Saturday, September 25, 2004

unrequited love

'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, 1850, line 27, stanza 4

The overcast sky brings this year's early Autumn to the "shallow south," and my cup of coffee is inviting pensive reflections on recent Autumns past. Together they bring to mind the oft-quoted lines of Tennyson, and I am tempted to reach back through time and shake the man thoroughly to try and dislodge exactly what he meant. Do you really mean that?? How in the world can it be true?? Have you survived love lost?

Is unrequited love better than no love at all...?

Clearly more than academic, this question shakes my foundation, and serves as the reason (excuse) for my weeklong writing hiatus. Rest assured, I have five postings in draft form on every topic around, but in the face of personal anguish, these intellectual considerations seem ephemeral and cold. So I offer a quick glimpse into my own highly-personal musings (which I swore I wouldn't). Because, without understanding (at least in part) where I am, and what the hell I'm doing here, I can't address with a clear mind anything else.

What I really want to know is the answer. I find myself the keeper (the victim?) of unrequited love - and it devastates me. Like a tragic game of Hot Potato, I wish I could pass this off...but the time is run out and there's no one else around.

Love is, at its best, a glimpse of the divine. It illuminates the Trinity, the very inner workings of the Godhead, in ways the uninitiated can only imagine. When you love (the truest of all verbs) it is impossible not to see in this union a glimpse - a shadow - of divine communion. It is breathtaking and life altering, and I don't think humans were created in the Garden to have that level of intimacy taken, or ripped, away. Such is the tragedy of the Fall, and we are all so weak...

But unrequited love is perhaps the most perverse. Love is not meant to rest or stay put. Like water it flows, first from above and then steadily downward until it reaches down to the depths or is returned above. And like water, when love gets trapped with no outlet, it stagnates, becomes polluted, and unpotable. How can you possibly love someone that does not love you back? The very essence of love somehow necessitates an exchange, a flow, back and forth that is self-reinforcing and indescribably affirming and satisfying. Doesn't unrequited love somehow become a selfish thing, attempting to satisfy a pure longing with a cheap imitation, when the object of your love does not receive or return this love? Is it even love? Or is unrequited loves somehow supremely selfless - the ultimate sacrifice - continuing to give (or at least offer) despite all evidence of ever receiving anything in return.

Is unrequited love ultimately selfless...or selfish?

But maybe I don't have a choice. It is not like love was never returned to me at all - not like I always loved from afar. It was shared, then denied. And it is not like I can simply turn it off just because I am "supposed" to now. Would I even want to? That which invites the most devastating and the most uplifting moments of life should not simply be discarded once it has been birthed. Just because it is a little worn or a little used. Why would I ever pretend that love is not what it is, and what it will always be until the end, or attempt to substitute one love for another, as if each love does not have its own unique DNA that cannot be replicated?

So I am bound to the course that I am's not like I have a choice. I just wish I knew where the hell I am going, and how the hell I got here, and why I can't turn down the volume just a little bit, enough to concentrate on something else for a minute because it is blasting in my head and I can't seem to get a thought in edgewise.

But Autumn is always melancholy and full of too many memories. So I'll sit and drink my coffee and welcome the changing leaves and try to love like there is no tomorrow. Because who knows? Maybe there isn't.

Grace & Peace...