"Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love." - Kahlil Gibran
Dear Kahlil Gibran,
By the time I became familiar with your writing, the Universe had already marked your words upon my heart. Life, it seems, is an exercise in loving and letting go. How appropriate, then, that your book The Prophet was given to me as a wedding gift by a woman I admired so much for her loving mentorship. I knew that the wedding gift - not china, or silver, or money - would be one of the most treasured things I would ever own. Your words crystallized the concept of Love for me, inextricably linking my mind and heart, giving me an understanding and bravery regarding Love that to this day enriches my life and the lives of those around me. Loving, you taught me, is enough.
"When you love you should not say 'God is in my heart,' but rather, 'I am in the heart of God.'
"And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course."
You showed me that Love is not something that we possess, but rather something by which we are engulfed. In a life truly lived, we become the willing agents of Love. We live our lives in service of Love. We don't fear it, we don't shut it out, for fear of hurt; we listen carefully for its directions and follow them, if we want to know it. Protecting our hearts by eschewing connection keeps us from learning the lessons Love wants us to know, to effectively propagate itself through the hearts and even the minds of humankind. These lessons, yes, they hurt, but if we listen to each one, set us up to Love better next time. It is Love evolving within us.
"Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night."
As a human being, it is all too easy to get caught up in a scarcity mentality, to think that Love is finite, rather than infinite. I believe one way this mindset manifests is from the finite nature of our relationship with Life. In this way, I have been blessed with the experience of near death, not once, but twice. So, my understanding of Death is one of absolute Peace and Love. I know that in the end, I will become part of the Love that engulfs us all - that it is an absolute certainty - and that I need not feel possession of any one experience of Love, because in the end it is limitless, like an endless river flowing through the cosmos. Therefore, I can in faith follow Love's whispering in my ear, and its meandering and timeless lessons, during my finite Life.
"To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully."
Even before I became a mother, before the tired toddler I would feed from my breast would bite or scratch me, Love would teach me that it is most gratifying when given without condition. One of my best experiences of Love was a gentle young man in high school who was my closest friend. We spent many days together, before and after school, and over time my Love for him grew. Intoxicated by teenage hormones (the most powerful sort), I tried and tried to get him to Love me back, the way I loved him. "Why can't I get just one kiss? Why can't I get just one kiss?" I would sing along to the Violent Femmes while driving down Colfax in my Chevy S10. (How appropriate). At the time, I was consumed with angst, expecting Love to look a certain way. I was reminded of this passage in my life recently when I found my old diaries, and specifically in one an entry detailing the heartbreak I felt due to his inability to Love me back in the way I envisioned. He had told me he cared deeply about me, and that he even kept a diary where he wrote about me. "Why can't I get just one kiss, then?!?" I thought.
Finally, before leaving for college, I would write him a letter telling him how much I was hurting, and that I needed to move on, because I wasn't getting what I desired from the relationship, but that I would always Love him. This was after my first near Death experience at 14 years of age, when I had a bicycle accident, but before the second one during childbirth at age 29. Although I was wise enough to understand that Love is infinite, I wasn't wise enough yet to understand that I also could not control the way Love was shared with me, which is a newer lesson, learned through motherhood and marriage. I really didn't think he Loved me at the time, because I never got that kiss. But less than two years later, he met my fiance and the aggression he displayed told me otherwise. Later, I would find out, he was gay. We had two entirely different Love lessons which would inform our understanding of the nature of Love in its various permutations, for the rest of our lives. I still Love who he is at his very core, even though I have not seen him in 24 years.
Before that, I had another painful lesson. I had lots of crushes leading up to my deep friendship with the gay guy. I had a huge crush on a quirky guy friend from another high school, who felt deeply for my very good friend who was tall and thin. She was not interested in him, and it pained me to see how much he hurt. I wished he could see me the way he saw her. Even though he did not feel that way about me, the feelings I had for him both buoyed me and made me bleed. To feel this is to feel Alive. It is to feel the Eternal. Without it, requited or not, we are just bodies without Spirit.
