What Is Love?
I posted above the link to the music video "What Is Love?" by Haddaway because the idea of love has been on my mind lately. This 1990's video is not the image of love that I picture, but this song pops into my head when I think of the word love nonetheless. This song reminds me of The Night At the Roxbury from the 1990's and from the skit that was performed at Catholic Heart WorkCamp (CHWC) this past summer. I guess it is forever drilled into my head because it was performed each week at CHWC and a running joke for the staff because most of the campers were not old enough to know the origins of this song (campers wanted to know where they could get this song..they thought it was a new and upcoming song).
Like I stated above, I do not really believe that this image of love is the reality of love, it is just funny. Through this volunteer year I have really questioned the idea of love because the word love has always been a difficult word to grasp. Society quantifies the word love as a materialistic idea that surrounds sex, kisses, and infatuation. However, these ideas are empty and eventually fade which is noted in any psychology of close relationships or textbook. Real love has nothing to do with romance because romance fades, friendship remains forever. Studies have shown that romantic relationships last when couples have a basis of friendship. So what is love then if it is not filled with false principles of romance?
I do not have many adjectives to describe love because I have a difficult time thinking about it in terms of a romantic love. Rather love can occur when any two people are interacting or even on a greater societal level. Love is an ever evolving thing that is tested through action and resembles caring. I see love as an ongoing action; love is not an adjective. I read some excerpts by Dorothy Day recently who discussed the idea of love personified in the world. Dorothy saw love in the soup kitchen and in the Catholic Worker house on a daily basis. Below I am going to list some quotes that I noted as I read her book By Little and By Little:
"Love and ever more love is the only solution every problem that comes up. If we love each other we will bear with each other's faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much."-Dorothy Day
"We are saving the seed of love, and we are not living in the harvest time."-Dorothy Day
"We cannot ever see our brothers in need with out first stripping ourselves. It is the only way we have of showing our love."-Dorothy Day
"So an act of love, a voluntary taking on oneself of some of the pain of the world increases the courage and love and hope of all."-Dorothy Day
"We are put on earth for a little space that we may learn to bear the beams of love."-William Blake quoted in Dorothy Day's reading
"Yes, we fail in love, we make judgement's and we fail to see that we are all brothers, we all are seeking love, seeking God, seeking the beatific vision."-Dorothy Day
"When there is no love, put love, and you will find love."-St. John of the Cross quoted in Dorothy Day's reading
"The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love."-Dorthy Day
"Love casts out fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love them"-Dorothy Day
"Love is indeed 'harsh and dreadful thing' to ask of us, of each of one of us, but it is the only answer."-Dorothy Day
"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and love comes with community."-Dorothy Day
As I was reading these excerpts, the theme of love was being expressed in the daily Catholic readings. Here are a couple quotes that caught my attention:
"Whoever does not love remains in death...If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth."-1 John 3:11-21
"Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins."-1 John 4:7-10
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love."-1 John 4:11-18
These readings made sense to me through my experience as a full-time volunteer. As some of you know, I struggle with some of the rules and beliefs of the Catholic Church but through Dorothy Day's writings I was able to finally relate to Catholicism in a way I never thought about, through the love of humanity, especially marginalized humanity. This is how I see my faith and love of God through my love for others. I know that some of the guests see my love because they tell me, "Your smile makes me feel comfortable and shows me that you care" or "It seems like you have been here for 5 years because you show such love and care for us here" or "I feel so comfortable around you, like you are really listening". These are all examples of love personified and understood through the eyes of the guests but at the same time I know I struggle to love.
It is difficult to see love some days especially when a guests is being manipulative and needy. The past couple of weeks have been frigid and most of the guests are without outerwear. Over the holiday season the soup kitchen received a huge influx of gloves, hats, scarves and coats to give out to the guests. I readily gave out these items because they are better on someone then sitting in a pile upstairs. However, at the same time the same people were coming in each day and asking for the same items. I became annoyed by the neediness. Where was love in this neediness? Where is love in neediness? Neediness seems selfish. I reflected on my feelings later that day and was frustrated with my judgmental views because these people are LIVING OUTSIDE IN FREEZING WEATHER. The guests are needy because they have nothing else. I was being selfish and close-minded. The reason they do not keep up with their things is because there is no place for them to store them because they do not go home into a house or into a room in a building that they can lock and call it their own. They have grocery bags, grocery buggies, carts, and bikes that carry their belongings. People are always around them because they are outside with zero protection.Others can easily steal their coats, gloves, hats, or scarves. So if I have to give them 10 pairs of gloves in one week, then so be it. This is where I have found love, in understanding the characteristics of poverty. Love does not judge, rather love creates understanding.
As quoted above by Dorothy, "Yes, we fail in love, we make judgement's and we fail to see that we are all brothers, we all are seeking love, seeking God, seeking the beatific vision." We constantly fail in love but when one understands that we are all the same, part of humankind, the power of love overcomes. I think Dorothy Day struggled with love everyday because she experienced the same feelings on a regular basis at the soup kitchen. She often spoke about not being able to respond to the guests remarks about sleeping in the cold because she has a place to sleep and can make no comparable complaints. So on this day let us strive for love, love as human for other humans.
*This blog is a very vulnerable thing for me to write about due to the content of love, so please no harsh judgments. I only write these words so that we can all try to understand the real meaning of love in our everyday lives.