THE FLIP SIDE OF LOVE – A VALENTINE REFLECTION REVISITED
By- Joe Klock, Sr.
The following is a slightly “Sanforized” reprint of a column originally penned 21 years ago.
Love is not only a many-splendored thing, as the old song goes, but it is just about as easy to define as was Michael Jackson’s appearance to predict.
Love describes feelings and behaviors that are vastly different in the nursery, boudoir, restaurant and soap opera.
People may be heard to proclaim that they “love” their spouses, their kids, their jobs, their favorite movie stars and Fettuccine Alfredo, a rather strange collage of passions, but not at all uncommon.
And most modern religions preach the doctrine of “brotherly love, which relationship is the most difficult of all to describe, understand and accept.
Jesus of Nazareth admonished his followers to “love thy neighbor,” which seemed acceptable on the surface to those who heard him at the time as well as to the generations that followed, even to this day.
It became a trifle disquieting, though, when He went on to define “neighbor” as every living, breathing human being on the planet, including “them.”
Even among avowed religionists, there always seem to be identifiable “thems.” (Oh, hell, you know who “they” are, don’t you?)
How is one to love that “neighbor” who is somewhat less affable than a cockroach, that starving native half a world away, the armed enemy, the hardened criminal and the jerk who viciously cuts you off on the Freeway?
Ask a dozen people what “love” really means and you’ll get a dozen different answers, but if you ask the same people to define the opposite of love, almost invariably they will say “hate” (or hatred if they are English majors).
They are dead wrong, at least with respect to the spiritual meaning of love.
To hate someone or something is the opposite of to like him, her or it. I may like certain people at some times and hate (or dislike) them at others, but I can always love them.
The true meaning of love, you see, is caring, which is why even the most loving of parents and children can, at times, proclaim with feeling and complete integrity, that they hate each other, while at the same time caring a great deal for each other’s welfare.
It is not the high point of a parent’s existence, but few among us have ever raised children without hearing them in one fit of pique or another, announce that they “hate” us, as well as their siblings, their formerly-best friends, their faces, Almighty God, and the entire faculty of their schools.
True humanity demands that we must love the other guy – that is to say, we must care about him or her – and in that context, it is not only possible to love the worst of our neighbors, but the most belligerent of our enemies, the most remote foreigners and even (UGH!) “them.”
In the context of Christian philosophy (and, I assume, in other philosophies as well), “like” and “love” are not synonymous. Rather, true love is synonymous with agape, which originally described the communal meals that early Christians ate together (almost literally love feasts).
Agape also referred to “God’s infinite love for humanity,” theoretically the highest order of love.
It is, then, this love that Jesus of Nazareth and many other people of good will prescribe as the ultimate expression of caring.
If we could just care about one another, it wouldn’t be an altogether bad world, even if some of us reserved the right to hate each other’s guts.
In other words, if I behave like a clod and trample on everyone else’s feelings and rights, I shouldn’t be surprised if people reward me with hatred and hostility; by the same token, I should feel free to despise those who behave that way toward me.
But through it all, we should all love each other in the sense of caring what happens to the other guy.
We should also love (i.e., care about) ourselves, even when we hate everything about ourselves, because if you don’t love you, you can’t love me, or anyone else for that matter.
Bottom line: love thy neighbor as thyself and don’t confuse it with definitions that sink below the level of agape (or the waistline).
By following this precept, no individual will dramatically make the entire universe a better place to live in, but his or her private world will be improved immeasurably.
Freelance wordworker Joe Klock, Sr. (firstname.lastname@example.org) winters in Key Largo and Coral Gables, Florida and summers in New Hampshire. More of his “Klockwork” can be found at www.joeklock.com.
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