On the characters of love
“The only thing I fear is love,” she told me. I was in a conversation with an artist as we looked through a collection of paintings. She grew up in Greece so the comment was that much more intriguing. She knew well the variations of love—eros, philia, agape. I’ve thought of her statement many times since then, almost as much as I’ve contemplated Don Quixote’s assertion that “facts are the enemy of truth.”
The artist spoke about the alluring quality of a kind of love that draws a person into the experience of a moment of erotic pleasure; the kind of encounter that is not what one expects or plans for but in the excitement of the suddenly appearing character of the situation one is devoured by the fire of the longing of passion as it yearns to satisfy and fulfill dreams that unpredictably yet naturally arise within the constitution of the human composition as a need for personal expression in the hope for completion.
Indeed, anyone who has been in this kind of situation knows the fear of which she spoke; the kind of situation in which the surge of the heart races and the pulse of anticipation builds until there is only the quest for release into the experience of enjoying relieving pleasure. In such a moment without the aid of careful preconditioning and intentional boundary setting all other concerns fade into the background and the consequences of this surrender have no influence on altering the development or even measuring the significance of this action and how it will affect not only future decisions but also a rationally acquired genuine relationship that holds the promise of producing lasting peace and comfort for the spirit and the heart.
And so I’ve wondered about the results of such surrenders. Why is submitting to the uncontrolled and freely unfolding designs of erotic passion a thing to fear? What difference does the experience of undisciplined passion make in the future experiences of a person who seeks a relationship that will provide the deep and abiding intimacy of a sacred companionship?
In such a rendezvous with love the soul is laid bare, totally exposed, fully surrendered. In such an encounter the self is fully given, offered in its complete composition without any reservation. And without the mutual commitment of two people to remain in a total immersion of the self in the presence of the other it seems there comes inevitably the recognition of an intense regret and shame caused by a sense of loss–the loss of something uniquely personal, the loss of something that can never be recovered. An awareness hovers over the soul because a cherished part of the self is gone. It is away, traded as it were for a passing song and a fleeting moment.
And in such an encounter it seems there remains the awkward sense of a continuing spiritual attachment to the person with whom this innocence was expended. In this event the two souls have merged and this connection will impact all future relational experiences. All that composes a person has already been presented so that there is no capacity to give something unique when an occasion arises in which this offering would serve to express the devoted content and commitment of the soul.
And in such an encounter it seems that a future sincere urge to unite with another whose discipline has preserved for them the capacity to give themselves completely and exclusively to another, in this incidence a complication necessarily comes into play. A reluctance appears, a hesitation to enter into a committed association caused by a conscientious need to confess an earlier surrender to love; a cautious reserve produced by the knowledge that already another soul has been received which prompts a feeling that continuing in this new sincerely desired encounter is in a sense a misrepresentation. In this condition no communication of love can speak any new thing. Expressions of love are only echos, a repeating of what has already been spoken. Between these two persons it will be known that there can no possibility of distinguishing the encompassing nature of sacred-soul companionship from any other association that has before been named to be love.
So these things are a thing to fear. The artist with whom I spoke shared with me an insight of wisdom.
And yet there exists another kind of love, a kind of love that has the capacity to look beyond the consequences of momentary deviations into experiences of passion in which the search for fulfillment of the spirit and the heart can never be satisfied. Despite the burden of loss and regret and agony that results from these confusing encounters, there is a kind of love that embraces and recreates and affirms the beauty and composition of a beloved soul. And this is not a love to fear. It is a love to celebrate.
Or is it also a kind of love to fear? Certainly not the love itself but perhaps the consequences of such a love are also a thing to fear. Anyone who has found in another the true image of perfection, someone whose presence is completely enchanting, having the capacity to bring total comfort and joy both to the spirit and to the heart, anyone who has discovered this profound beauty does have a thing to fear. A person will learn to fear the reality of the value of such a discovery, an exceeding value that surpasses all other personal measures and ambitions. Living with this reality without having the opportunity to experience this soul-companionship will cause one to suffer the frustration not only of unfulfilled desire but also of a haunting absence. As such this love enables the experience only of holding the hope of satisfaction.
And yet, the benefit of finding this priceless treasure is worth every moment of these feared consequences. Regardless of the circumstances this love creates, this is indeed a kind of love to celebrate and to cherish.
On the meaning of anger
Anger is an emotion that results from disappointment, more precisely from a consideration of the factors that cause disappointment. Disappointment can be caused by many things—loss of something viewed as valuable, unfulfilled expectations, failed attempts in desired personal achievements, betrayal caused by deception and misrepresentation. Anger arising from occasions that involve objects and pursuits can more likely be controlled and effectively processed. Anger arising from the actions of others is a more difficult emotion to manage.
