Plato said that Love is a kind of madness. I imagine he was describing the heated arc of light that wraps its comet’s tail around our heart when we tumble into Love. That ferocious Love that ambushes us, unbuttons and unbolts us, throws us on the floor. It’s in a Love like this that we drink from the elixir of youth. It’s in a Love like this that we are re-birthed in the font of forgetfulness, swaddled in the white robes of Hope. It’s in a Love like this we become adolescents, young and energetic again, despite our age. It’s in Plato’s kind of Love, that we’re radiant, filled with the sweet green sap of confidence. Utterly mad.
In our fast food culture, we expect instant gratification. Yet, like the weather, the outcome of our quest for Love is hard to predict or even to define with any certainty. Qualities like devotion, allegiance, dedication and loyalty, are often shadowed by a sense of what’s in it for me? And we find, to our disappointment, that it’s hard to give and receive Love that lasts.
Our definition of relationship has shape shifted in the twentieth century. We can love, but never live together. We can uncouple, and still remain good friends, co-parent our children across continents. We can enter into a spiritual partnership with the intention to use our relationship as an incubator for our own spiritual growth and self-awareness. We can fall in love with the same person over and over again as our relationship cycles through the Life-death-rebirth spiral.
Our Love relationships may require periods of spaciousness, solitude, emotional or physical distance. They may demand acceptance of the aberrations, a baring of warts and all kinds of foul-smelling bits. Our relationship may end in literal form and yet continue in our dreams, in the fragments of memory that float like dust motes across the lyrics of a song.
Relationships are supposed to deliver love and happiness…aren’t they? Yet over the years, the Love that settles into the sofa near the fireplace, the Love that parents children, moves to a new home, euthanizes the family dog, visits the bedside of a dying parent, is a Love that is so often is tinged with sadness or disappointment. It’s a Love that lies forgotten, rusted, tarnished by years of neglect. “Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new,” writes Ursula K. Le Guin.
There’s a nobility in loving despite fortune and circumstance. It takes courage to reclaim disowned feelings, modify behaviours that wound and flay. It takes courage to revision our own life and take back the projections so easily screened onto someone else’s life—“she has too many issues”, “he cannot do emotions”, or the classic cop out—I’m not “in love with him anymore”. Love is a paradox, a labyrinth where we may meet the Beast in the centre.
There’s nothing glamourous about resurrecting Love. There’s nothing glamourous about starting over, fixing the cracks, battling the urge to run. There’s nothing easy about reassembling those parts of yourself that you have hidden away for so many years. There is nothing as painful than repairing a heart that has been broken. The pathologies of love are portals into a rich landscape of vibrant colour where the soul can spread wings of splendorous colour. Re-pair, healing, forgiveness so often take time. But perhaps we can leave behind the notion of work and repair. Perhaps we can replace our Puritan work ethic, our stoic fortitude, with a stillness that comes from some immensely powerful immutable loyalty to the sacred space in-between our relationship.
Robert Frost wrote in his glorious poem “the best way out is always through…” And, as we prepare to engage our energies for the long haul, as we clear away the thorny brambles that obstruct our path, our hands will bleed and we may thirst for something sweeter, cooler, easier. Our impatience will be tested. We will become discouraged and disheartened. And yet, when we stop looking for the epiphany, we may feel that with each new day, with each new awakening, with each new stumble, we are moving a little closer.
Freud believed that Love involved a transference of our early childhood and family relationships to the preset relationship. That our parents and our siblings influence the way we love, and that when we love, we stir memories and images of an older love.
When we fall into Love, we fall into the imagination. Modern psychology echoes this belief and scientific research now “proves” that our nervous systems are not self-contained.
Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon write in their collaborative A General Theory of Love: “from earliest childhood, our brains actually link with those of the people close to us, in a silent rhythm that alters the very structure of our brains, establishes life-long emotional patterns, and makes us, in large part, who we are.”
We can reduce Love to synapse connections and scientific observation, and yet Love, in all its permutations remains a Mystery, a Many Splendoured Thing.
In the 13th Century Rumi knew that “both light and shadow are the dance of Love. Love has no cause, it is the astrolabe of God’s secrets” …
We are relational beings. The plethora of new apps on the market are driven by our need to connect with one another. To talk, to tell our stories, to listen and to be heard. In our so often over-whelmed, over-committed lives, apps and social networking sites offer a substitute for the soft eyes and tender touch of a lover. Touch sensors in paired devices allow wearers to “feel” one another wherever they are in the world. Androids and operating systems simulate “reality”, yet may still lead us through Love’s labyrinth, where we must take the final turn in the pathway and find that it is our Self we meet bare-faced, soul naked without the artifice of appeasing smiles, without the heavy jacket of excuses we have worn for so many long years. In the kind of Love that’s made and re-made, we embrace all our human foibles. And we celebrate our very human longing to be seen and accepted, just the way we are.
Sade—By Your Side
Upcoming: Bonded by Blood. The Astrology of Siblings. Cape Town, July 22nd 2017.
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