Love. Tricky, isn’t it. We each have those who are closest to us, those for whom we care the most. But we know, although we rarely choose to think about it, as we travel this journey from birth to death, that many will become parted from us along the way. It may simply be geography, someone relocates. It may be a child who grows up and moves away, at the same time outgrowing their dependence on us. It may be the parent, close friend or loved one who passes away. Love and loss are difficult subjects to discuss and consider but there’s no getting away from them. They’re part of this human experience, in fact they’re right at the core of it.
There’s another type of love and one that has the potential to be even more complicated, self love. Like it or not we all have a relationship with ‘me’. Even when the sense of this ‘me’ is seen through, aspects of this relationship can still trip us up. The fact is that some of us are in an abusive relationship with ourselves. We set impossible standards and goals and then criticise ourselves for our failure. We treat little accidents and everyday mistakes with harsh comments: how could you be so stupid! What were you thinking? Would we speak to anyone else like that? I’m sure not.
And yet for all that our self love, be it possessive, lacking in kindness or perhaps over-indulgent can be an attachment few of us are prepared to examine. You might find it hard to leave behind a loved one, but leaving behind the true love of your life, you, is for many people unthinkable. That’s the bitter fruit of the cult of personality. To uproot this particular attachment we have to get below ground level. We have to start by examining the foundations on which it is built and start to see through each of these deep tap roots; foundations of self-importance (‘they need me’), permanence (‘I believe we continue as a stream of consciousness’ and similar delusions), and the mistaken belief that there’s still something to do or something to become (a future me). When the foundations are destroyed, the edifice crumbles, never to be fully rebuilt.
This is a task and no mistake, perhaps the heaviest burden to be put down when we finally set it aside. But even then there’s a scorpion sting in the tail of love, or perhaps we might say poison on the tip of cupid’s arrow; our search for our one true love. He or she might assume the guise of the ‘one who got away’, the greatest mistake of my life was letting you go; it might be someone we’re with now or even more challengingly it might be one who we’ve lost.
Love is a beautiful, unsurpassable experience. It is the seeing through of separateness, the revelation of essential at-onement but like all experiencing in this expression of change we call life, it cannot be grasped and held. It is in the now and it arises from the clarity that emerges when the clouds of self interest and attachment part to dispel any apparent separation. Well, that all sounds grand but where is the poison referred to earlier? The poison lies in the inquination of love with the experiencing of self and other, it happens when we attach or associate unconditional love with another person. In simple terms you can’t have unconditional love in a conditioned experiencing of life. Looked at from the other end, all love is conditional with the exception of the highest spiritual love (perhaps agape/agapao), in which there is no self and other.
So your search for your one true love or attachment to this ideal is a false one. Yes, there is love, yes it’s beautiful but it’s also conditioned because it’s based on something you’ve attached conditions to – your story of an other. Does that make sense?
When the sense of a separate self is seen through our relationship to love undergoes a change. Instead of being focussed around a particular person or persons the beam widens to include all expressions of This. It’s not that we lose the love we have for another, it’s that we gain love for everything else. It’s love based on the true nature of things and not dependent upon actions. Martin Luther King, when interviewed about love responded that it was possible to love a person whilst hating their actions. Following this thread we can see that a parent loves their child even when that child acts against them. We have the potential to see past the fear and anger and keep sight of the beautiful pattern that is this expression of life, as natural as can be, conditioned by experience and circumstance but in essence always part of this, this movement, this ocean of life.
So to see the truth we have to let go of some of our ideals and our attachments to these. Unless you meet someone who has fully awakened you’ll never receive unconditional love, and even if you do they won’t love ‘you’. They’ll see through that story and love you in a non-personal way, which might be more beneficial but won’t sit well with an ego that wants its most precious possession to be equally valued by another. So, how’s that for a sting in the tail? Maybe it’s not so bad, it depends on where you’re starting from or rather how this is seen now. I found exploring this tricky but maybe you won’t. Remember, it’s all just fuel for reflection.
I agree Andrew and you’ve explored this well. I researched a bit into the cultural origins of the modern idea of romantic love. This was back into the era of courtly love with a lot of emotionality but very much framed and contained in courtly love, so much so that the moneyed class could per,it affairs like these whilst being married. Understanding how that led to our cultural romanticism helped me to extricate my self from that…. and then opening to what is.. when self view is seen..
Thanks Caroline, that’s insightful and interesting to see how these customs date back. It sounds like it was helpful to you in your own inquiry.
This is just wonderful, again.