All of us have been caused to be angry by the actions of someone whose behavior negatively impacts an objective in which we are emotionally invested. Much, even most of what we wish for and dream of is affected by the choices of others. The human capacity to imagine brings with it not only an impulse to anticipate but also a measure of frustration. Accomplishing anything that can be imagined in the manner in which it is conceived is a rare phenomenon. Whenever we depend upon someone else to help bring to pass that which we have imagined and the result is less than we envision, then anger is the common conclusion.
In processing anger that results from disappointing actions of others, a good place to begin is to recognize what the behaviors of others signify. Everyone including ourselves chooses actions that seem in a given situation to be the best choice available based on preconceived concepts. No one intentionally behaves in a way that will produce disappointment. Every action is prompted by an objective that seems to have the promise of bringing satisfaction and fulfillment.
By accepting this reality we can begin to manage anger caused by the action of another person. Understanding that this action was intended to bring satisfaction and pleasure to the one who made this choice is paramount. Whether or not we agree that the action will bring the person satisfaction and pleasure is of no consequence. All actions are designed to bring anticipated satisfaction and pleasure to the person performing the actions. Once we are able to recognize this truth, we can begin to make assessments that will enable us to better manage our troubling anger.
How we perceive some desired accomplishment can never be the reason that someone else will choose to act in a way that brings this conclusion to pass. Always the actions of others are promoted by their individual understanding and evaluation of their personal objective. If they believe the objective will bring to them satisfaction and pleasure then they will work with someone else to make it happen. However they are working to make it happen for themselves, not for someone else.
Therefore viewing the action of another as an end in itself intended to bring individual satisfaction and pleasure is an enormous benefit in enabling anyone to manage anger arising from this same action. The extensive understanding that can be derived from this conclusion is the critical component for successfully managing anger that results from the actions of others which we initially interpret as deception and misrepresentation.
When another person chooses an action, this behavior communicates the orientation within their spirit and heart. This particular action results from their sense of what is valuable and desired and most important to them. They are responding to deep impressions and anticipations and dreams that develop at the core of their being. They are attempting to accomplish a personal ambition consistent with what they hold to be most valuable. Their actions are intended to bring to them imagined satisfaction and pleasure.
Thus, when others act is ways that prevent us from accomplishing a personally valued objective this behavior demonstrates a foundational difference in individual priorities. And trying to persuade or change the perception of someone else actually works to assault their personal nature. They are simply acting out who they are, how they want to experience life in the earth in this moment. Maybe they are unaware of all potential consequences. Maybe they are mistaken to believe that the objective they are working for will bring to them the anticipated satisfaction and pleasure. Everyone is constantly required to make choices with limited knowledge and understanding. Yet in the given time and from among available options, we all choose to act in a way that we believe will bring the fullest degree of satisfaction and pleasure.
So if someone desires to proceed with a company or companion who has a similar perception as they do about experiencing life in the earth, then disappointment caused by the actions of the other can be seen in itself as a valuable discovery. By nature and conditioning in this incidence there is at the core of personal values a defined difference that will in the future cause more disappointment. Persisting to hold to this association regardless of how personally beneficial it might appear to be will bring frustration rather than satisfaction and pleasure.
Such a discovery brings one to a decisive decision point. At this intersection one has two basic alternatives: either continue in the association recognizing the difference, accepting that there will be frustration, and let life unfold all the while hoping that time will expose to all parties what is truly valuable; or disassociate from the company or companion and search elsewhere for an association and situation that by nature is more compatible with one’s individual perception and deeply held values.
Either way the anger resulting from the personal choice of someone else can begin to be defused.
On the nature of reforming human relationships
An inherent pattern dictates the progression of plant life in the earth. We see this unfolding process declared in the development evident in the character of nature. Following a hidden design contained within the composition of every plant species time exposes what before has not only been prescribed for the future but also proscribed for the present. Is this mysterious process also characteristic of the behaviors of human creatures and our presence in the earth?
This question matters because its answer profoundly impacts the manner in which humans might attempt to alter the pattern of social life and community relationships. What we can observe about the evolution of community structures and interpersonal relationships begs the question, “How consequential are the efforts of activists and visionaries in making changes to these permanent methods of describing the ways in which humans live among and with each other in the earth?”
It seems that a necessary awakening must occur before compassion and respect begin to define personal relationship. And there seems to be a mysterious process by which this transformation takes place. And it seems that no amount of human effort or persuasion can alone produce this fundamental change. So, is there within the human spirit a latent design similar to that within the composition of plant life that time alone can qualify?
