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sistercoyote
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Coyote Musings
Coyote handsome
his coat the same brown
as the dust from which he rises

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What is the sound of one hand slapping Schroedinger's cat?

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The Quantum Duck goes "quark, quark."

September 2010
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Missing Left Sock Beast [userpic]
Holidailies, day 17: Advent - Love

So, it's the last Sunday before Christmas. Despite not being Christian at this point in my life, I decided to use the four Sundays of Advent as prompts. When I did this, I saw that love was on the list, but didn't think much of it at the time. Now that I'm faced with writing about love, however...well, I'm kind of rethinking my choices. But I'll behave myself and keep to my plan, even if part of the reason this post is being made lateish on Sunday is because love is one of Those Subjects. It feels somehow presumptuous and trite to write about, and largely for the same reasons: my brain keeps asking me what I could possibly say about love that hasn't already been said a million times, and probably much better by many of the people who said them. Say, Shakespeare.

But I don't want to talk about romantic love. For one thing, that would be breaking the "write what you know" rule big time. For those who celebrate Christmas, maternal love seems a more suitable topic. Or love of the light returning for pagans and those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. I could discuss the love between friends, or the love that moves us to reach out to people we don't even know. Or the way that love is an overused word.

I think I will start out by quoting Jesus (I'm too lazy to check chapter and verse, though I think this is possibly from the Sermon on the Mount, which would make it somewhere in Matthew), who said that the whole of the Law could be boiled down to: Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. I'm going to set aside "Love God" for the time being, since half the time I don't believe in God(dess[es]) at all, and the other half of the time...well, the face of the Divine I have the most reason to believe in has been known to take advice from their own shit. Regardless, I think most of us can agree that "Love your neighbor as yourself" is not bad advice, except for the huge taken-for-granted in that command. Do you see it? Here, let me add emphasis: Love your neighbor as yourself.

This has always, always raised for me the question: What if you don't love yourself? That would bode ill for one's relationship with one's neighbors (and, come to think of it, may explain some people whose behavior I've never really understood). The thing is, I'm not sure the idea that people love themselves is a reasonable assumption. I can understand why Jesus (and the other wise folks who have said something similar) made the assumption. But I think there are a few things that might get in the way.

For one thing, at least in Western culture as I have experienced it, we are not encouraged to love ourselves, nor to treat ourselves with the sort of kindness implied in "love your neighbor as yourself." It seems to me that we are taught that tender lovingcare is something we give to other people, and that we may be considered narcissistic or worse, selfish, if we give it to ourselves. (I do consider narcissism a problem for the same reason I consider the Seven Deadlies a problem - it's love of the self taken too far. Selfishness, although it, too, can be taken to far, I don't necessarily consider a negative trait.)

I think this is wrong. I think we should treat ourselves with the sort of tenderness with which I imagine Mary treating the newborn Jesus in his cradle. I don't think we shoud reserve lovingkindness for others; I think we, ourselves, deserve it too. Which is not to say that I'm any good at sitting down and nursing my spiritual and emotional aches, either, or that I'm any good at forgiving myself those things which should be forgiven. I still beat myself up over little things that I did years ago, if I haven't done anything recently I can beat myself up over. I don't imagine I'm alone in this. I think we probably all do it (except for the aforementioned narcissists) to some extent. But I think that if we're going to hold others in the light, it's better if we can at least sometimes hold ourselves in it.

The trick is to catch yourself being cruel to yourself, and forgiving that part of you that's being unloving. To take "Love your neighbor as yourself" as a command to love yourself (as well as your neighbor).

It's a process.

Comments

I like your entries. :)

And to expand on this, this particular entry reminds me of something someone I love very much told me not so long ago (about loving yourself and giving some tenderness to yourself). Only you have a better way with words than he. :)

One of my therapists interpreted that verse as "You will love others in the same way that you love yourself".

His position was that you will not be able to love anyone else any better than you love yourself, so you need to learn to love yourself well so that you can love others well.

I've certainly seen this in my experience.

Very thoughtful words. I agree it's a process, learning to be tender with ourselves and others. We work each day to build walls up between each other, but if we are to be fully realized those walls must come down.