Several years ago, I tried my best to help a friend who was feeling unloved by someone whom he dearly loved, and I recall that a reassuring thought about his situation came to me, one which I shared with him. It occurred to me that my friend was thinking of love as something private and personal. He seemed to be thinking of love as a commodity, a material substance, like money, for instance, something private that could be given from one person to another, something he could then personally 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 forsaken and lacking in love. What I realized, and what I shared with him, is that love is not at all private or personal. It sounds crazy, I know, but it struck me as an undeniable fact: love is totally impersonal, simply because 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 constructed, given, and then taken away. An analogy that came to me is the air, which is everywhere and is freely available to everyone, just like love. No one would think of saying to someone, “I own this air I’m breathing, and no one else can have any of it.” The air can’t be privately owned, and thus can’t be given and then recalled, and nether can love. Both air and love are just there –always and for everyone. While my friend was feeling unloved, all around him love was being breathed in, enjoyed, and then expressed – by his friends, by his family members, by his estranged loved one, by her family, by millions of strangers, and, of course, by him. My friend, like all of us, was absolutely surrounded by love, but he, like many of us, couldn’t see it and feel it, because he wanted it to be private, his own, something he could stockpile and stow away. As with many of us, he wanted the love to be for him personally. He wanted to own love and keep love, and he felt like his loved one took it away from him. The truth is, though – and this is what I shared with him – that no one can take away any of the love that surrounds us. Love is wider and wilder 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 never-ending. My friend’s loved one had turned away from him, but the love that she and all of us are part of was still with him. He couldn’t possibly escape from it, just as he can’t escape from air.
The years have passed, but I still hope my friend can always, come what may, breathe in the undying power of free-of-charge, freewheeling, and limitless love.