A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What Is Love?

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”    (The New Testament - Corinthians  13:4-7)

Because I see God as Love, this quote is for me a good description of God.  Just replace the word Love with God and see if it broadens your perspective.  God can be so unconditionally loving because God is not sick, but we human animals are very sick and in our sickness we distort our conceptions of love. The most distorted conception of love that we have conceived and compulsively promote is romantic love.  Conventionally the height of romantic love is marriage and our first example of it is with our parents.  Most of the marriage partners I’ve encountered through my friends and lovers have been dysfunctional.  It does not surprise me that in the US 40 to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. The dysfunction within these marriages teaches dysfunctional patterns of interrelating to the children who in turn grow up and seek out what is familiar to them:  another dysfunctional relationship.  And the cycle continues.

Meanwhile the myth of ideal romantic love is fed to the children in the form of stories, particularly in fairy tales, found in books, TV, films and music.  The archetypes of the princess and the prince were in my experience always white, heterosexual, presented as physically “beautiful”, personally flawless. The storyline was one of discovering each other and instantly “falling in love” followed by separation due to an almost insurmountable external threat that primarily the prince has to overcome thus proving his worthiness to union in marriage and living happily ever after in some now ideal world.  And in this world full of “ideal” romance there is no expression of sexuality except for a kiss or two.

The reality that each child confronts in their daily lives is that there are no princesses or princes, no Queens and Kings to be found.  We live in a multicultural world with couples who have different sexual orientations.  Most of us are not  stereotypically “beautiful” and every single person encountered has personal flaws.  Children are very perceptive.  They know what kind of world they are living in.  Perhaps that is why they are taught over and over to seek out fantasy as an escape from the problems and pains of real life.  What’s worse is that the fantasies that are chosen for them are very shallow, very unchallenging, counter to the deepening awareness of personal growth.  Counter to the very thing that parents say they want for their children: to be grounded in reality, to grow up healthy, able to work through the challenges of life.

As a culture made up of so many individuals, we don’t only teach our children poorly, we teach them to be sick.  We teach them to adapt to the dysfunction in society.  It is depressing to me that so many artists not only reflect our collective illness, but promote it and feed their own individual sicknesses, thus continuing the cycle yet again.  It is an addictive cycle.  What fuels any kind of addiction is at first the need to avoid pain and then the compulsion to always look outside oneself for fulfillment.  Romance addiction is not about love and intimacy and growth; it is about trying to use another person to avoid facing oneself.

I think the very first lesson children should be taught is to love themselves unconditionally.  But how can a child learn that if they are being taught by adults who have adapted to the dysfunctional, addictive society they live in?  These are adults who continue to love themselves and others conditionally, which I believe is not true loving.  The answer is these children can’t, unless they are blessed by having regular contact with some self loving healthy adult that agrees to take them under their wing from time to time.  This doesn’t mean that these children don’t have contact with examples of healthy love growing up, but these examples are short in duration and can get overwhelmed by the many more examples set by self rejecting adults and peers.  And so as these children grow up they cobble together a mixture of health and sickness in their relationships with others.

I think we all really do want health and happiness in our lives, but all too often we are blinded by our own sickness, which is so deeply rooted as to be passed on from generation to generation.  Adolescents and adults feed on conflict in romantic relationships in their lives and in the stories they read, watch, listen to which includes intrigues, infidelity, lies, manipulation, mistrust, misrepresentation, all of which seem put in place to sabotage self love and love of the other and neatly avoids the necessary inclusion of any positive spiritual orientation.

The essence of love is spiritual, not physical.  Learning to love yourself is a spiritual process.  If the Higher Power is Unconditional Love, then when you reach out to love and care for yourself, you are reaching out to God in and around you.  The usual pattern is to reach out to love and care for someone else, but if you skip over the most important step, that of committing to loving yourself first, you will never find the love you seek.  More likely you will encounter conflict and pain.  Without unconditionally loving yourself, in essence removing the Higher Power from the picture, you are left with a lot of sickness.

Though we try to convince ourselves otherwise, love and hate do not mix.  Love is health; there is absolutely no sickness in love.  Hate, in all its guises, is all sickness;  there is no health in hatred.  That we can recognize genuine love at all in a world so full of distortions of it, is a miracle in itself.  That’s God’s grace at work in everyone, everywhere.
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