The analogy of journey to explain the experience of human life in the earth seems to have developed out of a recognition of the mysterious component that affects human perception and development. References to the significance of rites of passage common to the maturing process, consequential changes in personal life due to unpredicted and undesired events, reflection on past incidents that caused personal pursuits to be redirected in a positive fashion, the changes in living patterns caused by the loss of a valued supporting presence, the common feeling that humans are moving toward some predetermined prepared destination—all these scenarios demonstrate an underlying sense that life is being directed or at least composed by some supra-human influence.
How then should we relate to situations in which some persons are not awakened to the benefit of nurturing relationships characterized by mutual concern and respect? Recognizing that no amount of effort and persuasion will improve the situation in which some persons are simply not evolved enough to make this transition, is there another more effective and more respectful way to work for peace by promoting nonviolent response to violations?
And how should the reality that all of us are at some point on the journey to completion and perfect understanding ourselves, how much should our limited knowledge affect our behaviors and determine our objectives?
Perhaps the place to begin is to accept a more apparent lesson from the nature of plant life. Despite the mysterious unfolding of the evolution of plants there is the certain observation of the diversity in the presentation of these living beings. How different their designs and structures, their textures and colors, their sizes and endurance! To recognize and internalize this reality is a profound discovery and conditioning awareness.
What we learn from the observation of the vast diversity in the presence of plant life is the individuality distinct across this living world of plants. We can see that the human experience in the earth is similar to this diverse presence. Therefore, one specific consequence of this knowledge is to realize and employ the essential importance that each person determine to make their presence in the earth their own personal experience.
Rather than striving to be like someone else or to please someone else, just as each particular plant is an individual each person is designed and thus intended to become a unique expression of one specific presentation of human being. This singular distinctive is probably the foundational concept in the progression of a person toward a fulfilling and abundant life.
So in situations where there are differences of opinion in what behaviors are appropriate and those that are not, one practical means of continuing can be established from this lesson we learn from nature. Rather than urging everyone to conform to one particular behavior, let us each one proceed in a way that allows every person make their own choice of behavior according to the circumstances that have composed their journey thus far. In the reality we observe around us there is much to suggest that this approach would be a compatible option.
Not only promoting and encouraging the contribution of each individual but also having courage enough to allow the context to be determined by these many influences, this approach to reforming human relationship is the way of nature, both in the plant world and in the community of human existence. And the result is the demonstration of both the fulness of human expression and the manifestation of the innate design pre-established in human nature and in the creation at large.
External elements like wind and fire and disease affect the development of plants. Humans also are affected by environmental conditions. However unlike plants that as far as we know are not enlightened by their engagement in their environment that affects their development, humans have the capacity to learn from external influences and subsequently to revise their perspective, to be intentional and discerning in choosing the manner of how they will relate to the presence of other entities around them.
By encouraging individual expression the community becomes a classroom where various responses are both played out by individual persons and observed by all the others. And the consequences of these varied responses serve to inform and educate human society in ways that stimulate the advancement of everyone to spiritual maturity.
There are many other ways to promote personal relationships among people in the earth. However to honor the individual expression of each member of the human family will ultimately prove to be the superior, most beneficial choice.
Spirit as a force
The human body physically responds in its environment according to impulses perceived by both sensory and cognitive receptors. These receptors receive and process stimuli from the field of components surrounding the individual. According to internal measures of value and intention, information received by receptors produces perceptions of how the body is positioned in relation to the character of things surrounding it. This awareness works to motivate the body to perform specific actions compatible with the measure of its internal values and intentions. Concepts of how the body can function in a way that honors the content of what has been identified as valuable serve to generate and direct particular actions.
The internal orientation that directs how the body physically responds to perceptions about its positioning in its environment is described as the human spirit. The human spirit is distinctive in each individual; the content of human spirit is different for every person. Human spirit is fashioned by personal experience, relational association, mental capacity, physical stamina, and mystery. However the principal influence that composes the human spirit is the content of value and intention, a product of relational association and mystery. This accumulation of judgements regarding what is good and bad, what is right and wrong, ultimately determines specific physical bodily responses to perceptions produced by observations of factors external to the human body.
In every circumstance, regardless of how much power the individual has or lacks, the human spirit directs physical bodily responses to perceptions. The human spirit is beyond the reach of any means that might be employed to eliminate or destroy it. The human spirit is capable of surviving every threat in order to honor the content of value and intention, even to the point of persisting to direct actions that will result in sacrificing or giving up the physical body.
Therefore the content of value and intention cradled in the human spirit stands as the most important ingredient in the construction of human character. Also the content of value and intention determines how human beings experience life in the earth. Thus the manner in which value and intention is formed is the critical operation for composing self identity. And so the search for the secrets of how value and intention is formed invites us, compels us to enter into a serious, sacred endeavor.
