“The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God, the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
This is one of my most favorite quotes of all time, and what always struck me about it was the realization that fire became most useful to human evolution when we learned to harness it. Maybe the power of love, like fire, lies in its utility. Love serves no function in a vacuum or high in the heavens; it demands engagement and a course of action.
When humanity first harnessed fire, civilization rose to a completely different level. Early civilization understood the ramification of fire in their lives, it was bigger and more powerful than they were, they worshiped it, and they feared it. As civilization progressed, however, fire was no longer a source of fear; its function became a means of sustenance, of survival. They learned how to actually utilize it to improve their lives. When it comes to the power of love do we know what its function is? Have we the slightest clue how to utilize it?
As a child, the Catholic Church taught me that “God is love, God is bigger and more powerful than us, and we are supposed to worship and fear God”. Looking at love as an adult, especially in view of human history, those assumptions didn’t seem to fit anymore. Can you really harness what you can’t see or are afraid of? When it comes to fire there is obvious proof of how successful humanity has been in harnessing it in just about every element of life. Love, however is quite another story. Look around. Where is the proof? We can wield power through: violence via sophisticated weaponry, money, and political control. But where is the love? Violence in schools, terrorism, addiction, starvation, child abuse, and religious wars are just a few examples of how poorly today’s culture has harnessed love’s energy. From the looks of it, we are missing something. As a source of power, love appears to sit up high on a shelf like grandma’s best china: brilliant and delicate but hardly utilized for fear of breaking it. On the contrary, love isn’t fragile, as King Solomon wrote: “for stern as death is love.” A good way to observe our past failures is to see them as an indicator that we continue to hold onto some pretty inaccurate fundamental assumptions about love and how to harness its power. We can’t utilize what we don’t understand or fear. I certainly know that I can’t.
This is a pivotal point in history and like fire, it is important to see love as powerful, life affirming and absolutely necessary for survival. It cannot be worshiped from afar. Love serves no purpose from a distance. We have to be willing to get burned in the process of harnessing its strength. It is at this point where application of everything else from previous posts should be taken into consideration, especially in terms of stripping ourselves of illusions. Our past assumptions have to be cleaned up in order to determine how to move ahead at this point. Fear must be placed by the wayside, because as the first letter of John in the New Testament tells us, fear is the very thing that is diametrically opposed to love. First and foremost, though, as individuals, we need to personally be willing to take love down off the shelf and see it as it truly is. There are a few, throughout history who have had the fortitude to make the attempt to look at love without blinders on. King Solomon in the Old Testament, for one, also understood the relationship between love and fire and depicts it beautifully in a poem of a bride and bridegroom:
Set me as a seal on your heart
as a seal on your arm;
For stern as death is love,
Relentless as the nether world is devotion;
its flames are a blazing fire.
Deep waters cannot quench love,
nor floods sweep it away.
Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love
he would be roundly mocked.
So, where do we begin? How do we go about shaking off all the layers of illusion that have accumulated over the years (remember the flasher metaphor)? And once we do that, then, what are the risks that come with learning how to use it? To be honest, there have only been a few people that I’ve studied who have been pretty successful at harnessing love’s energy, but when it comes to the rest of us, we’re pretty much in the dark.
Perhaps part of the reason that the nature of love isn’t fully understood is that the word itself is often trivialized in language. It is as easy to use the word love to describe ones feelings about pizza as it is to describe one’s soul-mate. So, to talk about seeing love in a different way is even more difficult than talking about evil. What source do I have but my experiences, my observations, many of which are entrenched in a culture that is obsessed with a cartoon version of love? As a source, how am I any more accurate than anyone else? Well, this is where it’s necessary to rely on quantum physics again. As an observer, I am limited to certain dimensions. Love is not limited. Love stretches beyond experienced reality rendering our simple human expressions of it incidental in the face of what it truly is. Love won’t be confined to what I or anybody else determines is appropriate; it is larger than we are. Without love driving the expression, it is empty. Let me clarify that last statement; simply saying love is the reason behind an action, even if we are under the misguided belief that it really is guiding an action, won’t necessarily make it so. Love is so much bigger than our desire for it.
So how can we be sure if love is present and is what propels us forward? Where do we go to find out what it really is so that we can begin the process of harnessing it? There are volumes of literature, music, psychology, philosophy and theology that have tried to depict what love really is. What more could I possibly say about love that would amount to a major discovery? Are there any new ways to talk about the true nature of love so we may harness its power? Well, based on humanity’s past observations and experiences of love, we should be able to understand a few things about what it is and what it is not. Stay tuned.