Beyond love

There is a post I keep trying to write and it never quite comes together. We’ll see how far this one gets.

There are emotional horizons beyond that of love. As deep, broad, and intense as sacred love is there are things that lie on its other side. And there are things beyond that still – or so I trust.

Extreme sensations, no matter how sweet or pleasurable turn into pain eventually and when there is no relief  or culmination or resolution all that pain turns into a kind of drawn out grief. No one talks to us about love so intense and outsized that it becomes its own source of tragedy.

I write so little about Him here that people actually don’t realize that He’s my primary focus in life. It is much, much easier to write about other topics and those are what people gradually know me best for talking about.

I’ve spent the last several years lost in medieval Indian love poetry because I have no source of emotional refuge closer to home. My religious leaders certainly didn’t talk about what happens after love.

The thing is, I don’t know how to cope with or manage this experience. It is drawn out like hot wire, fine and burning and bright and dangerous to hold. What do you do with this kind of emotion? My only response has been to melt and wave after wave of sentiment surges out and I cry all the time.

**

One of the people I rely on for instruction (I wish I could remember specifically who) said that there’s a good reason people are so wary of religious life. When you shack up with a path you might very well find your life going to shit before very long – and yeah, it’s not too inaccurate to say that religion is the source of the problem. See, when you suddenly rearrange your priorities in a way that will always leave you fundamentally disappointed and frustrated, you will always find life and lived experiences somewhat lacking. For instance, if your religious worldview includes charity as a priority and you go through each and every day surrounded by greed and selfishness, you will naturally end up disappointed and frustrated. If your religious worldview prioritizes a view of humanity as fundamentally connected and interdependent and you see nothing by people talking about how we don’t have to care for one another, you will naturally end up disappointed and frustrated.

The problem isn’t religion as such – and in fact, since this is an entirely natural outcome of religious engagement, I’m not sure it can be considered a problem at all. The difficulty arises from being forced to exist in contexts where our highest goals will be impossible to achieve or realize – and this, perhaps, is the entire point. Trying to force consensus reality to conform to a present, private understanding of a religious paradigm is misguided at best and abusive at worst.

Being in a context suffused with tension between desire and resolution, interior reality and exterior reality, is intensely painful and we have a choice regarding how to deal with this pain. We can lash out and harm others as they inevitably fail to live up to our private ideals; telling others that they aren’t pious enough, aren’t devoted enough, aren’t pure enough, aren’t driven enough, aren’t educated enough, aren’t committed enough, etc. etc. doesn’t actually inspire many people to adopt a religious worldview and certainly doesn’t further the resolution of one’s private desires. Others’ “failure” to conform to our private priorities isn’t a flaw in the system. It’s a feature; a lesson; an opportunity to shut up and recognize that everyone is currently suffering or will eventually suffer from the same failure to resolve the tension between private desire and consensus reality.

What I’m saying is that we can choose to learn from this tension, this “problem” or we can hurt ourselves and others with it.

I struggle with this. I prioritize the sacred relationships in my life and feel them with such intensity that I can have little patience for the small, nuanced, and delicate ways that interpersonal ties are formed and sustained. I am not always a very good friend. I am not always very patient with the ways interpersonal ties are expressed. I have failed to be compassionate and patient and without doubt I will continue to fail.

This failure isn’t a flaw; the flaw exists only in me demanding that all other versions of reality conform to my interior priorities. It doesn’t mean that I’m wrong or bad, merely that I still have much to learn.

I don’t feel like this love lives in me; I feel like I live in it, moving through it like a cloud or bank of fog every day. This outsized love is painful enough that it feels like a flaw, like a problem, like a burden – but just because it feels this way doesn’t mean it is.

My life has been ruined by religion. I’ve been shredded to pieces and beaten down until I don’t recognize the person I was or am or might someday be. The little markers that gave me gravity and a place to sit are long gone and I have no idea where I fit or where I belong. I have loved long past the point of pain and I don’t know how to stop. I thought about stopping and even tried for a while but found that the world of dry and empty and bland. I don’t know precisely how to channel this intensity or how to find relief; nothing seems to fix it for long.

