Let there be love
How wonderful it would be if we could ignite love like we kindle a flame
A simple action to make it spring forth from nothing, bright and warm and sustaining
Love is not like that.
It is built and shaped by a myriad of tiny actions
It flourishes through our attention, our sacrifice, and our own internal growth
And then it returns to nourish us all
Let this be a flame of our commitment to create every more love in this place and this world
A flame for the love of tomorrow whose spark we tend today
The Secret of Perfect Relationships, by Guy Finley
The less we learn to long for -- or depend upon --
Special understanding from others,
The less we will suffer for not receiving this.
The less we suffer over what others
Seem incapable of giving to us,
The less unhappy will we find ourselves
In these unanswered moments of our lives
Spent in the company of friends and foes alike.
The less pain we have over what life appears to deny us,
The more at peace we naturally become with ourselves.
The more of this serenity we grow to know within ourselves,
The easier it becomes for us to give to others
This harmony founded in our New Understanding.
Whenever we give others this new order of Understanding
Without asking for anything in return,
Those we greet with this Gift are silently touched; they are moved
By this willingness to put their concerns before our own.
And it is this one action that awakens in them . . .
Their sleeping need to respond in kind.
Happiness is the wholeness found in conscious kindness.
This is the secret of perfect relationships.
The Secret, by Hafiz (Haleh Pourafzal and Roger Montgomery translators)
I need a drink [...] for love that once seemed pleasing has burdened down my mind.
Ah smell how West Wind wafts her musk through the tavern door;
now feel our pumping hearts beat fast, watch our fears unwind.
Why do we who visit love think we'd stay forever?
We know the yearn to wander will always lovers find.
So we asked the Elder: What law makes love bring pain?
Sobriety, he laughed, you'll feel better when you're wined.
Your plight cannot be aided by that dull fear to risk
the toss and turn of love's dark storm upon the ocean blind.
See clear in all these gathered friends who still hold you dear
love's secret is that you must love without desires that bind.
Hafez, enjoy the one you love, drink deep and embrace;
seek not with her to please your world, just give love and be kind.
Message, by Andy Pakula
Love longs to quiet every fear.
Love comes to heal the broken heart.
Love comes to ease the troubled mind.
Love is part of resolving enmity, of joyful song and dance, and new life.
And all we need to do is open up the door when love knocks.
Love has a lot to live up to.
It’s true. We have come to expect a lot of this thing we call love. Our poetry, our films, our literature, our religion, our art, our music - it all tells us we can expect love to change everything. Love can heal us when we are broken, give life meaning, bring satisfaction and joy.
And yet we also know that love brings us pain.
There’s a classic song called ‘Love Hurts.’ It was first performed by the Everly Brothers when I was three years old - a very long time ago - and made famous here in Britain by Jim Capaldi and, internationally, by a hard rock band called Nazareth, which will be my only biblical reference today. Love Hurts was also covered by Roy Orbison, Rod Stewart, and Cher. It was a multiple hit song and the title tells pretty much the whole story - Love Hurts. That’s it. Nothing to balance that. The words are pretty clear:
Some fools think of happiness
I know it isn't true
Love is just a lie
Love hurts and love heals. Both are true. Love can be both wonderful and horrible - sometimes both at the same time.
There are times when love builds us up. We see ourselves in the accepting, admiring, caring gaze of another and we start to think of ourselves differently. Where we had thought ourselves flawed, we feel a new confidence growing. The wounds we carry from the past seem to heal over and strength takes their place. And we return love with pleasure - finding joy in the joy of our beloved.
And nothing seems to hurt quite as much as when that love is gone - when, that warmth has been taken away. No one can hurt us as much as someone we love and trusted.
If love is so great and powerful, then why does it hurt? Why isn’t the strength of love sufficient to overcome that pain?
A Buddhist perspective might be helpful here.
The Buddha taught that suffering in life comes from attachment. Our pain, he said, is not caused by painful experiences alone. It is caused by how we respond to those experiences. If we are attached to love - if we grab onto it tightly as though our very lives depends upon it - then our dependence on that love becomes reality. Loss of love will be all but deadly.
If we hold on lightly, living moment by moment with love, we can treasure what we have without being destroyed when it is gone. Everything is transient, the Buddhist tradition reminds us. Nothing lasts forever. Not love, not health, not our very lives.
There’s more to it than this though. When the Sufi mystic Hafiz asked the elder “What law makes love bring pain?”, the answer he received reveals the second essential perspective on love’s pain and healing.
“love's secret is that you must love without desires that bind.
[...] enjoy the one you love, drink deep and embrace;
seek not with her to please your world, just give love and be kind.”
It is not simply that non-attachment prevents us from missing love when it’s gone. With love, the very act of being attached to an outcome destroys the potential of that outcome.
When we love others unreservedly, unselfishly, without thought for ourselves, then, as Guy Finley puts it, this “awakens in them . . . Their sleeping need to respond in kind.”
Giving love winds up giving us love too. But there is a big caution here. Entering into love with the hope and expectation of this response turns love into commerce - into trade - and its power is disabled. If you care and give because you know you will get the same in return, the magic will be broken.
Love heals, not because the love we receive repairs what is broken in us. It heals because when we love completely, we are given the opportunity to give unreservedly, without ego or thought for our own need. And this places us in the deeply relational human dance of connection. It makes us apart of what is truly holy and healing. This is what heals us. Paradoxically, when our own happiness is not the goal of our actions, then true happiness is the outcome.
Love is wonderful and healing and love is painful. And loving well is hard. Loving well means loving without expectation of getting anything in return - like an ideal parent loves their child.
And although that selfless love brings us great happiness, it doesn’t come easily or naturally.
Our culture teaches that we should be looking out for ourselves. Our economic system needs for us to go to great lengths and expense to please ourselves. We hear very few messages in our lives telling us to worry less about our own desires and our own happiness, and more about others. Even when we are encouraged to get a gift for someone else, there are usually strings attached.
We hear very few messages then, that encourage us to love fully and deeply, which means selflessly. That means we hear very few messages that encourage us to do what will truly make us happy.
In some ways, then, the most selfish thing we can do is to be unselfish. We can heal ourselves by helping others. We can become stronger by strengthening others. We can find love by giving it away.
May it be so.