A story about love…
Her name is Pinga. She’s an eleven-year-old penguin, who lives in the midwest part of the United Sates. His name is Teddy, he’s a fourteen-year-old dog of unknown breed, living in the same town, different households. Their presence makes a loving difference in the lives of two of my grandchildren. My wife and I witnessed Teddy’s birth, at Build-A-Bear, where cloth shells are filled with soft stuffing, a heart, and a song. The kids create a computer-generated birth certificate and there you have it – a new stuffed animal companion.
Pinga the penguin, on the other hand – was probably born on a corporate birthing room assembly line, for stuffed animals. Makes no difference to our grand daughter, who is now 12 years of age. Pinga is number one!
As soon as our grandchildren came into possession of these soft, cuddly creatures, the love poured out of the kids. You could feel the love. That’s what’s noteworthy here – a crucial difference. Love was not given to my grandkids, it was given from them. In the case of my grandchildren, their stuffed companions, Pinga and Teddy, provided them with the opportunity to open their door of love, that promoted their releasing and expressing the love that is within them, unconditionally.
We cannot be fully alive until we express the love that exists within us.
Children instinctively do this – when unhappy they intuitively hug their favorite animal, or their blankey. So, the real question, during this traditional month of love, is not how do I get more love? It’s how do I more fully express the love that I already have? Because true love is expressed not to be reciprocated, but to make us completely alive. Expressing love is as essential as the air we breathe.
Charles Fillmore, co-founder of The Unity Spiritual Movement defined love as; The pure essence of being that binds together the whole human family. The great harmonizing principle known to humankind. And, it harmonizes most when we express it.
Author Sarah Dessen; “There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”
Author Neil Gaiman said, “Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.”
I’m wondering if these quotes are more about a form of attraction that we might refer to as falling in love or being in love.
I’ll share a reading from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres that explores the same idea;
Love is temporary madness,
it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness,
it is not excitement,
it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being “in love” which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches,
they find that they are one tree and not two.
Author Guy Finley appears to agree with that idea as he states – The #1 reason why relationships fail is because they are built upon a form of love that you are intended to outgrow. Said differently, the initial love that brings two people together isn’t intended to be the love that holds them together.
In my view, too much of the idea behind most of these writings seems to me to be that love is something you get, or experience. I suggest, love is only something we can give, as in the case of Pinga and Teddy.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross, in her book Life Lessons, states;
“When you argue with loved ones, you believe you are upset because of something they did or did not do. You are upset because you have closed your heart, you have withdrawn love. We don’t realize that the feeling we seek lies in the giving, not in the receiving. If we measure love received, we will never feel loved. Instead, we will feel shortchanged. Not because we really were, but because the act of measuring is not an act of love. When you feel unloved, it is not because you are not receiving love; it is because you are withholding love.”
I suggest the following story, from the same book, is about love, all about love.
Dr. Ross says, she knew a young boy who was eager to spread love and find life, even though he was at the end of his. He had had cancer for six of his nine years. She says, In the hospital, I took one look at him and knew he was finished fighting. He had just had it. He had accepted the reality of his death. Dr. Ross stopped in to say goodbye to him the day he was going home. Surprisingly, he asked her to go home with him. He assured her that it would not take long. And so, upon arriving at his home he asked his father to take down his bicycle. It had been hanging in the garage, unused, for three years.
His biggest dream was to ride around the block – once. In his nine years of living, he had never been able to do that. He asked his father to put the training wheels on the bicycle. Asking for training wheels to be placed on your bike; that takes a lot of courage for a nine-year-old. It is humiliating to ride with training wheels when your peers are popping wheelies and performing tricks with their bikes. With tears in his eyes, his father attached the training wheels. Can you see the clear example of his father expressing his love?
