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The Greatest of these is ….

By Joel Matthews

LOVE: the dictionary gives approximately 26 definitions. A poll in 2005 came up with 150 definitions given by the general public at random. I find all of these inadequate and incomplete. Many are a description, an emotion, a verb, a noun. None of them fully expresses the completeness of pure love. Ancient languages used multiple terms that have been homogenized in our modern English. The Greek, for example, used eros – the physical attraction and commitment between two people for as long as they are together,  phileo – the greater affection for other family and friends, and agape – selfless love of one person for another without sexual implications (especially love that is spiritual in nature) – pure love. This is the love I seek.

What is pure love? Do we know what it is to love our family? Do we know what it is to love our spouse? Do we know what it is to love our friends? These seem easy to understand. We find it easy to care about those with whom we have common ground or common goals. What would make love pure? Pure is unpolluted. Pure is that which is unconditioned. Pure is not filtered or processed. Pure is natural. So how do these statements apply to love? First, what is love? Is it a feeling or an emotion? I am happy, I am sad, I am angry, I am afraid, I am love. No, we say we are “in love”, “I love” a subtle but distinct difference. