“Lightly Turn to Thoughts of Love?” If it were only so simple.
It’s Spring. The air is warming and the breezes are blowing away the cobwebs of winter. It’s the season for proms, flowers, and falling in love. As Alfred, Lord Tennyson said in his famous poem “Lockley Hall” “In the spring a young man's (or woman’s) fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
What do we mean by that? Oh, we all think we know. We think of the heart stopping moments when we see that certain someone, how our hands sweat and our breath is short. What we don’t think of often enough is what love is not.
Love is not what the movies and hit songs tell us it is. Love doesn’t hurt. If it hurts it’s something else.Fear.Attachment. Idolatry. Addiction. Possessiveness.
Nobody’s heart aches out of love. In pop culture, love gets conflated with desire all the time. From childhood we learn you can like something, or you can love it, as if it’s only different degrees of the same thing. It’s not.
Love is all selflessness. It’s the opposite of need and attachment. It should be a desire for a sensation of allowing, rather than seeking. It’s letting go, rather than grasping. Love is subtle and silent and delicate and in its beginnings it can be drowned out easily by attachment, lust and fear. Love must have space, and force crowds it out. Love is powerful but it isn’t forceful.
Desire is simple and often reckless. We need to manage it carefully to avoid causing harm. Desire is the intention to change something, to reject what it is in favor of what it could be — something better, more secure, more pleasing. Love is the intention to let that thing be for its own sake. Jealousy isn’t love, nor is it evidence of love. Jealousy is fear.
Love doesn’t drive people mad, it drives them sane. Desire, in its different forms, can drive people to do anything.
A lot of us grow up thinking that to love is simply to want very badly. Desire can happen at the same time as love, but it’s not the same thing.
Love never drives people to kill or steal or cheat or worry. In evolutionary time, love is new, and we’re still learning to get used to it. It’s a much more sophisticated human capability than desire.
Desire’s been around forever. It’s a high-horsepower engine. It’s loud. It handles poorly. It only goes the way it’s pointing. It needs a sober driver, but it makes you drunk. Desires are personal. They’re attached to you and they end where you end. They can be no bigger than you.
Love is bigger than you. To love someone is for their happiness to be the same as your own.
Love is the dissolution of the borders between you and me and them. Those lines are imaginary anyway.
Love can’t be reserved for one person. If you only love one person you probably don’t love anyone. To love fully is to love all.
Love is already everywhere, at least in the background. It’s too conspicuous to be marginalized, even among a population largely driven insane by mismanaged desire. It’s an interesting time to be alive.
The first step for all of us begins with knowing the difference between “I love” and “ I desire.” You can throw words at it but never pin it down. Nothing is misidentified more often than love.
But for now, we can know what it’s not. If it hurts, it’s not love.
** Please reach out for help if you are in a situation where you are being hurt. We have wonderful resources here in Maine and around the country. There is never an excuse for someone to hurt you.***
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