Love is a human creation. One of our best. We created love as part of the Neolithic Revolution. Love was one of the many side effects of agriculture. Before agriculture, our ancestors hunted and gathered in family groups and clans. Interpersonal relationships had nothing to do with what we call love. They were functional, survival oriented. Arranged marriages are a vestigial remnant of mesolithic practices we rightly consider absurd and oppressive. Love could only begin to flourish in permanent settlements where division of labor created leisure for some people and serfdom for others. Leisure to pursue things like love, art and self realization. Human pursuits aimed at quality of life, not mere survival. The pursuit of happiness. Love is connection: two people opening up to each other to really experience what that other is like. That doesn't happen in the midst of a life or death struggle for survival.
Love is connection. Love is the connection between two people who let down their habitual defenses and open up to each other. Love requires vulnerability. When two people are open and vulnerable with each other they easily affect each other, causing feelings to arise. The feelings aren't love, they're what being vulnerable feels like in that instant. Feelings change constantly but love does not. If we both let difficult feelings wash over us then disappear naturally our connection will get stronger and deeper. If either of us allows feelings to turn into emotions our connection will weaken quickly. Emotions are always negative and destructive. Our connection will stay strong only as long as we both work to keep it strong. We have to resist the temptation to enforce togetherness, a thing our culture strongly promotes.
Love of nature. Before we could appreciate how beautiful the natural world is we had to make our way out of it. We had to get some perspective on it. The beauties of nature are lost on someone who's struggling to survive pitiless nature's supreme indifference. So agriculture also gave rise to the love of nature, the appreciation of natural beauty. We may love nature, but nature doesn't love us back. We may well destroy ourselves soon. Nature will do just fine without us.
From love to self realization. Romantic love and the love of nature are gateway drugs for the hard stuff: self realization. If I'm paying attention and not just absently riding love like a roller coaster, the wonderful feelings I experience in romantic love or the love of nature are a clue there might be something more to life than survival, security, esteem. I have to go on a quest to find out. That's how love gives rise to the spiritual quest. Nature was my best friend all through childhood, a pretty way of saying I had no friends. Nature can be an inspiration and a refuge but love of nature is ultimately a dead end when it comes to making progress with love because nature doesn't love me back. I can't forge a relationship with nature. Nature is indifferent. Human love, fleeting as it is, is crucial for making progress with love. I had to get over my atavistic devotion to nature before I could make much progress. I still appreciate nature's beauty but can't afford to spend my time out in the woods. I have work to do, and it doesn't get done out there. That's OK, nature is everywhere. These days my favorite part of nature is the air. Leela's little zephyrs and sylphs, oh my… Nature caressing my face through an open window, all night long.
The disappointment of falling in love. This lovely sad song by Alison Krauss evokes love's disappointment so well.
Falling in love is glorious. We try our damnedest to make it stay but it always goes away. Supposedly wise people will assure you that's not true, you can keep your love, renew it, breathe new life back into it yadda yadda yadda. You don't have to be brutally honest with yourself to see through that song and dance. It's plain to see: love fades. We all know it. Falling out of love is completely predictable: we start to fall out of love as soon as we're forced to spend time together. As soon as we're together for any other reason than the desire to be together. Moving in together or, god forbid, getting married will always precipitate it, but it happens without, e.g. because we always have a date on Saturday night. Habitual togetherness spells the doom of love. What used to be charming becomes annoying and it's all downhill from there. Love needs enormous amounts of space to breathe. We need to long for each other, to wait until we're both eager to be together again. But no. Whichever of us is needier drives love's doom. Love becomes something less. Convenient and reliable, but meager and cramped.
Loving my body. My body is the perfect tool for making progress with love because my body is Leela. So my body has all the answers to my questions about making progress. It contains all wisdom. However, I had to stop harming my body before I could use it as a tool for that work. I had to stop damaging it with booze, drugs, and mediocre food. I had to start giving it plenty but not too much of the right kind of exercise. I had to make all the right choices for me and none of the wrong ones. To do that I had to pay close attention to body sensations, letting my body guide me to what it wanted, because my brain is incapable of making good choices. I had little tastes of progress along the way, but I didn't start making significant progress with love until I surrendered to my body's inherent wisdom, aka Leela's guidance, in all those areas.
Loving the world as it is. Meditation is an ongoing course in loving the world as it is. When I quiet down and try to find a meditative state, all the ways I'm not at peace with the world come crowding in to yell at me, filling my head with noise. The meditative process is finding neutrality with each of those noisy voices, one at a time. Neutrality is the peace I'm longing for. But I'm not neutral, so the voices keep multiplying endlessly. That's what I was up against doing formal meditation. Formal meditation was preparatory work I had to do until I was ready to let Leela take over. When I meditate I exercise my love for the world. What defeats this whole process is putting conscious conditions on the world, like I'll love the world when there's true racial equality, or I can't love a world where corporations control the economy and exploit the workers. Holding onto or cherishing any kind of fixed ideology, position, opinion, or core value is an automatic noise generator. Ideological noise generators get sets off by the tiniest infraction, turning my life into noisy hell. If I hold to any kind of ideology I defeat myself. I end up unable to love the world because this is the only world there is. It won't change to meet my unrealistic conditions. Since I can't love everything about the world, I focus on what I do love. Meditation is working to love the things I do love better and learning to love the world as it is by discovering it's Leela: just a game we're all playing.
Love in the time of covid. The pandemic came at just the right time for me. It deprived me of dance, which I have relied on for all human contact since I left my marriage in 2008. I broke up with my long term sweetheart right before the pandemic hit, so I got a double dose of being alone. That threw me back onto the physical basics of making progress. Those all became love's way of teaching me. I had just broken free of booze and addiction, so I focused on the other basics: exercise, diet, and meditation. In all three areas, love patiently taught me how to make progress. I got to feeling desperately sad and lonely as that first summer of the pandemic wore on. That's what stirred me to start writing these stories. Writing about my life helped me remember all the good training I've had over the years. I was able to recognize the sadness I was feeling as an emotion, not a feeling. Emotions are mental creations. I have power over them if I choose to exercise it. I came to see I was inflicting sadness and loneliness on myself. I'm the one in charge. Since then I've slowly turned all that around. I don't need a sweetheart to complete me. I'm a complete human in myself. Alone is not the same thing as lonely.