We do not want to confuse superficial emotions or sentiments with love and wisdom. Based on various emotions and sentiments we can act foolishly, but actual love is never foolish. Love can powerfully affect the emotions, but it is not an emotion—it is the transcendent light and power behind our best decisions. What I mean here by “love” is love-wisdom, a spiritual energy at the heart of everything. This heart is not sentimental, but fiery and wise.
It may satisfy our sentiments to always act sweetly, in ways that make our loved ones and us comfortable, or in ways that accede to someone’s desires. But this may or may not correspond to love and wisdom. A decision based on sentiment, or imagined love, may just as likely bring eventual harm as help. For instance, although pseudo-love or sentiment may move us to give everything asked for, regardless of long-term effects, wisdom knows better. And wisdom knows when to be disagreeable, and when to use a “yes” or “no.” In love and wisdom we find a far-seeing vision that senses the right type and measure of giving.
If we look carefully we may discover that what we sometimes call “love” is not love at all. Instead, we have a desire for love and a desire to love. And we are willing to do all kinds of things to get others to see us as desirable and attractive. We love the image and the ideal of love, even when we are not quite sure what it all means. But this psychology is human rather than transcendental and is based on desire and sentiment rooted in self-interest. If we are honest with ourselves, we may discover that much of what we called “love” is really our self-interested desires in disguise.
We see a good example of how emotion can work if we consider the semantics of a “broken heart.” What breaks is not love or the heart, but our persistent and intense desire. We want what we cannot have and cling to desire in the face of frustration until it ruins our emotional life. But such pain is at a self-centered emotional level and not the level of the soul or love. Our so-called broken heart is caused by our desire. Love is the cure and not the cause of a broken heart, and when we really love, and love more truly and broadly, our broken heart is healed.
One teaching says that non-attachment is, “freedom from longing for all objects of desire, either earthly or traditional, either here or hereafter.” Yet it may be early for us to idealize the renunciation of all desire, when we’ve not made much progress in supplanting our numerous bad desires with better ones, and it may be we’ve not yet even learned to enjoy taking out the trash.
And if the water is still and clear, we will notice reflected there the awesome beauty of the sky? And if the sky shines in the eye of a friend, likely we will desire to remain with this friend. And shall we also renounce future desires we do not possess? Naturally not, since desire is continuum and evolution of many refinements, and abstract philosophy will not serve as eraser. We must think realistically about desire. Renunciation is a supplanting process, and more of a direction and orientation than a decision.
“The essence is not in renunciation, but in realization of the especially Beautiful.”
— Aum, Helena Roerich
Someone says truth is subjective and there is no objective truth, no truth at all really, just some brain phenomena relative to this or that pair of eyes. Another soul is on a mission to affirm absolute truth by recommending total and immediate ending of all desire. In this are the absolute and relative extremes.
The first, the extreme relativists, inclined to a lonely space and wrote stories about unredeemable human craziness. There was a glaze of pain over the eyes and a sharp edge to the voice. This extreme relativist finds little significance in the word “truth,” and prefers words and matters more earthly. For them, all lofty affirmations are personal, only a grade or two above dust, and ultimately of a similar reduction.
The second, the absolutists, when questioned will presumably allow some qualification for the natural desire for food, otherwise the remainder of their stay on Earth will be brief and we will hear little more from them. Perhaps their absolute perspective will also yield qualification for sex, otherwise by this prescription humanity’s stay on Earth will also be strikingly brief. Or it could be the absolutists concludes there is no need for embodied humanity-as-is, and it is best that we all jump to hyperspace nirvana without delay.
The absolutists devour gigantic concepts a hundred quadrillion times the size of planet Earth. They have found all the unhappy meanings for human yearnings and for them it is without qualification, the cause of suffering. Desire is, of course, inherent in nature, and it appears as an essential part of the evolutionary scheme of things. There are healthy and unhealthy desires, or rather a continuum of these. So modern man goes to extremes and is often drive by the latter kind. Sill, some of our finest aspirations are desires in subtle form. Among them is the aspiration towards balance. Perhaps even now the relativist is not entirely satisfied, and the absolutists may be evolving a more realistic adaptation. In this might be a gravitation toward the golden mean.
Inspiration and expiration are automatic, inherent in physical life. By analogy, spiritual inspiration and expiration are inherent in our inner life, are virtually a definition of it. We inhale (receive) and exhale (give), and these two are a natural law and rhythm. But in our human egotism we have broken the sacred rhythm—we would take in and not give forth. We would breath in with little breathing out, and we choke and sputter on our own egotism. We try to absorb the beauty of creation, but do not create beauty—we read, but do not write, we receive but do not transmit, we want love, but are poor at giving it, and on it goes… I’m reminded of the fellow who noted only two types of people in the world: lawn-sprinkler people and vacuum-cleaner people, with the vacuum-cleaner types being predominant. In the homely image of a lawn-sprinkler person we have a picture of an individual who is reestablishing the sacred rhythm, bringing life back into balance. This concept has been named “service.”