Thurman said in one of books, probably The Inward Journey, that we don’t love in general. We love in particular. We love the particular.
We love people and things. We love God. We love hobbies, ourselves. But we love specifically, adding discrimination to an otherwise grand concept. Love is not a concept and it can’t be done without a grounding in reality.
When we first meet the loves in our lives, we try to shape them by our dreams. All those things we thought living in love would be like crash into the unsuspecting object of our devotion. They meet the way our families meet our first girlfriends, with eyes raised, everyone in the room wondering how long this phase will last.
Soon those two parties–the new love and the context of life–get together and ruffle each other until one begins to change. They effect each other. Sometimes we change our lives in submission because the object of love is better. Sometimes we decide that the object of our affections and desires is unworthy, and we move on. But when loved ones, their particular selves, stay with us, everyone changes. Because we cannot be in love, live in love, stay in love (and here I don’t mean anything about the fanciful notions of being “in love” as much as I mean the straight and unstraight line that is a life of disciplined, passionate, contemplative, committed love)–we cannot stay in that love without changing.
I am no specialist on love, though I used to say that I fell in love everyone few months when I was growing up. I started writing poetry in high school because I was in love. And I did so many other things I’ll kept between me and special people in my life. I am no specialist, no expert. But I am trying to become a specialist.
I am trying to train myself in what loving well is. I want to love well, love strongly, love hard. And the implicit commitment it takes to want that, to desire that, and to pursue that desire is often unsettling. I come to see what the desire means, along with what walking toward that desire requires. It takes detailed effort to love. Oh, we’d like to believe we love everybody. I think the Savior said words that make us think we can do that. But loving everybody is a perplexing impossibility.
Loving the people we know is hard enough and something we fail at so regularly that the Savior would blush at our insistent foolishness to misquote and misunderstand him when it came to behavior. Thurman turned it correctly: Loving well is loving in particular.
It is loving the cracked skin and blemishes that won’t go away even though they may be covered. Loving strongly is knowing the sheer vulnerability of your loved one and using that weakness to give them hope and inspiration and faith in humanity because you don’t do with your power what others untrained in such artistry would do. Loving hard is the consistent exercise of staying with all those promises by the grace and help of every gift God gives.
I think doing this love, being in this love is one of life’s most consistent challenges. And mostly because nothing really trains us toward it. We are instructed and taught to dispense with things. And that won’t help us become lovers. Recycling and reusing are better words for love because love uses the raw materials of our particular lives, our real special selves, and does not force us to become something else, all while that love motivates (moves and pushes) us to become better. Living that way is hard and usually so rewarding.