “right” from the shocks he felt through the wood as the adze blade bit into the inside of the log. He had no measurements and no drawings: building the canoe was an ongoing dialogue between the “perfect” canoe that existed only in his head, and the imperfect log that lay before him. The log retained something of the vitality of the tree; no other log was quite like it, it was unique. In effect, he loved the canoe into existence with his being.
A task that’s taken on in this way of “being” has an array of outcomes, none of them entirely predictable, from the weaving together of a number of related stories in which there is no single lead character.
Even the outcomes fall together into yet broader stories and themes that have directions rather than endings. The one who is “becoming” does not wrest control from hostile or indifferent forces but, rather, sets out to re-form his or her nature until the experienced cycles of dance, play, gain and loss, struggle and survival mesh with the rhythmic certainties of sunrise and sunset, or the succession of the seasons. The costs here are frightening because we yearn for predictability and may not like the way all of the stories end. Moreover, we discover, certainty is an illusion.
It’s the difference between “doing” and “being”, between going hunting, say, and becoming a hunter… between a craft and an art.
We’re called to more than “doing love”. I think we’re called to “BE” love.
Try to remember each ocean wave’s
wonderful, unfurling form…
Try to recall the sweet startle
of each picked berry bitten,
Try to re-live the grateful rise
of every in-drawn breath,
Try to re-wonder the first time
that the stars shone into your night,
Try to thrill as when first you rose
to set off on your way alone,
Try to sigh as at last you sighed
when you found your long way home,
Try to dream all your fondest dreams
over and over again.
Now try to look deep in another’s eyes
and release what you feel inside.