12th Century Poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī –also known as Rumi–once wrote these beautiful words about love and lovers:
Lovers don’t finally meet;
They’re with each other all along…
This is a statement about the absoluteness and the omnipresence of love. Aside from what we know of Rumi’s work (his “love” poems were not actually about romantic love of a mate, but of a religious believer’s love of God), these words seem to question whether or not we are predestined to meet our lovers, if that love has a beginning and an end, and (my take) if the lovers we take are just mates we fill voids with. I’ve thought about this, as one who has been married umpteen times. A question: Do we just have love in us and are looking for someone to pour that love into? Or are we not in love until we meet a person who excites our spirit and it lights the spark that becomes the feeling of falling in love? Rumi seems to believe that we are born with this characteristic or desire. Our first love is always our parents and perhaps siblings. The way a child longs for his father when his father is away at work (or not living in the household), or the way he longs for his mother when she first sends him to daycare or school–we have this longing when away from “the one” we love. Some of us have these special relationships with our siblings; we are miserable when we do not have communication with brothers and sisters. We cry when they marry because we know life will never be the same for us. We get jealous when their spouse now receives all the attention. We mourn their death as a parent mourns the death of a gone-too-soon child. Sometimes the love we have transferred to a parent or sibling or child corrupts our ability to enjoy a normal, healthy love relationship with our spouses. We call these people “momma’s boys” and daddy’s princess”…
I believe that in order to understand the dynamics of relationship and marriage (including the stages leading up to marriage), we must understand the totality of love. It is not a phase, as some would consider it. It is not a foolish feeling that one must supress. Yet love is an incontrollable urge that can be a man’s downfall if he misprioritizes. If he is not careful he may fail to ensure that his worldly life is in order while pursuing the dreamy ecstasy that love can lead him to.
Love is a God-given gift that even the drunk in the gutter, the least fortunate of us, the least attractive, the wealthiest, the oldest, and the most naiive adolescent will all experience. Where you find a man or woman who does not allow themselves to experience–or deny it’s effect–you find a spiritually (or otherwise) unhealthy person. Perhaps that person has been hurt and does not want to feel that way again. Or he or she is addicted to sex and will self-sabotage any fruitful relationship they have potential to enjoy. Or–in the extreme–this person is a cruel manipulator who seduces and uses the feelings others develop for them, for their personal gain. And then you have those who long for a lifelong companion, but they lack the qualities that others find appealing. This is the person we have the most sympathy; the addage “someone for everybody” does not seem to apply in this case. These people die alone, in a convent somewhere–having devoted their life to chastity, or while taking care of an elderly relative all their lives until they were finally alone and never had the pleasure of a mate.
And love has no end. When you loved someone, only in the rare circumstance that your lover has hurt or angered you immensely would you be left without feelings for that person. We may understand that she is not the one for us, or that we have wronged her and therefore do not deserve her company–or any number of reasons–but the feelings of affection and concern will never leave. It is why, 20 years after divorce, the death of an ex spouse can leave an ex-wife crying at the funeral, although she is remarried and had moved on. God never intended for man to be without love of someone. It isn’t normal for us to be alone, and I would go so far as to state that it is impossible for a man to be alone, without an object of affection.
I’d like to introduce you to German poet Ranier Maria Rilke (he’s a guy, folks) is the Christian version of Rumi. Also a consummate love/religious poet, he explored the expanse subject of love and likens a man’s love of God for his love of his woman. Rilke agrees that love is an ever-flowing stream from the soul of a man and it reaches all who enters within its grasp, and those who receive it, “inherit” this love as a boy inherits his father’s fortune… only to bequeath it to his son. My favorite Rilke poem on this subject is Poem 10 from his “Book of the Pilgrimmage”. I’m sure you will agree that he paints a beautiful picture of the passing of love from one to another. The poem follows in it’s entirety. Enjoy!
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And you inherit the green
of vanished gardens
and the motionless blue of fallen skies,
dew of a thousand dawns, countless summers
the suns sang, and springtimes to break your heart
like a young woman’s letters.
You inherit the autumns, folded like festive clothing
in the memories of poets; and all the winters,
like abandoned fields, bequeath you their quietness.
You inherit Venice, Kazan, and Rome;
Florence will be yours, and Pisa’s cathedral,
Moscow with bells like memories,
and the Troiska convent, and that monastery
whose maze of tunnels lies swallowed under Kiev’s gardens.
Sound will be yours, of string and brass and reed,
and sometimes the songs will seem
to come from inside you.
For your sake poets sequester themselves,
gather images to churn the mind,
journey forth, ripending with metaphor,
and all their lives they are so alone…
And painters pain their pictures only
that the world, so transient as You made it,
can be given back to You,
to last forever.
All becomes eternal. See: In the Mona Lisa
some woman has long since ripened like wine,
and the enduring feminine is held there
through all the ages.
Those who create are like You.
They long for the eternal.
They say, Stone, be forever!
And that means: be Yours.
And lovers also gather your inheritance.
They are the poets of one brief hour.
They kiss an expressionless mouth into a smile
as if creating it anew, more beautiful.
Awakening desire, they make a place
where pain can enter;
that’s how growing happens.
They bring suffering along with their laughter,
and longings that had slept and now awaken
to weep in a stranger’s arms.
They let the riddles pile up and then they die
the way animals die, without making sense of it.
But maybe in those who come after,
their green life will ripen;
it’s then that you will inherit the love
to which they gave themselves so blindly, as in a sleep.
Thus the overflow from things
pours into you.
Just as a fountain’s higher basins
spill down like the strands of loosened hair
into the lower vessel,
so streams the fullness into You,
when things and thoughts cannot contain it.
Book of Pilgrimage
Maria Ranier Rilke (1875 – 1926)