29 March 2008


It is easy, as I tend to do, to think about love as abstract and metaphorical. I am the first to talk about Universal Love, God's Love, and so on. Mother Teresa, however, was able to materialize that love in her self and redirect it toward real people. She referred to herself as "a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." Social scientists would observe she was able to "embody" the abstraction of love.

It's easy for me to claim I love everyone--the World--but do I love every "body" I meet? To what extent does the specificity of my embodied experiences demonstrate concrete love to the people around me? Unfortunately, it's near zero.

I do have one example who confronts me five days a week. She sits nearly under my nose in Block 2 World Geography class. For some reason, this girl wants to challenge my views on matters that have nothing to do with the subject matter of the class. She bothers me; I have had negative feelings toward her. Consequently, what I consciously have had to do is talk to her in a calm, gentle voice, smile, and try to have positive thoughts about her, i.e. to make her feel I have some compassion toward her. This has worked.

To me, this materialized embodiment of love is much more important than whether I get right the disembodied idealization of Universal Love that I usually think about. The first type of love travels out to real people; the second stays only within my mind. If Mother Teresa lived as an embodied pencil of God's written Love, perhaps I can attain to live as a mote of graphite of that same divine expression by extending love to actual people.

I believe Jesus was referring to an actual, embodied love, not the disembodied abstract kind. There are stories in the Gospels about his reaching out to real, sometimes disagreeable, people. Thinking about abstract love is far easier. The Christ-like variety involves actual people, with their real human, sometimes disagreeable, traits, in addition to our own interfering, culpable ways. It then becomes a situation of two imperfect individuals involved in the spiritual project of together writing a phrase of love (whether they consciously realize it or not) by actually, soulfully contacting what is always there behind the surface manifestation of physical reality: the billet-doux of the Universe.

No comments: