We were in a Zoom discussion one morning when the idea of unconditional love arose — that, in order to embody something, one has first to receive it. Sometimes it comes unasked and sometimes we need to ask. This reminded me of a meditation on that subject 30 years ago.
I was sitting in traffic in Vancouver. My mind started to wander and fell upon this subject. I thought of a cow that gives birth to a calf which, within minutes, is wobbling around on its own legs and in a few months is completely viable and off doing whatever it is that cows do. A human, on the other hand, the height of creation, has a baby which can do absolutely nothing on its own and 25 years later is still moving back in with mom and dad. Clearly, I concluded, something must be wrong. Is there a celestial suggestion box? Hmmmm……. Relegating the suggestion box to the realm of unlikelihood, I started meditating on why this odd arrangement might be, and came to this conclusion.
We all have some notion of love, most often enhanced or polluted by external conditions and experiences…. might be best to include internal conditions as well, in the interest of inclusivity. But unconditional love, now that is a question. It was then that the penny dropped. Most people have, in their inadequate ways, some notion, however unconvinced or unconvincing, of love of the created for the Creator. Then, looking at the idea in reverse, how could one appreciate the unconditional love of the Creator for the created except by having some experience, some tiny taste of it, oneself? So we watch our children, our neighbour’s children, our nieces and nephews form and develop and we love them at all times, whether they are running or falling, achieving or failing. We experience their joy and their pain. When they fall, we pick them up — and sometimes all we can do is stand beside them — cry when they cry, laugh when they laugh. And in the fierceness of our love we would offer up our lives for them, hoping that our sacrifice might allow their path to be made smoother, that their potential might be fulfilled.
And so it is, through the love and pain of parenthood, that we gain some glimmering of the idea of the love that holds together all of creation, that provides the capacity and the freedom to appreciate this love through our own experience of this world’s beauty and tribulations and, in turn, to reflect it in service to our fellow travellers and in respect to the earthly matrix from which it is born.
There are few who have the ability to offer love without having been fortunate enough to have first been on the receiving end. And, of those, some will allow it to inform their whole beings and, in turn, reflect it to others. Of course, there are those who take it and run, blindly thinking that there is no expiry date, that it will never run out. These just take and offer nothing in return, only wanting more and more — expecting more and more — feeling it their right to have, and have more.
Sooner or later though, they may find that love, without reciprocation, is a poison. And, like all poisons, all addictions, the cure starts with at least a temporary withdrawal of the love for which we have been so ungrateful, have so misused, and so underappreciated.
But the withdrawal of love is also a form of love. Oh yes, it hurts, and may even cause one to fall deep into the world of our own creation. Unlike the first expression of love which was provided unasked, the new mode of love will have a requirement attached — to reach out a hand, to ask to receive, to be rescued, redeemed, recreated anew. This new condition — being required to ask, to seek — is of our own making. But painful as it is, one should never doubt that it is a reflection of a greater unconditional love.
At this moment in collective history, when the ride has stopped and we are faced with relationships, disconnects, hardships and pain of our own making, when love seems to be withdrawn from the very air we breathe, might it not be time to, in all humility, stretch out a hand? And perhaps the hand that we extend, in desperation, might first take the form of a hand to our neighbour.
We humans are a single entity, united, for better or worse, with each other and with the universe which is the soil allowing the seeds of potential to grow and to which it returns. Shall we make it for the better?
The choice is in our hand.