A lifetime of loving has enlightened me. And yet there is more. Every growing child is enlightened, to the degree that yesterday, last year, or even so long ago as last Sunday, there was less clarity than there is now. Enlightenment is a process, not a product. So too for love. Enlightenment and love are not necessarily fixated, habituated, but an ever-growing inclusion, absorption, assimilation, acceptance, and integration of past present future. Imperfect. Everything.
The listing of: Patient, kind, does not envy, nor boast, is not proud, nor rude, not easily angered, is not selfish, no record of wrong, no delight in evil, rejoices with truth, always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres, and never fails, is Love. (Positively Corinthian, ha!)
Seems simple enough. Yet if love is not a product but a flow of experience as we mature, there appears to me to be Shakespearean-like layers of loving. Here's the rub:
At first there is the infant, so naturally needy that self-centeredness is not guiltily felt.
Then there is the school kid, so in love with love that loving is given to anyone loving.
Next is the hot-head, full of jealousy and control, even in the face of another's pain.
Then comes the level-headed, full of expectations, prescriptions, and conditions.
There arises the long-suffering, the sacrificed, the abused, the misused, obliged to love.
There becomes the not-quite unconditional, giving love, but wanting or needing it back!
And free, most mature of all, is the act of loving, sans hold, sans sight, sans taste, sans having to be with the loved one, the dearest one of all.
A dynamic spiral of the life's layers of love has an eight-fold eternity to it. We first are utterly self-centered, chiefly unconscious of our effect on others. Then we grow much uncertainty-centered, sacrificing our own needs to the family. Next we are ego-centered, pursuing what we want despite the effect on others. Fourth, we circumscribe ourselves to a greater order, eschewing our own responsibility and submitting to the will of the gods. Fifth, we become self-righteous, assured of our right, vengeful on our enemies, and controlling of our loved ones as if owning them. (A subtle distinction here is in such love being controlling, self-righteous, whereas stage three is almost entirely self-serving.) And sixth we deem it freeing to share love, equally, without jealousy, but ultimately actually with a selfish underbelly of feeling thereby free to not be enslaved by the needs of others. And then, seventh step, is the love that accepts unconditionally, gives completely to the welfare of the other, yet is pained by its own sacrifice. Eighth step is the dynamic and flowing letting go of obligation, expectation, and is entirely devoted to the welfare of the other, but it hopes and wishes for a future that may bring about circumstances of reunion, proximity, touch. Ninth step, most sublime of all, is the utter and complete freedom just to let love be, without an absence of the dearest love being a pain, hurt, want, or selfish wish; free!
Graves, Shakespeare, Corinthians. One takes from what is given. One balances in the act of learning love. To be loving. To see the shadows and the interplay that so pervades the imperfectly perfect feelings of love. A question of habits. A question of perception. Being loving, being loved, and being in love are a threefold treasure one can best honor in the self and in one's dearest friend. Yes? Well then: So it is written. So let it be done.