Monday, October 19, 2009


Recently I’ve been trying to help a friend who is feeling unloved by someone whom he dearly loves, and an amazingly reassuring thought about his situation came to me yesterday, one which I am anxious to share with him. It suddenly occurred to me that my friend was thinking of love as something personal. He was, I think, picturing love as a commodity, a material substance – like money, for instance – that could be given from one person to another. He was thinking of love as something material and therefore personal – something he could own and keep and treasure. His friend had given him her love, much like you might give a special gift, and now she had taken it back – and he felt devastated, forsaken, unloved. What I realized yesterday is that love is not at all personal. It sounds crazy, I know, but it struck me as an astonishing truth, a plain and undeniable fact: love is totally impersonal. It doesn’t belong to any one person, can’t be owned by any person, isn’t made by any person. It’s not a material “thing” that can be made, given, and taken away. An analogy that came to me is the air: The air is everywhere and is freely available to everyone, and so is love. No one would think of saying to someone, “You gave me this air I’m breathing, and you can’t take it back.” The air can’t be granted and then recalled, and nether can love. Both air and love are just there –always and for everyone. While my friend is feeling unloved, all around him love is being enjoyed and expressed – by his friends, by his family members, by his estranged loved one, by her family, by millions and billions of strangers, and, of course, by him. My friend (like all of us) is positively surrounded, overwhelmed, and engulfed by love, but he (like most of us) doesn’t see it and feel it, because he wants it to be personal. As with most of us, he wants the love to be for him personally. He wants to own love and keep love, and he feels like his loved one took it away from him. The truth is, though – and this is what I want to share with him – that no one can take away any of the love that surrounds us. Love is wider and farther and bigger and more boundless than any one person. It’s with us always, like the endless air. When we’re despondent and desperate, the air is still there, waiting for us to breathe it in, and so is love. The love may not be specifically and personally directed toward us (including my friend), but that’s just because it’s too immense, too limitless, too never-ending. My friend’s loved one has turned away from him, but the love that she and all of us are part of is still with him. He can’t escape from it, just as he can’t escape from air. I hope my friend can relax a little and begin to breathe in this everlasting power of impersonal, shared, free-of-charge love.

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