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love is not fully possible. Unconditional love is the necessary, dream-like, and invisible shoreline that continually draws us to its edge but where we can never fully arrive.
We are mortal creatures of living and dying and how we love and what we love is conditional upon where we stand in the drama and the seasonality of that living and dying. Love may be sanctified and ennobled by its commitment to the unconditional horizon of perfection, but what makes love real in the human world seems to be our moving, struggling conversation with that beckoning horizon rather than our actual arrival.
The hope for, or the declaration of a purely spiritual, unconditional love is more often a coded desire for immunity and safety, an attempt to forgo the trials of vulnerability, powerlessness and the exquisite pain to which we apprentice ourselves in a relationship, a marriage, in raising children, in a work we love and desire.
The hope for unconditional love is the hope for a different life than the one we have been given. Love is the conversation between possible, searing disappointment and a profoundly imagined sense of arrival and fulfillment; how we shape that conversation is the touchstone of our ability to love in the real inhabited world.
The true signature and perhaps even the miracle of human love is its helplessness, and all the more miraculous because it is a helplessness which we wittingly or unwittingly choose; in our love of a child, a partner, a work, or a road we have to take against the odds.
Our roads and journeys of love are always lived through beautiful humiliations, through disappointments, and through forms of imprisonment: of our own or another’s strange behavior or simply subject to the seasonality of the world; the arriving weather of existence always blowing through once stable lives and many times, blowing us apart.
Unconditional love is the beautiful hoped for impossibility, and yet we could not fully understand the nature of our helplessness without looking through the lens of that hoped for perfection. We are creatures who do not get to choose between what we want and what is wanted of us, and we seem to embody the full vulnerabilities of love only when we dwell at the moving frontier between this wanting and being wanted. The invitation is made to us every day whether we desire it or no, to enter a deeply human world of robust vulnerability, shot through with a sometimes joyful, more often difficult helplessness, to risk our selves in the conditional world in which we live and to accept that there is no possible path we can follow where we will be untouched by the heartbreak, the difficulties and the joys that move us and move through us.
The only path possible is to give our self unconditionally to the conditionality of each overwhelming, disturbing and rewarding guise of love.
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
© David Whyte & Many Rivers Press 2015
Walking the Shore
Byron Bay, Australia, April 25th 2016
Photo © David Whyte’
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling in Exeter since 1994