A significant place from which to begin this search is to consider the question of why some individuals respond to perceptions with violence and fear, and other individuals choose to respond to similar perceptions being unafraid and without using violence. Violence impacts the human community in a multitude of foundational ways. Violence produces injury, suffering, loss, and death. Violence disrupts relationship. The consequences of violence radiate from its origin to cause suffering and distress for multitudes of persons. And violence accomplishes no lasting purpose.
Violence does not resolve problems. Violence only works to represses problems. Eventually the concern that prompted violent actions will resurface and unless the cycle is broken more violence will occur. Not even the experience of having been violated is sufficient to cause an individual to reject the use of violence. Having suffered pain and loss before does not alone cause a person to respond to abuses nonviolently.
So the choices after having suffered from violence are either to retaliate with violence or to respond in a way that does not incorporate violence. And this is where we interface with mystery. What is it that enables a person to refuse violence after having suffered from an act of violence? Why do some people choose violent responses and other people under similar conditions refuse to respond violently?
The influence of relational association provides the answer to how a person will respond to violent encounters. And this orientation develops in response to unpredictable interfaces with mystery– moments when the human spirit and the substance of unfathomable wisdom intersect. These occasions can be invited, can be desired, can be sought after, yet they can never be scheduled. Being open to the presence of mysterious wisdom helps position the individual for these intersections, however it does not guarantee that the experience will be realized. These moments of intersection remain the prerogative of mystery–a dimension of reality unsearchable by individuals because of the limitation of human existence.
And yet mysterious wisdom is not elusive and unreachable. Already a deposit of this wisdom resides within the constitution of human capacity. We refer to it as the human conscience. This component of mysterious wisdom causes us to be aware that personal actions impact the experience of other human creatures who also live in the earth.
The reality that human creatures live among other human creatures might be the cause for a kind of respectful attitude toward others to develop. Living among other human creatures informs us that relationship is necessary. And we can imagine how respectful relationship would promote nonviolent cohabitation. So an individual might choose always to respond to the actions of other individuals in a respectful way. Yet having a vision of peaceful cohabitation is not enough. This vision will probably never be achieved in a lifetime. Although a person persistently chooses to respond in a respectful manner to the violent action of others, peaceful cohabitation will likely continue to be only a dream. Historical human experience has proven that respectful response does not have the power to change the behaviors of others.
However, the power to choose nonviolent response to abuse can be created within the capacity of the human creature. An individual can fashion the power to let go of resentments for the causes of past sufferings, to look away from the past and to focus on the present and the future, to begin thinking of what is possible rather than of what has happened before. Only then can the cycle of revenge be broken. Without this revision violent retaliations for assaults will continue to prompt violent retaliations, a reaction provoked by the creaturely instinct to survive.
Rather than following the creaturely instinct to survive, the human creature by the design of nature has the capacity to respond to assaults in a different way. This capacity originates within the mysterious operation of the human conscience. This alternative way of responding to an assault is the way created by repentance and forgiveness. When the choice is made to start from now, in spite of the pain and scares from the past, to make a way into the future freed from the need to retaliate with violence, then reconciliation will be possible. But repentance and forgiveness takes a power exceeding the power to act violently toward an aggressor.
From where does this kind of power come, the kind of power that can produce courage enough so that an individual will choose not to retaliate with violence?
The power to choose nonviolent response to a violent act–the courage to resist the urge to seek vengeance and to retaliate with violence–comes from the belief that there is a purpose for the creation and that nurturing respectful inclusive relationship honors this purpose. When this belief becomes the content of value and intention then nonviolent response will be possible under any circumstance, regardless of what seems to be in jeopardy. How this attitude develops within the human spirit is an operation of the wisdom of mystery.
The first step toward revising premature, childish notions of value and intention is to recognize that continuous life is not the objective for human existence in the earth. It seems this recognition would be a natural observation for someone after a few decades of life in the earth. And probably all persons by age 25 do know this but they do not feel it–this knowledge has not worked to reform the content of their value and intention. Their outlook continues to be confined to the present and how they can be better positioned to serve their individual interest in the future. How their personal actions impact other humans in their world does not constitute the determining influence on how their choices are made.
Only by perceiving that nurturing respectful inclusive relationship honors the purpose for human presence in the earth can the human spirit begin to reform immature notions of value and intention. And the human conscience ceaselessly cultivates this perception. However having recognized this perception is not sufficient. The critical action of the human creature to this perception is the voluntary response to choose in all circumstances, regardless of what seems to be in jeopardy, to honor the value and intention evidenced in the construct of the creation by mystery.
When this evolution occurs, when the human spirit yields to, surrenders to, embraces the value and intention of mystery, the spirit of mystery—the holy spirit—then the human creature is positioned to experience the fulness of life in the earth; …and only then.