To get a good handle on the “state of mind” of a culture one of the most telling things you can do is to take a close look at the music of the people (Pop). Scope out the dominant topic in the youth culture’s music and you have an instant window into the mind of the society. Remember the protest songs of the 70’s and the 9-5 genre of the 80’s and the “get mine songs” of the 90’s? Though it is a perennial topic, it seems like, more than ever, we are currently immersed in a culture that is myopically focused on relationships and the “appearance” of love; I Kissed a Girl, Single Ladies, Hey Soul Sister, Dancing On My Own, Bad Romance, Just a Dream. Maybe we’re just craving love? This idea in itself is neither good nor bad but I think it highlights something that is happening in the human psyche which goes much deeper than the meaning of Lady Gaga’s most recent video. As a matter of personal opinion I believe that our Pop Music gives us a clear view into our soul and what’s happening there. Heaven knows that love is not a bad thing. The question is, though, whose definition do you live by and how do you know that it’s the truth? Lots of definitions of “love” fly around the society and many of them are not so kind. What’s love got to do with it anyway? All human behavior, good or bad comes from our perceived needs. We drink when thirsty, eat when hungry, work when we need to pay the bills and we “love” when we “have the need”. Of all those forces, though, loves drives us in the most potent way. An odd thing has happened, recently, to the acceptable criteria which we use to decide if we have really found “love”. We are so relationship obsessed that the entire society and its institutions of culture and law have actually started to “make up” the definition of love just so it will fit into some of our behavior patterns that have risen directly from our desperation to avoid being alone. There are new definitions of family, marriage, relationship, parenting and households that the society has come up with. Some of these have even been written into our law in a hysterical attempt at validation.
There is no question that amid all of these attempts to “create love” in new places the human heart still voices a yearning, a craving for something that we can’t even put our finger on or name. You could even speculate that this “raging” is actually the source of our desperate moves to expand the choices and locations in which we can find love. “This yearning … works strong within [us]; in some it becomes so violent as to pierce flesh and blood; yea, to penetrate even to the marrow of the bones.” (Father John Tauler, O.P. † 1361, German Dominican and Mystical Theologian) To quench our craving we manipulate, we lie, especially to ourselves, we use others, we deceive, we pretend, we put on appearances. But if you look at the statistics for divorce as well as those for “successful” cohabiting couples and civil unions you can see that no matter how we try we don’t seem able to satisfy our craving in a long term and/or permanent way. We are bent, it seems, on creating situations in order that all in our society have “love” no matter how false or temporary.
Somewhere in this frenzied milieu we have lost track of one little detail; no matter how badly we desire it, we cannot make someone loves us at our beck and call “just because”. Clearly, as a culture, we have lost the distinction between love and lust and can’t or don’t want to tell one from the other. One is an act of the will the other is a condition of the spirit. One satisfies momentarily and fades; the other grows and blossoms like a seed, invisible until sunlight coaxes it to break the surface. We have mixed the definitions and fall into depression or anger when a relationship doesn’t go the way that we thought it was supposed to. So we have made laws and changed definitions to insure our success at love and satisfy our unnameable craving.
So what is “true love” anyway? Any good etymologist knows that in order to cull the true meaning of a word the best thing to do is return to and examine the source. Where did love first appear, how did it get here, where did it come from? Heady questions fit for a philosopher? Not really and simpler than you might imagine. The very first person who introduced love into the human race was none other than God himself! God is love, love is God. He created humans out of love, cared for them, forgave them and then sent his Son to love them. All love which exists in any human being comes directly from the Father. The “craving” for relationship and belonging and companionship and validation all stem from our longing to get close to the original lover of our soul, God the Father. Our attempt to aim that at another human is a reflection of something that was planted into the human race at its very inception. At best that is a dim reflection of what the love of God is like, but it’s all we have while earthbound. Throwing one’s self into relationship after relationship will never slake the craving that we have to be precious in someone’s eyes until we work at knowing what that’s like with God the Father. Only then are we properly equipped to work at love with another human and be a success. Everything else falls predictably short.
Our greatest tool, then, is being open to what God has to teach us about love. “We have to invite Jesus continually to become Lord of our life. He never imposes himself by force because, being Love, he wants to be loved in return and love is born only from freedom and never from force or obligation. ….God cannot force us to love him.” (Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Brother Simeon, Cistercian monk of Saint Joseph’s Abby, Spencer, MA) In a like manner we can’t force anyone else to love us. The school of love is God’s school. In order to put our cravings to a satisfying rest we need to follow His example and wisdom. The author of love is the greatest teacher of love. His lessons will give us bliss on earth and carry us into eternity.
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Check out more of Kathryn’s thinking at: www.atravelersview.org
Copyright © 2011, Valentine’s Day, Kathryn Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
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