"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious. Love does not brag; it is not puffed up. It is not rude; it is not self-serving; it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things." --St. Paul to the Corinthians
What wedding guest has heard this reading and not wondered who could possibly live up to its staggering expectation? Anyone would agree it's impossible. Yet we include it in our ceremonies and as guests, listen quizzically (and perhaps with guilt) because we know somewhere therein lies an attainable truth that we just can't grasp. But what? Perhaps St. Paul's definition better describes parental love than romantic love? Not likely. After all, can any parent or for that matter, child, sibling, friend or lover, bear all things; endure all things; be eternally patient and kind? No. In fact, given the long and tedious list of our intrinsic human imperfections, St. Paul's description of Love appears to be a futile ideal that mocks our sincerest efforts. Yet it was certainly not intended to mock. It was intended to instruct.
A lot of time and human experience has unfolded since St. Paul wrote those inspirational yet confounding words. Have we learned anything since then? In the course of those millennia, we have mostly accepted historical concepts of Love, so our collective idea of it has only marginally evolved. The concept of God's Love or "Agape" has been introduced, certainly, but even that Love is defined as the unconditional Love of God for man--something that arises from one source (albeit divine) and shared with another. But what is Love apart from the dynamic of source and recipient, human or divine? What is the substance itself?
Although Love (as we humans have thought of it) is the source of a slew of emotions, it doesn't really qualify as an emotion. It inspires emotion, though it is not an emotion. Love is not a euphoric feeling of attachment, even though we are certainly attached to each other through Love. Neither is Love the passion or flood of endorphins that sustains romantic love or even the powerful early bonding between mother and newborn. In spite of our love-saturated pop culture, Love has nothing to do with desire, need, or hormones. We do not "produce" Love or generate it in another. We all want it, and in a godly sense certainly deserve it, yet none of us is capable of fully manifesting it to another. Love stands outside of us and within us at the same time. It is as profound a paradox as our existence. We are saturated in it, yet tragically parcel it out selfishly and sparingly (ignorantly) within discrete groups, consciously or unconsciously withholding it from others. As if it were ours to give.
When we consider Love outside-the-box of emotion, our view is radically different. Freed from the confinement of convention or even the grander idealistic definition of St. Paul, Love rises to fill, surround, and animate the multi-verse of created matter. I believe it will one day be revealed as a force of nature more profound and powerful than any of the identified four fundamental physical forces of electromagnetism, weak/strong-nuclear force/s or gravity. But since it isn't identified as a physical force (yet), we don't see it or understand its magnitude or availability. We mistake it for a poetic abstraction, instead of the governing ether of our higher nature. Understanding Love in the universal sense--not as something we "feel" but as something we "are"--has so far been the province of mystics and spiritual visionaries. But I have a hunch we've arrived at a point of evolution where that's about to change.
When we understand the nature of Love deeply, we see it in our very atomic structure and the atomic structure of all that surrounds us. When we understand Love like that, we see it as the basic component of life, a kind of spiritual/energetic stem cell--in other words, the "God particle"--the elusive unified field. We are so close to it that we can't observe it without climbing a ladder to a perch of higher awareness. But we are getting there. As we learn to understand and use the substance of Love in this new way, so shall we receive it in the way St. Paul describes. Once we learn to harness its force, it's possible that all good things will become possible in quantum, not sequential fashion, because Love, unlike the other fundamental forces, has no duality. It is only good.
There are many who believe that a world filled with this degree of peace, love and harmony (our true nature) will exist only following an apocalyptic battle that will destroy humanity in the physical realm. But I'm not among them. I believe that the choice is always ours to awaken to higher truths here, and in the face of conflict, choose our weapons from the arsenal of Love. Call me a fool.