What place Love?

I’ve been wondering of late, in the midst of all the talk and hot debate

What role does love play as we try to forge ahead

What role for love as we seek our daily bread

Divergent paths with urgent truths, all clashing clanging gongs confused

Yet faith and hope and love remain

And greater still is loves refrain

Caritas Christi Urget Nos

Without knowing it, my life absorbed these words from a very early age, long before I ever knew what they meant. Funny too that even when I heard the English translation, I still had little to no idea of the deeper meaning of this odd phrase. 

As I type this, the dreadful pandemic seems to still maintain a firm grip on the planet. One of the more difficult to deal with characteristics of this illness is the division between people that the debate around the core issues seems to raise. I would hasten to add that I would expect that there is hardly anyone in our westernised world at the very least, who isn’t caught up somewhere along the line of current thinking (as polarised or polarising as it is), in an argument that frankly, your average punter is never going to understand. Many people in this situation usually end up cheering for one side of the coin or the other, in a manner that more resembles supporters of a sporting team rather that informed and objective discussion. Mistrust of authorities; undermining of the reliability of information, conspiracy theories and self proclaimed experts in abundance to name just a few of the strategies at work. Violent protests, scenes of police oversight that we’ve rarely seen in our beautiful city. No matter what angle you look at this from, it is a time where the status quo is being redefined on a daily basis, in a manner like no other time in history. 

There is a beautiful piece of what I like to call “wisdom literature” that I have found myself thinking about quite a bit lately. It is from a book in the Bible and contains one of the most beautiful discourses on Love that I have ever read. Indeed, if you have ever been to a Christian wedding you will probably have heard this. It’s from the first book of Corinthians chapter 13. Look it up. As each faction of the local response to the pandemic competes for our attention, I have been wondering what place Love should have in our response. One of the claims that Corinthians makes regarding love is “if I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge … but have not love, I am nothing.”  What kind of love is the author trying to sell here? Is it the same as the love between an old happily married couple? Is it the sort of love that we get when eating a good meal or holding a new born child? Is it feeling based or is it more cerebral? My take on this is that it is a love that exists at a very real gut level. It’s more to do with our psychological DNA. It doesn’t mean that I must agree with everything you say; I suspect it doesn’t even mean that I have to like you. The Corinthians reading goes on to give some insights into what they surmise love to be. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 

Can you imagine applying this as a strategy to deal with these contentious times? Imagine if your first response to a contrary argument or social media post that got up your nose, was a response driven by a grounded knowledge of love? Imagine if our decision makers were openly committed to promoting love as a valid contemporary response. 

I suppose I should tell you about the Latin phrase I quoted at the start. When I was a young fella, I was fortunate to be associated with a group of religious folk who carved out a lifestyle inspired by the life of a 19th Century priest by the name of Vincent Pallotti. As you walk up the steps into their retreat centre here in the Yarra Valley, you are greeted by an artwork that has at its centre that Latin phrase which translates into “the Love of Christ Compels us”. I could think of worse motivational thoughts. 

Love Never Fails!!

P.S. I don’t by any means claim to be a great practitioner of this. I am happy to declare my own imperfection and weakness. I do claim though, that this is a course that I will happily steer my human ship along. I think it is worthy of some attention.