There was an Indian maharaja who used to conduct a full funeral ceremony to himself every morning. Throughout the ceremony, he would chant “I lived a full life, I lived a full life.” He did that to remind himself that he was mortal, so that he would live every day as if it were his last, to remember that the time to live life to its fullest was not tomorrow but today, only today.
American teacher Steven Levine also tried to live in this way, for one whole year. He described his experiences in A Year to Live. The awareness of death makes clear the importance of living life fully. Makes clear the understanding of what is important in life. Levine said: “Love is everything. One of the things that we saw during this ‘year to live’ practice, is that to come back and practice a religion or even a spiritual practice is really absurd. When you see the absolute emptiness of things, you really come back. Love is the only rational act of a lifetime.”
Everyone wants to be loved. But it is not certain that this is the most important thing. Psychoanalyst Nina Coltart wrote: “it is healthier and more beneficial to the whole system to love rather than to be loved. There is a potent myth to the contrary, but this way of looking at it is true nevertheless and can be tested by long-term observation.” And George Elliott remarked in Middlemarch: “In marriage, the certainty, ‘She will never love me much,’ is easier to bear than the fear, ‘I shall love her no more.’” It is a greater disaster to stop loving, than stop being loved.
The ancient Greeks, those creatures of profound understanding, knew this well. We tend to see the opposite of love as hate, but for the Greeks the opposite pole of love was the desire to be loved.
And perhaps the most beautiful pronouncement of this is by the poet, W. H. Auden:
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
What is love? Countless answers were given to the question. Poets and lovers see it as the highest thing, the purpose of life. Chemists explain it as an expression of hormone secretion. Brain researchers reduce it to neurological functions. Sociologists see it as a product of culture. Psychologists interpret it as a narcissistic reconstruction of infantile experiences.
Perhaps the question should be phrased differently. Not “What is love?” But “Is there love?” In the scientific age in which we live, many tend to answer that no. There isn’t. There are hormones, there are conventions, but love, as an entity, as a force of nature external to us, of course not.
In this blog I will argue differently: There is love. A complete and total love, true love (which I call ‘llove’), the love that the soul yearns for from its depths – exists. Throughout history, great lovers have known this, felt it. John and Yoko are probably two of them. He wrote a wonderful song, full of joy, a love song for love.
You can hear Lennon soothing: “No need to be afraid, it’s real love.” But the same words can also be understood as conveying a much more radical statement: “No need to be afraid, It’s Real – Love.” If true love, Love, llove, does exist – there really is no need to be afraid. What is there to worry about – that she will not want? That he will not call? If love Is – eventually the right one will be found, and she will necessarily want, he will necessarily call.
Kierkegaard wrote: “Believe in love! This is the first and last thing to be said about love if one is to know what love is.”