A taste of Reflections this week because it goes with my other posts. And because it’s really where I was, and where my sense of love began to get me through my grief. I also hope it’s helpful for you. And maybe, if you like it, you’ll sign up for Reflections, my weekly meditation on concerns of my heart, of my dear ones, of the world, and of God Herself, as I understand Them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about love this week. About what it does and does not demand of me. About whether I can love those who hate me, you know, just for example.
In the book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis considers the four versions of love popularized in the Greco-Roman world.
Philia, or the bond of friendship, was most highly valued.
When Jesus, in John 15:15, says, “I no longer call you servants…I call you friends,” he is promoting his disciples, lifting them up in a powerful way. He is offering them the most prized relationship in the Greco-Roman world.
Storge, is the bond of empathy.
Lewis calls this love “affection,” and says that it is the most “natural” of loves because it is the bond of family members and others who have come together through chance.
Eros, is the erotic bond.
Eros is passionate, embodied (another way of saying “carnal”) love. In Greek mythology, Eros and Chaos created the Universe. Seems apt, no?
Agape, sometimes translated, “God-love,” is unconditional.
It does not waver, no matter the circumstances or identity of the beloved, and it is not predicated on any of the other three loves. In this framework, Agape is considered to be above Eros, beyond Storge, and having greater constancy even than Philia. It is the impersonal, universal love shown by great sages and teachers and to which most people can only aspire.
I fall in love easily.
I make friends easily.
I have the experience of “blood is thicker than water” with my own family.
And I yearn, I strive, I long to let shine that love that comes through me and is not of me.
This week has strained the bonds of love for me.
Storge, Philia, Eros…each has its own place, and each has been affected by the aftermath of the US Presidential/Vice-Presidential election.
But what about Agape? What about lovingkindness? What about the Divine characteristics of Rahman and Rahim— “most compassionate, most merciful”?
Rev. Bill Sinkford sort of preached about this today. He said, “I am a true Universalist. I cannot write off 60 million people.”
Neither can I.
But, I whine, I waaaaaaaaaaaaaant to. I want to write them all off. My aunt, my dear friend’s whole family, and especially all the people who voted out of conscious hatred.
It is easy for me, in the anger I genuinely feel, in the hurt and grief and betrayal I feel, to want to write people off.
And don’t get me wrong, I think progressive people need to be together, heal together, and protect the most vulnerable among us. I intend to spend my time organizing with, working for, and otherwise supporting people and groups who reflect values I stand for.
These are values like, “We’re all in this together.” “We’re all part of the Big Picture,” and “We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part.” “May the circle of compassion be drawn ever wider so that no one is ever left out.”
These are the values to which I answer.
And they are values rooted in love. In the necessity of love.
So I intend to work within the circles of my values.
The problem, ahem, you may have noticed, is that my values include a responsibility to everyone. The natural world of which I am a part, the animals, plants, and people of Earth. Including a certain 60 million.
And so I pray a version of the Buddhist metta (lovingkindness) meditation. I pray it first for myself. (This one is in some ways very difficult.) Then I pray for those closest to me, those whom I adore. I pray it next for those I appreciate and care for. Then those of my acquaintance. Those I do not know. Those I know for whom I hold a mild dislike. Finally, those (oh, I am ashamed to say this) I want to hate, including those who actively hate me.
Here is (a version of) the prayer:
“May they be happy.
May they feel compassion.
May they be well.
May they be at ease.”
My prayers outstrip my feelings, for sure. But I know that it is easier to act my way into right thinking than the other way around. Similarly with prayer. If I only pray the prayers I feel like praying, how will I ever allow the One Who Is Many to change me?
And that, my dear ones, my beloveds—for I do wish you well, have your back, and am loyal to your right to your lives, identities, and happiness—is the hard place.
And it does NOT mean, does NOT, that you should believe for one second that my energy will not be going to protect myself and mine, as well as those more vulnerable than we. That is to say, I will be working, donating, writing, and speaking for justice, faith, love, and hope.
Because my prayer for myself is that I may be made into the image of Love. That I may be changed. That the light of God Herself may shine through the jewel of lovingkindness and come out into the world through me.
It’s hard. It’s hard stuff.
What is your prayer for yourself?
Know, know that I love you—
The Many Facets of Darkness
We think of facets as places where light reflects. Where a brighter light reflects into a dimmer one, or into a place of darkness. I remember the first time I wore a diamond ring, I kept holding it in the sun so I could watch it glimmer.
Darkness has facets too. And some of them are gentle, loving, comforting aspects. They are angles and planes, ways of feeling when you cannot see. Ways of getting around when sight is shuttered.
And darkness can be restful, rejuvenating, and ultimately enlivening. And that is how our December 17th online retreat, Going into the Dark can be for you. It will be a time of gentleness and rest, meditation and story, image and myth.
It’s going to be a beautiful day of preparing for the winter solstice. To read a further invitation and to get more information, go here with my blessing.
Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First
I should have said this first, and here I am saying it last.
One thing I didn’t say above, that I should have spent more time on, is that none of us can do the work we’re called to if we’re acutely unwell. I have spent much of this previous week in a state of grief, showing signs of anxiety and depression. I have had to cancel things I have intended to do, rest more than I strictly like to admit, and generally dial everything back and double-down on the self-care.
You are worth taking care of. You matter. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself on the altar of any high-minded ideal. You really don’t. Sometimes you need to hide, curl up, be in the turtle shell, and just wait for the dust to settle.
That’s okay. May we let it be okay.
Thank you for wrestling with the tough stuff Catharine. These words in particular really spoke to me: ‘ If I only pray the prayers I feel like praying, how will I ever allow the One Who Is Many to change me?’