Friday, May 7, 2010

What is love, anyway?

Sometimes I wonder if love between two people really exists, or if it's only an illusion. I can remember my step brother, Nathan, my mom's second husbands son. When they divorced, I knew I would probably never see Nathan again, and I grieved. That was 25 years ago. What if I found out tomorrow that Nathan had been killed, or had died of cancer? Would I feel any sorrow? I don't think it's likely that it would have much of an effect on me, besides maybe a brief pang of remorse; forgotten completely within a couple of hours. What happened to the love I had for my step brother? How could it have just faded away to nothing? Was it even real at all? What is love, anyway?

I think it's likely that nobody will ever know the answer to that until after they have given up the ghost, because humans are imperfect, and for the most part, self serving. Most of us haven't ever really experienced real love, God's love. Because of the inherently flawed state which people occupy, is it the case that human love must also be flawed? My step brother, Nathan, was one example of how brotherly love can seem to just disappear, as though it never were. But what about other kinds of love?

Being in love can be one of the most wonderful feelings that a human can experience... but it can also be perceived as a source of pain, despair, even cruelty. How can love, the essence of life energy, be both wonderful and awful? How can love grow and then wither? How can love be forgotten so easily? How can love go seemingly hand in hand with our passions and our pride? I think the answer to these questions is that imperfect, human love is inevitably corrupted by the ego, and since the ego serves the self, love becomes used as a means to serve ones self. To be in love and to have that love returned to you is one of the most joyful things a person can experience. However, if you take that same love and offer it to someone who doesn't reciprocate in kind, it becomes one of the most painful things a person can experience. Why does love do this? The essence of love should imply truth and purity, therefore shouldn't it be able to stand on its own? Shouldn't a person be able to feel love for another, give love to another, and that be enough?

At the same time, how can a person receive the love of another and reject it? How can it seem to be without inherent value? How can one refuse such a precious gift? It's love, after all, a wonderful thing! Receiving love from someone should be a joyous experience, shouldn't it? Why, then, is it sometimes not? Why is it instead repelling and unpleasant in some cases, often leading to feelings of contempt and even hatred? What the heck is wrong with love?

Here's my attempt at an answer to that question. It is my idea that human beings don't know what to do with love, this greatest of gifts. The only true, pure love is God's love, and the flawed nature of humanity prevents most humans from being able to receive this gift, to appreciate it for what it truly is, and then offer it to others in that same capacity. If that were the case, then every human being on Earth would be the foci of a vast network of love, and everyone would be connected with the energy of love, and nobody would ever have to feel pain, or need, or selfish desire. Real love would destroy the ego completely; a necessity if people are to be able to experience love as God intended. However, I don't think that most people would benefit from this destruction of self. It would most likely be a traumatic thing, experienced as despair, pain, and fear... much like receiving, yet rejecting God's love. Possibly it is the same thing, since the self is the result of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and when the fruit was taken and eaten, God's love was rejected. Mankind wasn't ready for this realization of self, and because of this, our spiritual development has been stunted and cauterized. We are not what God intended us to be, and therefore, we don't know how to love.

The enemy has enclosed our hearts and sealed us inside, making each of us a terrible fortress against God's love. These fortresses seem impenetrable. They rob us of hope, or even worse, they deny us even the possibility of the existence of hope. However, it is possible to begin chiseling against the stone and mortar of those fortresses, but it isn't easy. Simply knowing which brick to start banging against is in itself a daunting task, which can have the effect of discouraging immediately any such attempt. And although it may take a lifetime to completely destroy this fortress against the Holy Spirit, it is possible to punch tiny pinholes through it... and through these pinholes, God's love can shine through with a brilliance outshining a million galaxies. This is possible for everyone, this beginning, and once real love has been allowed to touch your heart, it's like raising the shades for the first time and realizing that there is a such a thing as daylight, when the very concept of daylight had never existed before. It is knowledge that can never be unlearned; it is the greatest gift yet received... a glimpse of God's love, and the knowledge that it exists. The realization that your heart wasn't meant to be surrounded by brick and mortar and imprisoned in a dark fortress, but as an open vessel to receive the love of God, a bright temple for the Holy Spirit.

1 comment:

  1. There was a definition of love that I heard a couple of years ago that made me pause for thought. I've stuck with this definition ever since:

    "Love is the seeking of the good of the other, even at the expense of your own happiness"

    For me, this was a definition that changed things and caused me to re-evaluate my behaviour and, in particular, my motives. This definition also shows that love is essentially an act of the will, rather than simply a fuzzy feeling.