Yesterday I got an email message:
Dear Mr. Hines ,
Your blog is very honest and nothing is more beautiful save love itself. Please tell us more about self-less and mutual love and your views on the subject.
Reading those words, I realized that I haven't written much explicitly about love during the eleven years this blog has existed.
This will be post # 2,140. When I used the search box in the right sidebar to see what popped up when I put in "love," almost all of the Google results for my two blogs were on my more personal and political HinesSight blog.
I've written about loving my iPhone, a Salem outdoor store, taxes, the "24" TV show, and other things. On this churchless blog, the most relevant post seemed to be "I'd love my self if I had one."
Which started out...
Proving, or not, that profound insights are found in the strangest places, I'll share some of the lyrics to an atonal song that I made up and love to "sing" (using that word in its absolutely loosest sense) in the shower.
I love my dog.
I love my cat.
Only problem is,
I don't have a cat.
It's hard to love
What you don't have.
This is how I also feel about loving God. Or, my self.
Except seemingly there's more evidence for a "self" than for "God." Buddhism, though, seizes on that seemingly and runs with it to an intriguing, reasonable, and scientifically defensible conclusion.
As a human being I am more complex than a pot or a daffodil, but I have also emerged from causes and am composed of diverse, changing features and traits. There is no essential me that exists apart from this unique configuration of biological and cultural processes.
This helps to explain why I haven't written much about love. I agree with my email correspondent that love is beautiful. But I have no idea what those three words, love is beautiful, really mean.
Nor would it help to delete "beautiful" and substitute any other word after love is...
Love, like me or you (as Stephen Bachelor said), isn't something separate and distinct from the beings who feel this ineffable emotion. Whatever love is, it is an ever-changing process, not a static entity. Especially, it isn't an other-worldly entity.
So my feeling is, the less we analyze and speak about love itself -- as contrasted with talking about what we love -- the better. Abstracting love diminishes this way of experiencing reality.
Meaning, I don't believe that love exists without a lover and an object of adoration.
How could love exist as a free floating something-or-other? This would be like being angry, yet not being angry about anything. At the least, an angry person would be angry about being angry, which counts as being angry about something.
I'm not really a Buddhist, but I resonate with certain Buddhist principles -- such as the selflessness and mutuality mentioned in the email message I got.
As was noted in the above-linked post, we don't have to do anything to be selfless. This, it seems from both a Buddhist and neuroscientific perspective, is how we are: without an enduring changeless self. Such is the Buddhist notion of "emptiness."
Here's another quote from that post:
Emptiness is Buddhism's shorthand term for this absence of intrinsic selfness or thingness. Living and lifeless entities are equally devoid of independent, free-standing, unchanging existence.
The world is interconnected, with never-ending matrices of causes and effects stretching back to the big bang, and likely beyond. Out of this creative ferment arises...
Me. You. Religious beliefs. Scientific discoveries. Blogs. Books. Life. Death. Joy. Pain. Questions. Answers. Everything.
It isn't exactly true that we are all one, because obviously there are lots of different things that have manifested as Everything. But it's clear that the cosmos is a whole, so now I worship at the altar of scientifically defensible wholeiness rather than imaginary holiness.
Everything is interconnected. Everything is dependent on other things for its existence. No thing and no one is an island, compete unto itself. Reality is an interwoven web with no dangling threads.
So the way I see it, love is an integral aspect of the way things are.
Meaning, reality (including us human beings) is bound together by unbreakable connections. We can't escape being attracted to this and that, because such is the way of the world, of the universe, of the cosmos.
And so is hate: lack of attraction, disengagement, disinterest. It isn't possible to have love without hate, just as there is no such thing as up without down, or hot without cold.
We can't be equally connected or attracted to everything in existence. Neither can unconscious entities. If this were the case, reality would be a featureless blob. Life is a flux, a flow, an ever-changing dance.
We come closer; we grow apart. We smile; we frown. We feel at peace; we feel at war.
For me, "love" points to all of this.
It is the way things are: interconnected, in relationships, yet with no fixed essence or state of being. There's no way to put words to this, because it's what reality is, was, and always will be absent human conceptions.
That said (or unsaid), maybe it makes sense to say, "love is acceptance of everything that really exists." I used the word love in the title of my post, "Respect reality, not religion, if you love the Ultimate."
At every moment, each of us is enjoying a great gift: reality.
Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches connect us with a world that exists independent of our subjective consciousness. The proof of this is that we can say to someone else, "Do you see that? Do you hear that? Doesn't this taste great?", and learn that what we consider to be real, actually is.
For me, mindfulness of the present moment has become my religion (speaking loosely; mindfulness is far removed from traditional religiosity). I try to separate my senses from my stories. Reality is different from our beliefs.