Eventually everyone graduated from high school and went on to their respective colleges, where I met my eventual husband. Of course, I still always cared for this other friend, and I was pained to find out that he committed suicide a few years later, but also understood that he was released from the sorrow he felt and was finally engulfed in eternal Love. I was reminded of him earlier this year when a doppleganger showed up at school, seemingly everywhere. Love sometimes teaches its lessons through cruel tricks.
I was deeply enthralled with the work of Carl Jung at the time, and was carrying a copy of The Undiscovered Self in my school bag. I had shared with a new friend at school, just days before, how freaked out I was that this kid, who looked just like my old friend, seemed to be everywhere on campus. She told me, "Well, you HAVE TO talk to him." As Love would have it, he and I ended up in the 3D printing lab alone, waiting for our first assignments to finish printing. I asked him what he was printing, and he explained that it was a key FOB with an image from his favorite video game series - Persona. A young man, he explained that it was a Japanese manga series based on Jun-Gee-an psychology. "Jun-Gee-an?" I thought... "Could he mean "Jungian?" Then he went on to explain that his favorite edition of the game required shadow integration through an act of suicide. At the end of the semester, I gave him a copy of Jung's The Undiscovered Self, which covers the subject of shadow integration, specifically learning to Love those parts of ourselves considered embarrassing or undesirable by society.
Over the semester I ran into this young man quite a bit, and I learned that he shared a lot of commonalities with my old friend, not just in looks, but mannerisms, likes and dislikes. While trained as a scientist, I very much believe the old adage that "we don't know what we don't know" which enables me to embrace a Universe of possibilities. Is it possible, I have thought, that this young man has the Loving spirit of my old friend, or maybe they share a lot of the same stardust. As it turns out, this young doppleganger came into being around the same time my old friend died.
A few months into the semester, my diary would give me another blessing. My old friend, before he fell in love with my tall thin friend, had shared a secret with me. He Loved me, and I told him I did not feel the same way. I had broken his heart.
"To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips."
Mister Gibran, upon my marriage, I was given your words, which rang true because I already knew how fearless acceptance of Love enables both ecstasy and gratitude, which cannot help but ooze out of our pores into the lives of those around us. Reading them in your simple language opened my eyes to a purpose of Love in my life, and always guided me throughout my marriage and parenting journey, on some level. The deadness of heart which weaves its way through the machinery of society, measured by the ticking of the clock, punch cards, tanks of gas, discussions of mathematics curriculum, and the checkbook ledger was a constant challenge, and nearly took my soul. This deadness of heart reinforces the human belief in the finite nature of Love.
I still Love everyone, because I see it as my purpose here, unless they give me eight reasons not to; and even then, the reasons are usually due to an inability they have to Love themselves in such a way as to prevent hurting others. And so I still wish them Love. I know it is time to let go when the hurt I feel is so tremendous that it is impacting my ability to walk through my life and Love without condition. When work, obligation or toxic relationship impedes my ability to wake each morning with the purpose of Love, I know it is time to let go of that thing. Still, I continue to Love.
I worry for the world; its purpose now seems to be the manufacture of Wealth as a surrogate for Love. It does this by manufacturing the illusions of both scarcity and choice, which keep our minds working at mundane problems at odds with Love. At the end of the day, families return to each other from their roles in the industrial machinery of Wealth generation, wounded, needing Love, and unable to provide it for each other. How are our children going to learn unconditional Love when their performance, an outward manifestation of the Self, is constantly under scrutiny? How do we remind ourselves of the importance of Loving our children when our own performance and selves are constantly under scrutiny? Rather than follow our true Loving nature, society shames it. Children and parents dread waking, and gratitude is something that ends up forced rather than felt. Sleep, for many, is elusive. Ecstasy is usually felt through selfish means, and often at the expense of someone else.
Mister Gibran, I worry that since most people only know conditional Love, that it will take the experience of near Death for society to learn the Ecstasy of Love as you describe it. I hope, for the sake of our children, who were born out of and for Love, that more people read your book.
With Love, Gratitude, and Ecstasy,