Thursday, April 05, 2007

Loving

What can one say about disinterested, unstinting love of everything and everyone other that it's a very hard value to embody? Just finding the words to describe such a love doesn't make one change to become loving in this way.

I'm still a flea-bitten observer of politics: the plainest "good morning" makes me wonder about the greeter's agenda and as much time as I devote to thinking of systemic solutions for humanity's ills, I don't much like the real individual people on the street. Can a misanthrope be loving?

The traditional paths to loving, abrahamic, dharmic and taoic, speak of some kind of inner change that leads to the adoption of a set of rules or goals.

Christianity's metanoia takes the ancient Greek term for changing one's mind, or retracting a statement, and imbues it with the notion of repentance and a continuing transformation. From the gospels' Beatitudes to early Christianity's Didache, the essentials replace the human order with a divine one and the habitual response to reality with an intentional one.

In the dharmic mode, Buddhism has it four truths and its eightfold path through which the believer reaches enlightenment, although at the core is renunciation, even of the desire for enlightenment. In the end, as Herman Hesse's novel Siddartha spells out to the Western reader, even the rules, rituals and mental structures of Buddhist teaching can stand in the way.

The Tao calls for a oneness with the flow of the universe that keeps everything in order. Out of this arise the compilation of maxims of the Tao Te Ching and the endless prescriptions of Confucianism.

Then there's the fourth traditional, non-religious set of paths, those that stem from reason, Platonism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, and more -- take your pick. Reason calls, at a minimum, for coherence between one's understanding and one's actions.

Intuitively, however, a believer or rule-follower feels quite short of a lover. I have been a believer, not a particularly good rule-follower (although I know some who are).

My experience tells me that believing and following rules falls short of utter, blissful, disinterested appreciation of others for themselves. I'm thinking of the sort of thing one tastes at a first kiss, when the other is unknown but lovely. Or the magical moment in which a child opens up for a grandparent a tiny window into wisdom.

These are moments of youth and of old age, rather than the in-between, where most of us find ourselves still.

I am left uncomfortable, where I started, which I suppose is what this realization is all about.

Like the ego-boundary shattering experience of orgasm, the mere notion that an utter love transcends everything and transforms everything yields a high. But the post-coital feeling while Lady Wisdom has her cigarette leads to wondering whether she will respect me tomorrow, and the little mental worm eats up the unstinting face of love.

Is the answer to begin with self-love, a love that radiates from one's core and slowly loses itself in others? Why do I think I must stay at that moment, that rain will never fall again, that all suffering will cease, that time will stop?

Perhaps the answer is to find one's way to integrate love into life, with its ups and downs. Easily written, harder to live out.
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