THE PRE-CHRISTMAS ANGEL COMES CALLING IN CURLY WORLD
“Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” – Mozart
As another year comes to its end, as Christmas approaches and the citizens move about with increasing weariness and brittleness, a strange gentle sorrow may come calling to the lone, kitchen sink philosopher. This peculiar visitor arrives quite suddenly into our solitude, bringing a moment of fragility where a soft inexplicable yearning is felt. A brief vision flickers in the heart and a few pent up tears may be released. Wistful melancholy has its way with us.
The visitor of course is the pre-Christmas angel. It comes from within, bringing a poignancy that stirs the soul to a feeling of divine loneliness. It is also a bit like homesickness; a longing for something beautiful and mysterious that now seems lost forever. And suddenly there is an ache for love; a love that perhaps we never had and never will have.
And often, the pre Christmas angel has somehow organised a piece of music on the morning radio which brings a little breakdown. Memories come swirling; memories of a friend who has recently died, memories of parents,siblings and childhood, elusive feelings about love and the failure of love. The loss of love in the world. The pre Christmas angels are on the loose. Love and loneliness are their concerns.
So another year is dying, and as ever, the world is in a bad way. Love too is not well, and we might think about why it fails and why division, animosity and hatred are flourishing – and indeed, why madness is out and about.
We have been wisely told that truth is beauty and beauty is truth, so we might also imagine that love is sanity. We can consider too that hatred is an expression of insanity.
What is so wretched about the state of love amongst us is that our contemporary culture seems not to care enough or understand what love is, what the word means and why it is crucial to our survival.
People talk about love of football, love of wine, love of cars and flags and favourite films. They believe that their excitement and fanaticism are love, that fixated desire is love; it’s all about them and their pleasures or appetites. They slosh the word around to proclaim their attachments to intoxicating obsessions and possessions. In so doing they degrade a precious word and show disregard for the value of our most beautiful inclination. It is not a crime to do this, but it certainly is a great loss and a pity.
Culturally we may have diminished our understanding of what love is and why it matters. It has even become associated with ridicule and embarrassment. Tribal minded media commentators make snide references to “leftie luvvies” as they prosecute their bitter culture wars in the mad ‘them and us’ carve-up of society. This hate flavoured left wing-right wing division is indeed a major bipolar disorder, a psychosis which gives energy, meaning and identity to its narrow practitioners but offers no peace or wisdom to the world. It is immaturity writ large; an unintegrated state which divides the world into good and evil and gathers around flags, families, tribes, nations, genders and any system of collective being that promotes a ‘love’ or elevation of one’s own group and an indifference to, or denigration and hatred of other groups. This is not love, it is attachment, it is addiction.
Humanity is largely stuck there, in the tyranny of incestuous attachments to its own group – producing neurotic loyalty, arrogance, bigotry, hostility, conflicts and immense inbred stupidity - shutting out love’s potential and the possibility of peace and enlightenment. Humanity’s most popular social paradigm: the ‘them and us’ equation, is the very definition of unhappiness. How easy it is to dismiss half of humanity, and so avoid the complex work of understanding it, understanding oneself and facing reality.
Yet paradoxically, this tragic paradigm of love-hate can move us towards an appreciation of love, insomuch as nobody understands the necessity for love in the world like one who has been hated for no real reason. From such a perspective, it can be clearly understood that the absence of inclusive, proactive and creative love in an overpopulated world is ultimately a disaster.
Maturity sees beyond exclusive or possessive love. It sees that love is not reserved for a romantic relationship or family members or the local football team. And it is not just the stuff of popular songs and films. It’s more than a feeling. It is a state of being. It involves work and imagination. It is a choice and a decision. It is an inner and outer dimension one maintains and practices; an intelligent care, attention and goodwill to life; an alignment of consciousness that takes life seriously. It is an indiscriminate kindness, it is the desire to understand; to know and be known, it is empathy and forgiveness, it is reverence for all living things, it is generosity of body and spirit, it is preparedness to suffer for the wellbeing of the stranger, the capacity to bear with the difference of others, it is the willingness to know and be known, it is long suffering and merciful. It is deeply joyous. It is forgiving. It is the offering of one’s life into the world. It is a mystery.
And all of this is increasingly difficult in a high velocity modern life. Love fails at speed. How strange that parliaments do not talk more of love as a vital fact of life which has great bearing on the way things turn out; a force that indeed holds the world together more than we know. Where is the Minister for Love? Ah yes, we are too embarrassed. The work of mature love in the word is vast and often unrecognised, in spite of the fact that we are all beneficiaries of love’s unseen labours.
Could it be that the love we deeply long for at Christmas, the love we have never known with any certainty, is not so much about the adoration of a loved one, but rather the love and care on earth that might exist between us all: the courageous love for each other and the ecosystem, for beauty and nature, for peace and innocence… Love above and beyond power and money; “love over gold” as the poets would say. The love and grace that make the world more welcoming, beautiful and liveable. The love that makes us all less lonely. The strange love that once moved war weary young soldiers to shun their orders, lay down their guns and share christmas peace in the terrible no-mans land between their opposing trenches of hatred.