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Love and Need: Is Love a Package or a Message? - Thomas Merton

Love and Need: Is Love a Package or a Message? - Thomas Merton

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Published by: JJ on Mar 17, 2012
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03/28/2014

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LOVEANDLIVING
notreshapethemselvesinsomeworseform,peoplingoursoli-tudewithdevilsdisguisedasangelsoflight.Love,simplicity,andcompassionprotectusagainstthis.Hewhoistrulyalonenndsinhimselftheheartofcompassionwithwhichtolovenotonlythismanorthatbutallmen.HeseesthemallintheOnewhoistheWordofGod,theperfectmanifestationofGod'sLove,JesusChrist.
LoveandNeed:IsLoveaPackageoraMessage?
Wespeakof"fallinginlove,"asthoughloveweresome-thinglikewaterthatcollectsinpools,lakes,rivers,andoceans.Youcan"fallinto"itorwalkaroundit.Youcansailonitorswiminit,oryoucanjustlookatitfromasafedistance.ThisexpressionseemstobepeculiartotheEnglishlanguage.French,forinstance,doesnotspeakof
"tomberenamour"
butdoesmention"fallingamorous."TheItalianandSpanishsayone"enamorsoneself."Latinsdonotregardloveasapassiveaccident.OurEnglishexpression"tofallinlove"suggestsanunforeseenmishapthatmayormaynotbefatal.Youareataparty:youhavehadmoredrinksthanyouneed.Youdecidetowalkaroundthegardenalittle.Youdon'tnoticetheswimmingpool...allatonceyouhavetoswim!Fortunately,theyfishyouout,andyouarewetbutnonetheworseforwear.Loveislikethat.
If
youdon'tlookwhereyouaregoing,youareliabletolandinit:theex-periencewillnormallybeslightlyridiculous.Yourfriendswillallfinditfunny,andiftheyhappentobearoundatthetime,theywilldotheirbesttosteeryouawayfromthewaterandintoanicecomfortablechairwhereyoucangotosleep.
 
LOVEANDLIVING
Sometimes,ofcourse,thepoolisempty.Thenyoudon'tgetwet,youjustcrackyourskullorbreakyourarm.Tospeakof"fallinginto"somethingistoshiftresponsi-bilityfromyourownwilltoacosmicforcelikegravitation.You"fall"whenyouarecarriedoffbyapowerbeyondyourcontrol.Onceyoustartyoucan'tstop.You'regone.Youdon'tknowwhereyoumayland.Wealsospeakof"fallingintoacoma"or"fallingintodisgrace,"or"fallingintobank-ruptcy."Athesaurusremindsusonecan"fallintodecay,""fallontheear,"andeven"fallRatontheear."Acertainrudimentarytheologyregardsthewholehumanraceas"fallen"becauseEvetemptedAdamtoloveher.Thatisbadtheology.Sexisnotoriginalsin.(AbetterviewisthattheloveofAdamforEvewasoriginallymeantasacommunionanda
diversity-in-oneness
which
reflected
theinvisibleGodinvisiblecreationfor"Godislove.")Theexpressionto"fallinlove"rellectsapeculiarattitudetowardloveandtowardlifeitself-amixtureoffear,awe,fascination,andconfusion.Itimpliessuspicion,doubt,hesita-tion,inthepresenceofsomethingunavoidable-yetnotfullyreliable.Forlovetakesyououtofyourself.Youlosecontrol.You"fall."Yougethurt.Itupsetstheordinaryroutineoflife.Youbecomeemotional,imaginative,vulnerable,foolish.Youarenolongercontenttoeatandsleep,makemoneyandhavefun.Younowhavetoletyourselfbecarriedawaywiththisforcethatisstrongerthanreasonandmoreimperiouseventhanbusiness!Obviously,ifyouareacooland.self-possessedcharacter,youwilltakecareneverto
fall.
Youwillaccepttheunavoid-ablepowerofloveasanecessitythatcanbecontrolledandturnedtogoodaccount.Youwillconfineittothenarrowcategoryof"fun"andsoyouwillnotletitgetoutofhand.Youwillhavefunbymakingothersfallwithoutfallingyour-self.
LOVEANDLIVING
Butthequestionofloveisonethatcannotbeevaded.Whetherornotyouclaimtobeinterestedinit,fromthemomentyouarealiveyouareboundtobeconcernedwithlove,becauseloveisnotjustsomethingthathappenstoyou:
it
isacertainspecial
way
ofbeingalive.'
Loveis,infact,anintensificationoflife,acompleteness,afullness,awholenessoflife.Wedonotlivemerelyinordertovegetatethroughourdaysuntilwedie.Nordowelivemerelyinordertotakepartintheroutinesofworkandamusementthatgoonaroundus.Wearenotjustmachinesthathavetobecaredforanddrivencarefullyuntiltheyrundown.Inotherwords,lifeisnotastraighthorizontallinebetweentwopoints,birthanddeath.Lifecurvesupwardtoapeakofintensity,ahighpointofvalueandmeaning,atwhichallitslatentcreativepossibilitiesgointoactionandthepersontranscendshimselforherselfinencounter,response,andcom-munionwithanother.Itisforthisthatwecameintotheworld-thiscommunionandself-transcendence.Wedonotbecomefullyhumanuntilwegiveourselvestoeachotherinlove.Andthismustnotbeconfinedonlytosexualfulfill-ment:itembraceseverythinginthehumanperson-theca-pacityforself-giving,forsharing,forcreativity,formutualcare,forspiritualconcern.Loveisourtruedestiny.Wedonotfindthemeaningoflifebyourselvesalone-wefinditwithanother.Wedonotdiscoverthesecretofourlivesmerelybystudyandcalcula-tioninourownisolatedmeditations.Themeaningofourlifeisasecretthathastoberevealedtousinlove,
by
theone
we
love.
Andifthisloveisunreal,thesecretwillnotbefound,themeaningwillneverrevealitself,themessagewillneverbedecoded.Atbest,wewillreceiveascrambledandpartialmessage,onethatwilldeceiveandconfuseus.Wewillneverbefullyrealuntilweletourselvesfalliiilove-eitherwithanotherhumanpersonorwithGod.
 
