When Love is Not Love

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What makes it difficult for us to redefine Love, let alone embody it, is the collections or series of many troubles and problems that we have had in our lives. One good example is when we feel negative about anyone or anything; when we suffer from a particular bodily pain or illness; when we cry over our emotional and mental anguish; when we wallow on our inner and outer anxieties; when we get depress and desperate in our lives; when we struggle for our daily survival; when we lose things and money (or no way of earning it); when we spend a bad day in a bad mood; when we argue and fight with someone; when we become hopeless, fearful and angry of the world around us. Ad infinitum. We have experienced all sorts of suffering. And perhaps while reading this, you might be worrying about a seemingly unsolvable personal problem or crisis, just as I am having a headache and feeling upset while writing this.

We cannot escape these facts. Whenever we see, feel and encounter them, we often say we cannot see Love. Whenever I feel bad, I have this feeling that Love is not around, that I cannot grasp it, that it is absent. As humans, we are inevitably vulnerable with all the aches and pains of the world, from the most tolerable to the most unbearable. They all blur our inner sight that sees Love’s true presence. How can someone savor Love when hunger eats his stomach? How can someone recognize Love if she feels that nobody cares for her?  How can everyone appreciate Love in a situation riddled with many problems?

This, perhaps, is a mind-boggling puzzle: how to see Love when Love is “not there”. Is this possible? It is not just possible. Indeed, there is no way or chance that we do not see Love, even in the most awful or terrible things in our lives. With this new way of understanding Love, we are challenging our most basic assumptions. We associate Love with something we only like, with all things that favor us, with many realities we render as positive. So we end up unhappy, disappointed and frustrated by this mere assumption that impelled us to create exaggerated expectations that are left unfulfilled. We romanticize Love as if it is a genie that grants all our wishes to live a life happily ever after, yet failed to grant what we want. I am sure that at some point in your life right now, in some ways you have chosen to live your life, you have looked at Love (or God, spirituality, or whatever good or powerful or blessing that you consider) as one that fulfills your irrational desires. Because in many ways, I have also looked at Love the way you did.

We have always confined Love to the one side of the coin, but it is time for us to see it on the other side.

There is one interesting koan (a Zen meditative riddle) that dispels the disillusionment of someone who wants to be enlightened: If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him. Such idea in a Western religion would sound totally blasphemous. But a Zen master knows the wisdom behind. If a person keeps on thinking that  such encounter with the Buddha makes him a Buddha, then that becomes a perversion of his or her practice. Why? The idea of finding the image or illusion of enlightenment ironically becomes the very obstacle of it. Only by embodying such enlightened experience through practicing Zen without seeking for any goal or solidifying it into an ideal dream that enlightenment is being ultimately realized. No milestones, no destinations – just simply journeying on the road.

In finding the path of Love, we must begin to “kill” our idea of Love – the idea that perpetuated our erroneous assumptions about it. Love is not Love when we continue to think it from our usual perspectives: that Love is about what is good or positive or favorable or pleasurable to us. We have always confined Love to the one side of the coin, but it is time for us to see it on the other side. When you read that Love is badnegative, unfavorable or painful, such associations sound unlikely. If you feel them right now, I encourage you to see Love in these descriptions, penetrating them deeply into your life. Whenever you find the courage to face and embrace them, you have finally brought Love back to its wholeness. You have finally revealed Love’s eternal truth.

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For whatever in your life or others’ lives or in the whole world that you find bad, negative, unfavorable and painful, remember that they perfectly mirror the presence of Love. Indeed, any experience, be it good or bad, is an experience of Love – the powerful neutral force that embodies our possibilities. Those things that we negate, deny and reject are the results of our unconscious choice to ignore Love, and thus we continue to create those that causes us both ignorance and suffering. As we choose to become aware again of Love’s presence  manifesting in things that we negate, deny and reject, we consciously transform these possibilities. We see clearly the results of our denial of Love and shift our choices from being neglectful to being conscious of choosing Love. In other words, the Love we usually see absent reveals its full presence.

Love, in other words, is never absent. It is always present, only if we choose to see it. It escapes our sight when we ignore its presence, and thus the absence of Love – all the tribulations and chaos in our lives and in this world – defines our existence. As we see Love again, not just in its seen, but in its unseen presence, the one that our heart feels and penetrates our souls, even in the midst of its seeming absence  Love becomes tangible and visible enough in our lives. We relish every moment as an experience of Love, and that creates a Loving experience. Eventually, Love becomes Love again.

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