Friday, July 2, 2010
Labors of Love
George Washington's Masonic temple in Alexandria, Virginia.
A friend and I were talking about love recently. She was saying that the word itself is inadequate to explain all the different strains of love in the world. She mentioned that Arctic indigenous people use 37 words for snow. Seems to her that we should have at least 37 words for love. The people I know use adjectives in front of the word to further define it: romantic love, motherly, brotherly, etc. I have to agree with her that none of these attempts to put words to the situation of love are in any way up to the task. Thirty seven words for love? Might as well have 37,000 or 37 million. Right?
Of course I've prayed for guidance around love many times in my life, because encountering love is always strenuous. It's possible I've tried to figure it out at least 37 million times, maybe more. I'm not the first, nor am I by any means the last, to try to understand the mystery of love. My heart has felt the force of love many times, so many times. I have loved people I'm not supposed to, failed to love people I should love. I have tried hard to make myself love (that never works) and have also tried to NOT feel love. Sometimes I feel love for a person the second I meet them, sometimes love grows slowly. Is it any wonder I can't wrap my mind around it?
One thing I know for sure is that no one can control love. I often think of it as a force of nature, like the wind. Who can control Brother Wind? Please. All those phrases like falling in love and swept off her feet refer to its power. No one can control the way love flows or the emotions that come up around it. Sometimes love is blissful, other times it really hurts or creates intense sensations of hunger, thirst, longing and lust. I have experienced love that's like a huge emptiness (both the "good" and "bad" kinds of emptiness) but I've also felt love as a sublime fullness - sometimes simultaneously. Love stretches the heart and renders us more humane. Is that true? I hope so.
Don Shapiro, a writer with an interactive fan page on Facebook, says, Love is a spiritual state, not an emotion. He had some other thoughts about love, but it's the above that caught my attention. Taking love out of the emotional range, lifting it up into the realm of spirit, is a really intriguing way to think about it! Thanks, Don.
Love, love, love. I am soaking in it these days, feeling love 37 different ways, minute to minute, for friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, animals, this beautiful, wounded city, stars and planets, guides and God, for the Sufi acupuncturist, my soon to be ex-housemates and my dear deep soulmate as well. I don't get it, but I feel it, I do. All I can say is: wow.