28
LOVEANDLIVING
Hence,ourattitudetowardlifeisalsogoingtobeinonewayoranotheranattitudetowardlove.Ourconceptionofourselvesisboundtobeprofoundlyaffectedbyourconcep-tion-andourexperience-oflove.Andourlove,orourlackofit,ourwillingnesstoriskitorourdeterminationtoavoidit,willintheendbeanexpressionofourselves:ofwhowethinkweare,ofwhatwewanttobe,ofwhatwethinkweareherefor.Norwillthisbemerelysomethingthatgoesoninourhead.Loveaffectsmorethanourthinkingandourbehaviortowardthosewelove.Ittransformsourentirelife.Genuineloveisapersonalrevolution.Lovetakesyourideas,yourdesires,andyouractionsandweldsthemtogetherinoneex-perienceandonelivingrealitywhichisanew
you.
Youmayprefertokeepthisfromhappening.Youmaykeepyourthoughts,desires,andactsinseparatecompartments
if
Y01,1
want:butthenyouwillbeanartificialanddividedperson,withthreelittlefilingcabinets:oneofideas,oneofdecisions,andoneofactionsandexperiences.Thesethreecompartmentsmaynothavemuchtodowitheachother.Suchalifedoesnotmakesense,andisnotlikelytobehappy.Thecontentsoftheseparatefilingcabinetsmaybecomeincreasingly
pe-
culiaraslifegoeson.Ourphilosophyoflifeisnotsomethingwecreateallbyourselvesoutofnothing.Ourwaysofthink-ing,evenourattitudestowardourselves,aremoreandmoredeterminedfromtheoutside.Evenourlovetendstofitintoready-madeforms.Weconsciouslyorunconsciouslytailorournotionsofloveaccordingtothepatternsthatweareexposedtodayafterdayinadvertising,inmovies,onTV,andinourreading.Oneoftheseprevailingready-madeattitudestowardlifeandloveneedstobediscussedhere.Itisonethatisseldomconsciouslyspelledout.Itisjust"intheair,"somethingthatoneisexposedtowithoutthinkingaboutit.Thisideaofloveisacorollaryofthethinkingthatholdsourmarketingsociety
LOVEANDLIVING
together.Itiswhatonemightcallapackageconceptoflove.Loveisregardedasadeal.Thedealpresupposesthatweallhaveneedswhichhavetobefulfilledbymeansofex-change.Inordertomakeadealyouhavetoappearinthemarketwithaworthwhileproduct,oriftheproductisworth-less,youcangetbyifyoudressitupinagood-lookingpackage.Weunconsciouslythinkofourselvesasobjectsforsaleonthemarket.Wewanttobewanted.Wewanttoattractcustomers.Wewanttolooklikethekindofproductthatmakesmoney.Hence,wewasteagreatdealoftimemodelingourselvesontheimagespresentedtousbyanafRu-entmarketingsociety.Indoingthiswecometoconsiderourselvesandothersnotas
persons
butas
products-·
-as"goods,"orinotherwords,aspackages.Weappraiseoneanothercommercially.Wesizeeachotherupandmakedealswithaviewtoourownprofit.Wedonotgiveourselvesinlove,wemakeadealthatwillenhanceourownproduct,andthereforenodealisfinal.Oureyeisalreadyonthenextdeal-andthisnextdealneednotnecessarilybewiththesamecustomer.Lifeismoreinterestingwhenyoumakealotofdealswithalotofnewcustomers.Thisview,whichequateslovemakingwithsalesmanshipandlovewithaglamorouspackage,isbasedontheideaofloveasamechanismofinstinctiveneeds.Wearebiologicalmachinesendowedwithcertainurgesthatrequirefulfillment.
If
wearesmart,wecanexploitandmanipulatetheseurgesinourselvesandinothers.Wecanturnthemtoourownadvantage.Wecancashinonthem,usingthemtosatisfyandenrichourownegobyprofitabledealswithotheregos.
If
thepartnerisnottoosmart,alittlecheatingwon'thurt,espe-ciallyifitmakeseverythingmoreprofitableandmoresatis-factoryforme!
If
thisprocessofmakingdealsandsatisfyingneedsbeginstospeedup,lifebecomesanexcitinggamblinggame.We

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