“Love: I know nothing about it.”
My statement was in reply to a priest who had asked if anything was wrong. Mass had ended and there I sat, alone in the big, cold New England Catholic Church. Staring at the quintessence of agony: the crucified Christ.
Instead of coming to console with words or presence, the young priest merely smiled. But it was a smile that felt like he approved of what I had said. As if I had passed some kind of test. Perhaps I had.
Each of us, if truthful, owns that statement: Love, I know nothing about it.
The other day, I stumbled upon an intriguing interview with Krista Tippet in Brain Pickings. Maria Poplova, editor of Brain Pickings, writes that Tippet began to know the ” inescapable dualities of love…this dance of pleasure and risk and sacrifice” with the dissolution of her youthful ‘fairy-tale’ marriage. A marriage which left her with two children alone, joining that growing army of single mothers.
It is this statement of Tippet’s that grabbed my attention:
The nuclear family is a recent invention and a death blow to love — an unprecedented demand on a couple to be everything to each other, the family a tiny echo chamber: history one layer deep. None of the great virtues … is meant to be carried in isolation.
When my marriage ended, I walked into a parallel universe that had been there all along; I became one of the modern multitudes of walking wounded in the wreckage of long-term love. Strangest of all, on this planet, is the way we continue to idealize romantic love and crave it for completion… After my divorce, I created a welcoming home and took great delight in my children. I cooked dinner for gatherings of friends old and new, invested in beautiful far-flung friendships, and drew vast sustenance from webs of care through the work I do. Yet I told myself, for years, that I had a hole in my life where “love” should be.
The creator of an award winning PBS show called On Being, Tippet has recently published a compendium of her conversations with those whom she considers masters of the art of love: Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and the Art of Living.
Through a learned discipline of listening, of authentic conversations with ‘spiritual geniuses’ Tippett comes to understand that she had been standing on the wrong side of love. She had been looking to be loved, suffering she states from “a poverty of the imagination.
In this, I am a prism of my world. I am a novice at love in all its fullness, a beginner.
The intention to walk through the world practicing love across relationships and encounters feels like a great frontier.
On that long-ago day, alone in the church, while staring at the crucified Christ, I understood for the first time in my life, the simplicity and Wisdom of His awe- filled commandment:
Love the neighbor as thy love thyself.
Love: I know nothing about it.