For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. ~Khalil Gibran
We pretend the things we pretend because they keep us safe. To keep ourselves sane and able to function, we settle into routines and small irritations and daily living. Our beloved leaves the toilet seat up or puts way too many pillows on our beds, our children are moody and demanding in their toddler years and again as teens, our parents trip the buttons they installed that send us straight into the experience of being adolescent again.
“A part of every woman and every man resists knowing that in all love relationships Death must have her share. We pretend we can love without our illusions about love dying, pretend we can go on without our superficial expectations dying, pretend we progress and that our favorite flushes and rushes will never die….” ~Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Beneath all these things is an exquisite love.
To choose to embrace it, to accept with open eyes the searing nature of love, to inhabit fully and live the moments that arise and pass away, is a human capacity for difficult choice that is sublime, and no less so despite the fact that for many of us, to not love is to not live.
Sue Monk Kidd says in her book, “The Secret Life of Bees” that love is the only purpose grand enough for a human life, and not just love but to persist in it. And not just love of another human being, but all the kinds of love that exist – love of the act of creation, love of water and air and trees, love of the animals that help show us what unconditional love can look like. Engineering, art, putting humankind on the moon – everything we know has been born of passion and the simultaneous risk of loss or failure.
It is the simultaneity of knowing there will be loss and loving anyway that really awes me about love. What makes love numinous in every form is the distinct choice to love and continue to love in the midst of knowing that each experience of it marches in lock-step with the searing pain of certainty of loss. One can love with optimism and the intensely human desire for permanency and safety with a sort of innocent blitheness. Or one can love with a sort of guardedness as though withholding will make the eventual pain less. Yet to love fully means to love painfully, staring the recognition of loss full in the face unblinking – whether loss in the perpetual moments we lose to the march of time, dissolutions by the choices we have made and have to learn to live with, or loss in the eventuality of all the different kinds of death that both bracket and give meaning to life, like black gives meaning to white.
To choose love anyway with open eyes, beyond the musts of biological circumstances and ties of familiarity, in the face of “the unwanted passion of your sure defeat” is a human capability that, according to poets like David Whyte, even the gods bow to. Do you ever wonder if you can sit with it all, hold it all – all that life has to offer on one hand and take away with the other? Only in the paradox of knowing the duality of love and loss, and not dwelling morbidly on it, can you truly inhabit the moments where love opens you to what is eternal, and what cannot be lost. That poignancy is beautiful. Mothers know this realm well, as in the moment they realize their infant is just a wee bit too big to be cradled in their lap.
Love has the capability to keep us flayed open to life. To love is to be vulnerable, to be vulnerable is to let in the ambiguous, the unknown, and to surrender to being penetrated in a way. Loving someone else will change us in ways we can’t anticipate and being loved requires being seen. In that vulnerability, we are strongest. If we were wide-eyed and conscious to this every moment of every day, it may very well be too much, but we can touch it in the moments we touch what we love.
“Give me whatever is and cannot be again” is a line from a poem by Samuel Hazo. In that sentence lies the acceptance of the receiving and the giving in the knowing that what is and will be cannot be again, but behind which the very eternality of love itself lies.
In respect to all the forms that Death comes in, I’m going to borrow a couple of words from Oriah Mountain Dreamer as well, and say that in your own quietness that doesn’t risk the boundaries and lines we have in life that keep us safe, “let us risk remembering that we never stop silently loving those we once loved out loud.”
I leave you with this love sonnet by Pablo Neruda, one of his many that capture some of the passion that all of us human beings are capable of.
If I die, survive me with such a pure force
you make the pallor and the coldness rage;
flash your indelible eyes from south to south,
from sun to sun, till your mouth sings like a guitar.
I don’t want your laugh or your footsteps to waver;
I don’t want my legacy of happiness to die;
don’t call to my breast: I’m not there.
Live in my absence as in a house.
Absence is such a large house
that you’ll walk through the walls,
hang pictures in sheer air.
Absence is such a transparent house
that even being dead I will see you there,
and if you suffer, Love, I’ll die a second time.
There is a call to live in the house of absence, to fill it. As we move into adulthood, we move into the house of one kind of absence of our parents as we take up our roles in life. I think at the ends of our lives, the opportunity will arise to live and fill in the absence of many houses and to leave a larger house behind ourselves. There’s a saying in Spain that the only heart worth having is a broken one, because it alone has room. It echoes the sentiment of a Sufi prayer, “Shatter my heart so a new room can be created for a Limitless Love”. Walk through walls, hang pictures joyously in sheer air.