~ a tale about companionship ~

I’ve been led for most of my life to believe that the opposite of love is hate. If this is true then the phrase ‘opposites attract’ would imply that to find love one should be attracted to hate. In my short life, I’ve never met a soul who is earnestly seeking love by accepting that, to find it, they should look to hate for fulfilment. The opposite of love cannot then be hate, or if it is, then it cannot be true, as a condition of being human, that opposites attract. Love and hate cannot exist together. They are not opposites, rather they are incompatible. Love in relation to hate, is the all conquering tool one uses to defeat hatred. Absent love, hatred will thrive.

But if the opposite of love is not hate then what might it be? I would say that love’s opposite is not an opposite at all. It is a companion, not an enemy. An altogether different state that journeys alongside love through this adventure we call life. That companion is respect. Love’s opposite then, is actually an attraction based on kinship. Both are rooted in the same tradition. Birthed from the same place. To see love otherwise is to be blinded by the great distraction. Viewing love in this way requires an abandonment of the belief that love in its purest form is a feeling. You see, feelings are contingent on experience. Feelings are not what we rely on to weather the storm. Instead, feelings are the storm itself and therefore cannot be trusted during hardship – unless, it is your goal to bring hardship upon yourself.

Love is the sum of two parts. It is both patient and kind. To be in love, or find yourself acting out of love, is using these parts to always protect, trust, hope and endure all eventualities. It is never failing and thus a completely dependable force. But, these words tell us something more about love. To love is to recognise that it is rooted in something very different to feeling. This is perhaps the most significant failing that comes from a belief that love is a feeling – the belief that love is fleeting. That one can fall in and fall out of love is a myth. A distortion of the most beautiful gift we have been given to face life with. To hold to this view is to miss the essence of the notion that love produces. Love is always, not almost. Almost opens the door and leaves it to swing shut. Always, on the other hand, is the unraveling of feeling and the foundation for commitment. And so, love is to commit, not to feel. To think otherwise opens up that door of self-interest, jealousy, pride and anger.

To view love in the way I propose brings another commonly held view of love under scrutiny. If love is the sum of two equal parts in patience and kindness, it cannot be passionate. Passion is hurried. Not patient or kind. Passion is an action that exists in a moment but cannot face all moments. Only patience and kindness can do this. Only love can face all.

I am moved today by a story I heard. To share it would be a betrayal of trust. At its core was something so hurtful that a friend had to endure  that all words escaped me when he shared his story. I simply could not relate to this pain and humiliation he must have endured. Even anger at the perpetrators escaped me. And, as I sat there listening in disbelief, it reminded me how much more important it is to view love in the manner I’ve described – it really is the only tool to fight hate. Again, this brings me back to the word always. On reflection I was reminded that to deal with this injustice required me to go back to what I must always seek out. To protect, to hope, to trust and to endure. Always. Even when the storms of life challenge you to abandon these virtues.

I’m at a loss for how we rediscover how to extend love to all. Our world does not support patience or kindness.  In isolated instances, sure, but on the whole, the immediacy with which modern life allows us to operate means that we simply cannot love in the manner in which it was conceived. If we cannot exercise these qualities with one another, we will operate in a perpetual state of disrespect – storms facing storms, instead of just being ordinary people facing the storms together. And I imagine, that in order for us to get back to loving those around us, unconditionally, we need somewhat of a circular introspection.

If you exhibit love, but lack respect, it may be that you need to practice tolerance. That by itself, is not a form of patience? Being slow to anger or frustration instead of being reactive. Similarly if you have respect but find compassion difficult, perhaps it is worth extending kindness to someone who does not expect it. I always make a point to do this with the bakers at my local grocer, who I know are always up early on a Sunday to make sure I get my weekly fix of icing donuts. In fact, it’s become such a tradition that I now get giant hugs each time I see them in the grocer. I’ve found that to let someone you don’t know very well feel like, in the moment you interact with them, that they bring joy to your life, is something to treasure, not run from. I don’t know, perhaps enabling someone else to smile will make you smile – outwardly and on the inside? Perhaps it will help you learn to speak the language of those around you. And I don’t mean verbal language, I mean the language of the soul. Perhaps making someone feel like they have worth will increase your own? Give to gain, you know.

I don’t know a lot about love. I am a hopeless, bumbling fool at the best of times – especially when it comes to love. But I do know that it is in love’s companionship, it’s togetherness, no matter how diverse or different one is, that a beautiful unity is found. And to think this thought, is something I love.