“I will soothe you and heal you,
I will bring you roses.
I too have been covered with thorns.”
I first read the poems of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī in college. Poems of love. Just authentic, unadulterated love. The kind of love the Greeks spoke of. All six kinds…..eros (sexual passion), philia (deep friendhsip), ludus (playful love), agape (love for everyone), pragma (longstanding love) and philautia (love of self, two kinds).
I have come to drag you out of yourself, and take you in my heart.
I have come to bring out the beauty you never knew you had
and lift you like a prayer to the sky.”
love, love, love
It also seems I have always loved Rainer Maria Rilke. I do not even know when I first discovered him. There are very few of his words that do not penetrate my heart and cause it, and my thoughts, to soar.
“Everything in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it. It is also good to love — love being difficult. Love is perhaps the most difficult task given us, the most extreme, the final proof and text, for which all other work is only preparation.”~Rilke
The classic existential conundrum: why are we here?
“But because life here compels us, and because everything here
seems to need us, all this fleetingness
that strangely entreats us. Us, the most fleeting…
Once for each thing, only once. Once and no more. And we, too,
only once. Never again. But to have been
once, even though only once:
this having been earthly seems lasting, beyond repeal.”
~Rilke, The Ninth Elegy
True? Because everything needs us? What needs us? The trees, the air, the Earth, the universe? Someone? Or, is it not so much about things needing us, being needed, but rather about having been here at all?
Knowing that our time, and the time of everything, is fleeting, what compels you to be the “best” you can be? For me, I am not sure I really know what the “best” me would be. I’d like to believe it would include being compassionate. I do know what, albeit in a certain context, I want to be here for. Living in and with and sharing the love the Greeks referred to as agape: selfless love. A love that is shared with all things on Earth and extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. To all. Even the “Other”, those I may dislike, fear, misunderstand, judge, condemn, turn from, ignore.
And it is not easy. As Rilke says, love is the most difficult task given us. I cannot do it without effort. I fail often. I feel whatever the opposite of love is…hate? I think hate is probably not the right word because truly it more of an anger/fear or an unknowing.
Discovering the best I am capable of includes making the time to look, to go within.
“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.”
Many folk consider this kind of “love for all” to be a cornerstone of human behavior. Lately however, I wonder. It is a difficult time we live in. And while there is certainly the case to be made that this is not the first time this may have been believed, we are so aware of all the suffering and violence that permeates our world, it does seem to indeed be a dark time.
When I have the presence of mind to “seek and find all the barriers within” that I have built against love, I find they are in fact there. There is Fear. Of many things. Especially fear of the unknown. There is Hurt. Anger. Mistrust. Clinging. Comparison. Disappointment. Sense of Entitlement. Lack of Knowledge. Misunderstanding. Assumption. Protection and Defensiveness. Confusion. Doubt. Separation.
And when I allow myself to see those things in myself, then I am able to work towards becoming the best I am capable of being. I cannot do it without the self-realization of what the barriers I have built are.
My parents, with their sense of service and care for others and the people they brought into my life built a certain foundation. All the traveling I did and living in other countries, my friends, my husband, my children and my career choice, my own faith and melded spirituality, have helped me open the door and look in and face these barriers of mine. Each day I own up to them and chip away at them, with the hope that one day they will be gone. Because that is the best I am capable of….
….breaking down all my barriers against the love called agape.
Agape, the evolving love that I know is inside of me for the sole purpose of being extended to all people the world over. The best I am capable of is allowing and sustaining the agape inside of me at all costs and against all opposition.