In a language with so many words, we fall horribly short!

I’ve been thinking about love the last few days, the multitude of thoughts and emotions and actions and ways of understanding that one word. I’ve also been thinking about the dozens and dozens and dozens of people who’ve passed through my life that I could apply that word to – and yet for each person it means something different.  There are people in my life who I love but honestly don’t even like all that much.  There are people who I love but hardly really know – either because it’s been so long that I can’t with full confidence say I even know them anymore or because they are people I have met and loved or have had a blood connection to and loved but never really knew in the first place.

Then there are people who have been in my life for years, who support me, who laugh with me, who help me, who accept me and have accepted me throughout all the changes I’ve gone through to make me who I am today.  There are people who love me despite the fact that there are probably parts about me – decisions I’ve made, things I believe – that they don’t like at all.

There are a lot of good traits about me, a lot of things to love – but I recognize that there are also definitely some unlovable aspects, ways in which I could be better, less moody, less controlling. Like all of us, I’m a work in progress.  And like all of us, I have a multitude of people who love me despite that.

I sat in front of my computer for over an hour this morning trying to think of what to write.  I haven’t been writing much – or reading – because my time has been taken up with other matters. As a result, I haven’t been feeling creative energy and I haven’t felt inspired to write.  I have felt energy in other ways though – the past couple of weeks I’ve been shown amazing love.  From my fella, who has shown his love in a multitude of big and small ways, who has shown me patience, who has walked into my home-office on more than one occasion and wrapped his arms around me silently – knowing I’ve been stressed and feeling like I’m not balancing things the way I should.  From my friends who have taken the time out of their busy lives to offer their help, input, and expertise.  From my mother who has spent hours talking to me online and being a sounding board for ideas.

So often we see these small (or large) actions as just something people do, maybe ’cause it’s just something we do for those we love.  But it’s a lot more than that, and not something to be taken for granted.  If you’ve read this far do one more thing, will ya?  Take a moment and think about some of the people you love and some who love you.  Realize how fortunate you are, and maybe do something about it!

The land of peace

“For it is one thing to see the land of peace from a wooded ridge . . . and another to tread the road that leads to it.”

                                                  – C.S. Lewis

The above quote is taken from Lewis’ Surprised by Joy. Reading through the excerpts I’d copied out of the book years ago, I found myself again awed and challenged by this man’s thoughts and made uncomfortable by what they brought back to my mind – thoughts I often choose not to deal with.  There was fodder for any number of posts but most of them would require me to open with topics and in ways I’m not quite prepared to be open with on this forum . . . largely because there are people I know who read this! Perhaps that will be saved for a semi-autobiographical novel one day! 😉

Back to the words above – they struck me – yes, it’s definitely one thing to see the land of peace, and another thing entirely to tread the road that leads to it.  And even if we start that journey it’s, again, another thing entirely to allow ourselves to enjoy that land of peace rather than find/create stress or problems where we are and look ahead to what must really be the long desired land of peace.

I wonder if it’s a personality thing – I think it probably is.  There must be people out there who are generally satisfied and content with their lives, who feel that they are living in the land of peace, who can look at the problems, concerns, wrongs, offences, stresses, etc. in their lives and still stay in that land.  I seem incapable of it, at least consistently.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are certainly moments when I feel peace, but most of the time I’m in a semi-state of stress.  This may be heightened by the crazy amount of work (paid and otherwise) I have right now – which is great – but even in slow times I find I often find ways to push peace from my life.

I often find ways not to be as happy as I probably could be . . . Now in one sense that keeps me striving toward those things that I desire, but in another it wastes so many of the precious moments I have.  And of course . . . thinking of those wasted precious moments does what? Stresses me out! Prevents peace.

Now let’s see . . . what is peace anyway, perhaps I don’t really understand it.  My handy Oxford Dictionary says – quiet: tranquility, mental calm; serenity.  Yeah – I understand it, and although I have had real moments of mental calm and tranquility in my life (generally while in nature, during a tender moment with one of my nieces or nephews, or dancing in one of those states of ecstasy I sometimes get), for the most part a state of mental calmness is something non-existent for me.  I can’t seem to turn my mind off for a moment.  I’m analyzing  observing, assessing, critiquing, contemplating.

Meditation comes to mind – although I have a feeling I’d have major trouble with that too.  But, I suppose it’s probably something that improves with practice . . .

