The prioritizing of love as a dynamic of living
"Love, I found, is not only an emotion or a disposition, but an actual and active presence in which I am an actual and active participant. It is a who, as well as a what."
Simplicity complicates things. People cannot reconcile themselves to simplicity. For "people" substitute "we".
'The sauce to meat is ceremony' declared Macbeth, 'Where is your wedding garment?' asked The King, and when Gandhiji was rebuked for wearing only his loincloth to visit His Majesty (note the language) in London he replied famously to the accompanying Lord, 'You are wearing enough for both of us.'
One could add many illustrations to fill out this observation.
What is simple is, the prioritizing of love as a dynamic of living. In practice, we have embellished and even smothered this dynamic with elaborate profusions of dress, language, art both musical and other, and added scripture and dogma and compulsions around insinuations of impropriety swelling on into grievous fault and sin.
Again, I'll spare you the floods flowing from these developments.
Some would see all this positively, and there is indeed something to be said for embellishment. But let's check out the significance of what we have lost.
When I discovered love, – or more accurately, when it was poured into me – I have found that "prayer" is simply reminding myself that I am in love. Not in the sense of "falling in love", but of finding that the entire world in which I live is itself love.
Love, I found, is not only an emotion or a disposition, but an actual and active presence in which I am an actual and active participant. It is a who, as well as a what.
I interpret everything in those terms – the campus I walk around a couple of times a day, including the wee animals and not-so-wee birds and plants including mighty trees and tiny blossoms, and when it's there the rain, the winds, the heat – etc.
This is love actually present – not just a figment of a poet's creative imagination, but the recognition of a hitherto unrealized truth.
The central all-importance of love
You can walk around a field or down the street with a friend, not even thinking about her/him, but just content with the company, and maybe saying nothing.
That's what prayer translates itself as to me nowadays. Formal wording would be incongruous.
I can subscribe to scripture and even hymns, but only as echoes of my responses to the revealed love I am aware of, and as ways to enrich the reality of community we share, whether in the local church (now out-of-bounds) or just the four of us men together.
Of course tensions arise, but the awareness of the central all-importance of love is a huge help to handling it with calmness, i.e., with love.
It is in this light I now understand all religions. This love is a presence for all. Historically, culturally, it appeals differently, but no less really. And certainly not as a distancing factor among us when it is entered into as what it is: proactive love.
So I can warm to my Muslim and Hindu and other friends comfortably, appreciating that love reaches them via their own cultural and traditional systems. Love reaches them? Hang it, love IS them, as it is me and tree and sky and cosmos and worm.
All else is enrichment of this central interpersonal reality. All else.
Religion can help, and does. Having no religion doesn't matter a whit, if religion has been abandoned as an unintelligent distortion or reversal of common sense.
The thing is love, available to the dimmest of us. As a uniting factor among people, I'm all for religion. As a distancing, I'm not.
And all those trappings and suits have in fact often distanced love from us. We must move back into its welcoming orbit. We have made profound mystery out of utter simplicity.
The thing is to keep falling in love. You don't have to fall far. In fact, don't fall at all. It is us right where we are. God bless.
Brendan MacCarthaigh is a Christian Brother from Dublin working in India for over 50 years, mostly in Value Education with senior classes and teachers.