Teo Bishop got a great conversation going this morning when he asked the question Why don’t Pagans talk more about love? He compared the Pagan take on love to the Christian, where talk about love seems to be all the rage.
How is it that something that can be so intrinsic to me (and I presume to others) can be a subject that doesn’t come up much in my religious community? Is it that we don’t have a context for talking about love? Are we convinced that love wasn’t that important in the Old Ways, and — more importantly — are we satisfied with that conclusion?
Or, are we afraid that if we talk about love in connection with our religious lives that we might start sounding too Christian?
I agree with Teo’s assessment that Christians are more comfortable speaking about love in a spiritual context. I’ve had some of the best spiritual conversations of my life with Christians expressly because they were able to connect with me on this issue of love.
Many people weighed in from the comments section.
Conor Bryan O’Warren said:
I don’t think we talk about love much because it isn’t necessarily relevant. Christians must talk about Christ’s love for humanity, it is the basis of his sacrifice for them. For us, things are different. The Immortals are not “all-loving”. We have no mandate to love our neighbors. Look around us though, for lack of speech, does it mean lack of action? I’d say no. Look how many Pagans are involved in social justice issues, things like human-trafficking, child slavery, Equal rights and protections for people around the globe, social welfare programs. . .the list goes on. We do more than we talk I feel.
Eran Rathan shared:
I can’t love someone I don’t know. I can empathize with them, or have compassion for them, or treat them with kindness but I don’t think it is possible to love them. Like with so much of life (magic especially!), its about connections. Without any sort of meaningful connection, without having some tie to another, how can you know them, let alone love them?
I know love for those of my self defined clan and certainly I know a world shattering love for my mate of 22 years, I don’t see nor understand those that claim to have love outside of their circle. I don’t see love as an overriding theme in the natural world, I see predator and prey. The destroyer and the destroyed (though at times that is part of the natural cycle). I try to put myself between those I love and the “other” and defend them to the best of my ability. It is something I struggle with, as I don’t want to be someone that can’t be accepting of others beliefs and actions, nor as someone that can’t make new friends and grow my circle, but to be true to my own beliefs I am cautious of new folks, I am protective of my kith and kin, and it certainly takes more than existing to earn my “love”. I don’t mean this as an attack to those that see the world in a more open and loving way, but only to state that I don’t see anything wrong with those that look at the world and see enemies among it’s people.
There is lots of other good stuff there, all definitely worth reading.
What was so interesting to me what that people instantly went to this concept of Love as the feeling of affection and devotion to a person. Of course, that kind of love is important, but to only concentrate on that definition is so limiting.
Like Teo, love is at my center of my practice and belief system. My definition of love, however, is broad. When I consider love in a spiritual context, I see love as the opening and leading note in how we approach not just relationships but everything we do–how we eat, how we drive, how we exercise, how we wait in line, how we speak to an obviously overwhelmed airline employee, how we work, how we motivate ourselves and others, how we handle being stressed out or angry, how we show up for our friends when they need us. Love is an emotional and spiritual space we can occupy during the day, and invite others to step inside–and bring ourselves back to when the day takes us to less peaceful places. This is sacred space we can carry along with us.
It does not mean that we love all equally, or that we apply our love indiscriminately. It doesn’t mean we don’t act cautious when we are possibly in danger, or that we skip among the daises acting like everyone is our best friend. It just means that we step forward, pregnant with possibility, open to what may unfold
Love is a feeling, and an action. But perhaps most importantly, it is a state of being. When the Divine taught me how to live in a state of love, it revolutionized my life. I spent many years unable to truly love myself, my friends and family, or my community. I was taught how to do that, and now it sits inside me, in my chest, beaming. Some days it is very dim. I am not always the best torch keeper. But when I can get the wick clean and the oil filled and the glass shined up, through regular spiritual maintenance, I shine like a lighthouse.
I wonder about my experience in a 12 step program and how that may have given me a different perspective from many of the people who speak about only being able to love those they know. 12 step programs foster deep identification with people who might be total strangers. We often speak about how we can enter a room full of people we don’t know and yet feel 100% recognized. We are taught to compare in rather than compare out. We train ourselves to see the similarities not the differences between our stories and others. Members regularly take total strangers “under their wing” and begin going out of their way to provide these strangers with rides, companionship, and guidance. When I see a new person come in, eyes wide like a frightened deer, I feel responsible for carrying the message to them. I don’t care who they are, or what they look like, or where they are from. I know they need help and I know I can provide it. My reward for that is seeing dead people come back to life. It is more than a bargain.