“My ruination,” I call Him.

And yet I persist – not out of any nobility of purpose but only because I don’t know how to stop.

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16 thoughts on “Beyond love

  1. lornasmithers says:

    Powerful words. I can relate to this in the sense that my devotion to my deity and my path and to speaking my truth has meant that I have not had nor will ever have material success or recognition by secular society (which is pretty much all of society!). I can also understand how living a relationship with a deity with deep intensity leads to feeling cut off and frustrated that so few people share similar feelings. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the absence of the structures within paganism, unlike with say Christianity, to help people deal with being called by their god(s) to a particular vocation. There’s support in mainstream religions for people who want to live a life of devotion and service be it nunneries or monasteries or at least a bit of counselling whereas we’re pretty much alone…

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    • Silence says:

      It’s definitely hard to cope with the lack of obvious structures for support and guidance – but this is also an opportunity to discover ways of doing things that are relevant to our polytheist selves and communities. If you’re on Facebook you might look for a group called Pagan and Polytheist Monasticism. There’s a lot of conversation on these topics. 🙂

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      • lornasmithers says:

        I recall seeing this mentioned on Danica Swanson’s blog. Unfortunately I’m not on Facebook. Danica did suggest beginning a forum but as far as I can see that hasn’t happened (yet). I’d definitely join the conversation if there was a non-FB alternative!

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  2. owanderer says:

    I’ve thought about leaving so many times but like you, have found that the world seems dry and bland to that point that it terrifies me. How could I live without Spirit imbuing the world with energy? I’ve had enough explorations with both drugs and mental illness to know that a world without magic is one of the scariest things in the world to me. It makes the world seem loveless.

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    • Silence says:

      A trusted friend told me that leaving would be especially difficult for me because I had chosen to intertwine my emotional and religious life. I hadn’t looked at it from that perspective; in this light, I probably made a decision that made my life more complicated. But having participated in a love beyond anything I could have imagined I’d have, I can’t say that I haven’t been compensated for my efforts. Still, sometimes thoughts about how my life might have been different start to clutter my head.

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  3. Sigrid says:

    I have such a huge amount of emotions for this and not enough mental bandwidth left to write a worthwhile response. Thank you for sharing this. It validates a great deal of what I feel in my own life, while giving me even more compassion for your experiences of love and pain and the muddied waters of how to cope with it all.

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  4. David Brooks says:

    When you change your way of being, trying to manifest the change you want for the world, there comes a certain point where you see that you’re not all that, and the world changes very slowly- this is frustrating. And then you realize that you chose to do this, and it remains valid., There is nothing else to do, but continue your path. A lot of people become bitter at this point, but if you wait it out, your heart softens- no one promised it would be easy, right?
    Very good work, Silence. Excellent!

    Like

  5. Christine Lape Berger says:

    forgive me – I wanted a comment but had none. Then this came through – as always my marchng orders are to share. ❤ to you Silence

    Do I Burn, Do I Break from Love So Big 05-16-17

    You question what to do as a human
    Who burns with Love all the time
    A Love bigger than you or any other human
    Does your heart break because of that Love
    Or because nothing else in the world or in your life
    Can equal it?

    What happens when a human burns from the inside out
    From a Love that is pure in its suffering and its joy
    You do not see yourself from our vantage point
    We see you burn and become brighter
    We see you ebb and flow like the tides
    We see you crack wide open and that Love that is too big
    For you to contain
    Changes the world around you

    This is happening to any of you who will allow it
    And yes the day will come that you fall down in the middle of the crossroads
    And find that they have merged into one path
    And you like a faithful Ox
    Have allowed your very being to be yoked to that force that has conquered you

    We have said before that it is either Love or Fear
    That rules a human heart
    I say now that if you have given your life over to Love
    Your burning your suffering because it is so immense
    Will make you more than one you are now
    Will make you more than you can even conceive
    Will open and break you again and again
    Until you are free
    Utterly
    With not even the idea of fear to curse you further

    Liked by 5 people

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