Okay – no great realizations, no answers, only the belief that if I could learn or figure out how to not only see that land but exist in it more I would do better justice to this gift of life I’ve been given.

Relatively speaking, I’m young.  From someone who perhaps has more experience than I do, from someone who has figured out how to let peace into their lives – any words of wisdom?

* I think it was actually Augustine‘s quote – which Lewis put in his book

* Another observation as I read through this . . . my moments of mental calmness seem to come when I’m fully engrossed in love – be it something or someone that allows my love of it to engulf me.

* And another addition! – I took the above picture on a walk home from staying at a friend’s house in Daegu, Korea – I was up all night hacking with a horrible cough and left as soon as it was light enough to not disturb her slumber any longer. (Although she was amazingly hospitable and didn’t show any signs of annoyance at the horrible noise I was making all night!) I was awed by the scene and the peace that flooded over me as I took the city’s morning beauty in.

“For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

Last night I came across a section from Kahlil Gibran’s, “On Children.” As I read, I reflected on my own experience with my parents, the experiences of my siblings, the stories I’ve heard from people’s experiences with their  parents, and the experience I hope to create for my own children one day.  His words seem wise.

However, I debated whether to post about it.  After taking my niece to see Brave today, a movie that’s central theme is the struggle and broken bonds that can develop from parents not allowing their children to be who they are but rather trying to shape their children into the person the parents think they should be, I thought again – maybe this is something to share?  Still I held back.  After coming home to a conversation that brought up the matter again, I decided to include this excerpt.

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

(For the full write-up click here)

For the most part, I’ll let Gibran’s words speak for themselves.  The one thing I’ll say is that one of the other reading’s I’ve been doing stresses that genuine love respects the individuality of the beloved and  seeks to cultivate that individuality. I hope that when I one day become a parent I’ll remember the words above. . . even if it means accepting a child who despises the act of writing! 😉

Love is a verb

The first CD I ever bought was a Christian rap group’s album: DC Talk’s Free at Last. One of the songs, “Luv is a verb,” was the catalyst to the way I’ve tried to view love throughout my life.  As a result of this song, various things I’ve read, observations I’ve made, and wisdom I’ve gleaned from those whose experience far surpasses mine, I fully believe that real love is an action (or series of actions), not a feeling, and something we choose to express whether we feel like it or not.  Of course it’s always nicer (and easier) when the feeling is there too. I believe this applies to love for family, friends, romantic partners, and humanity in general.

Despite this wholehearted belief, however, there are times when the massive stream of tv shows, movies, music, books, and magazines that talk about and treat love as if it were a feeling, plays its toll on my psyche.

I was reminded again of the notion that love is not a feeling from reading Peck’s The Road Less TraveledHe reminded me that real love is a commitment to love, to act lovingly, and to act for the betterment of the other person whether we feel like it at any particular moment or not. I think this idea is particularly important when it comes to romantic relationships, probably partly because most of the false information we receive about love from the media relates to romantic love.

Peck asserts that sooner or later all couples fall out of “love” (in a similar way that they “fall” in love) and it is at this point that real love either begins or never gets a chance to really live.  Real love, love that is a verb, takes choice and action – it involves our will – it is us making a decision to love.

I think if people really knew and believed this, if we were taught it from childhood and saw examples of it throughout our lives divorce rates would be a heck of a lot lower*, affairs would be nearly non-existent, and couples who made a conscious decision to be together would stay together instead of questioning the relationship and walking away for something seemingly more appealing or in search of that excitement and rush of falling in love.

I like as well, Peck’s thought that although our feelings of love toward people can be “unbounded,” our “capacity to be loving is limited” and, therefore, we must carefully choose to whom we direct our will to love. Reflecting on it, I think this knowledge and choice brings freedom: an ease of conscience. I can choose to direct my love to my family, my close friends, my partner, and on a smaller scale, humanity. It also allows me to not feel guilty for those I make the conscious choice not to ‘spend’ my love on.  It frees me from the fear of infidelity as well – if I choose to love my partner and know that the feeling of falling in love is nothing more than that I know also that the allure is nothing compared to the security of knowing I have chosen a person worthy of receiving my will to love and that that person has chosen me.

* I don’t know Peck’s thoughts on this, but I think it’s a different story when there are forms of abuse, etc. and the abusive partner is unwilling or not making the choice to change.  I’d see that as making a conscious decision to withdraw love (which, in a sense and in some circumstances I suppose could be a form of true love in and of itself).