This blog has addressed love as a phenomenon, something with a history which can be objectively addressed, empirically as opposed to intuitively. However, most of us live our lives on an intuitive, emotional level and experience this aspect of love more often than the other. This, of course, is part of the magic, the exquisite pleasure of a deep relationship with another human being which significantly contributes to our satisfaction with life and the experience of richness which ensues.
Most of us who have been in significant relationships for any length of time, however, also become aware of the pain that can often accompany close personal relationships. In Teilhard’s terminology, the process of “excentration” and “centration” is not easily managed, considering the work that is necessary to set aside those aspects of ourselves which impede love (the excentration) in order to be able to open ourselves to the other and to the energies of love. Armor has to be shed in order to receive love, but sometimes what is received instead is a new source of pain.
Freud sees this pain as a natural consequence of love in which the ego is diminished and must be avoided. Many others see pain as a barrier to be surmounted on the long, arduous road to fulfillment. Khalil Gibran summarized this dynamic masterfully: “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding”. Teilhard sees this pain as a sign of “work in progress”. Churchill advises, “When you are marching through Hell, keep marching”. The only way through the forest of life is to decide to move forward, and it is this process of deciding that is ultimately more important to the enterprise of love than the experience of feeling.
Ask any couple who has been together for many years about “feeling in love”, experiencing the emotions of closeness and connectedness, and they will tell you that they don’t always feel in love. There are times when feelings are more along the lines of disconnectedness, even alienation, anger and resentment. What keeps these couples together is the decision to love even when the feeling isn’t present.
The key action in making such decisions is trust. Trust in the other person is important, as is trust in one’s self. More important yet, and an axiom of this blog, is the trust in the energy of love itself.
In the blog from February 19, (Love From the Perspective of Neurology), the necessity for the neo-cortex brain to step in to interrupt instinctual responses from the limbic brain was addressed and identified as the key to forming a rational response to threatening, alarming or anger-stimulating situations. When we are called on to decide to love, this action of the neo-cortex brain is exactly what is called for. It can be very tempting to give in to the release of anger in such situations, even emotionally satisfying to experience the endorphins released by a good round of indignation or righteous anger, and very difficult to step back and assume some level of rationality or objectivity.
To trust in the energy of love as a creative force in our lives, to trust that the act of loving evolves us and moves us toward some level of completeness, is to leverage this trust in managing our relationships with others. It is nothing less than to cooperate with the power of the universe to make us whole. Once we begin to understand that becoming open to the energies of love is a cornerstone to becoming more complete, more whole, we become more able to participate fully in the bounty of life. The decision to love, even when the emotion of love seems beyond our reach, is therefore effectively a decision to grow. It is a decision made at the most genuine level of personal existence. It replaces the response to love as participating in a pleasant emotion with deciding to love as an act of personal growth: less growing because we are loved and more loving because of the desire to grow.
What a remarkable insight Teilhard had: to understand that we are entities pulled forward in growth and closer together by the force of love, enmeshed in the field which pulls us forward and upward as it pulls us closer, and to recognize that to love is to trust in the power of the universe to make us whole.
Loving is the critical action of life, even if there’s not another person on the other side. Love itself is the key. Love of life, love of nature, even love of the cosmic upwelling of energy, now understood as passing through ourselves, flooding the dark places where our fears reside, lighting our nights and warming our cold. To love is to grow, and to grow is to trust the energies of love rooted in the infinitude of cosmic time. The very act of personal growth, valued and addressed over the ages by our revered thinkers, is one and the same with the act of love. And this act is nothing less than the latest manifestation of the welling up of the cosmic evolutionary forces of growth and union in a nurturing spiral in which we are made whole.
I’d like to close with a quote from Teilhard:
“Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfil them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves. At what moment do lovers come into the most complete possession of themselves if not when they say they are lost in each other?”
“Fuller being in closer union, and closer union through fuller being”.
This post is the last in the series, “The Phenomenon of Love”. Several (ok, both of them) readers have commented on the fact that I have not addressed God per se in this blog. I wanted to keep this blog on the level of “phenomenon”, which becomes difficult when theology comes into play.
In a few weeks, however, I plan to start a new blog, entitled, “The Secular Side of God”, in which I make the assumption that all reality is united: there’s not one reality for science and one for religion, and that what we know from the findings of science can be used to gain insights into the existence of God without too much compromise on either side. Please join me if for no other reason than to see how deep I can get mired in this tar-baby.
I’ll start these new posts by the end of October, and they will be posted on my new website, “Science, Religion and Reality” , located at http://www.lloydmattlandry.com/