Then the boy looked at Dr. Ross and said, “Your job is to hold my mom back.” You know how moms are, they want to protect you all the time. She wanted to hold him up all the way around the block, but that would cheat him out of his great victory. His mother understood. She gave her love by simply watching her son take off on his bike – riding around the block – for the first time ever in his nine years on earth. She knew that one of the last things she could do for her son was to refrain, out of love, from hovering over him as he undertook his last great challenge.
As I quoted earlier, “There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.” Perhaps by installing training wheels on a bike or releasing your son to ride his bike around the block.
Dr. Ross says, they all waited as he rode off. It seemed like an eternity. Then he came around the corner, barely able to balance. He was terribly drawn and pale. Nobody thought he could ride a bike. But he rode up to them beaming. Then he had his father remove the training wheels and they carried the bike, and him, upstairs. “When my brother comes home from school would you send him in?” he asked.
Dr. Ross says, Two weeks later the little brother, a first grader, told us that his brother had given him the bicycle as a birthday present; giving love, since he knew he would not be around for the birthday. She closes by saying that – With not much time or energy left, this brave boy had lived out his final dreams, riding his bike around the corner and passing it on to his younger sibling. Out of love.
Years ago I attended a convention at which author Greg LaVoy was a keynote speaker. What follows is a portion of his speech. Another story about sharing unconditional love.
Greg provides a good example of love when he lived in Sante Fe, New Mexico. One afternoon he called up the dog pound. And asked if they were interested in volunteers. But he said to the woman who picked up the phone that he was not interested in swabbing the deck, pushing papers around, fundraising, any of that stuff. All he wanted to do was come in once a week and play with the dogs. He wanted to go from cage to cage to cage administering tummy rubs, throwing a stick around with them in the back yard. Or feeding them fists of those little treats they had in a big ceramic jar at the front desk.
So, the woman said, “Come down anytime you want.” He played with dogs every Tuesday. After a month of this he asked one of the guys who worked at the dog pound, “How come there’s never the same dogs here from one week to the next? Why a complete change of cast every Tuesday?” The man responded, “Well…since you asked, 50% of them find homes and the other 50% end up in the landfill.”
So here was some instruction for Greg. In the terribly paradoxical nature of the call to service – that on one hand you’ve got to give it everything you have, and act as if the work that you do really matters. At the same time, you have to surrender completely to the way it is. You must surrender to the sheer enormity of the world’s suffering and the “spit in the bucketness” of your individual efforts to ameliorate that. And so, one of the things that Greg had to surrender in that numbing, was his innocence about what goes on in a dog pound.
The upshot of him asking that question was that he now had some information he did not have before. Because the call was to give love, to love the animals, unconditionally. So now, when he went down to the dog pound on Tuesdays, he continued to love the dogs as shamelessly as ever – but now, he never knew for which of them it would be the last love they ever got. So, when he went down there to render his service he paid exquisitely more attention to the dogs. Body, mind and spirit he brought his full self to the work. And that is the work of loving and letting go. He thinks of this as one word, one act. Loving and letting go. Loving unconditionally.
There’s a Pulitzer prize winning poet by the name of Louise Gluck – she asked in one of her poems; “Why love what you’re going to lose?” And answered it by saying: “Because there’s nothing else to love.”
In summary; we feel down when we’re angry at someone, not because they don’t love us, but because we are withholding our love.
We may think we want to feel loved – but we feel best when we are expressing love.
Pinga and Teddy opened the door for our grandchildren to express their love.
A dad putting training wheels on his nine-year-old son’s bike; a mom, letting her nine-year-old ride around the block by himself; a nine-year-old dying of cancer gifting his bike to his brother; Greg LaVoy loving the dogs, knowing it may be the last love they ever receive. These are vivid examples of, as the Charles Fillmore quote stated earlier, “The pure essence of being that binds together the whole human family. The great harmonizing principle known to humankind.” Love.
Love is the theme song of the universe. Love is a cosmic force whose sweep is irresistible. Love is the self-givingness of Spirit through the desire of life…and it is as essential as the air we breathe. And it is most essential that we give freely of it. Give it unconditionally.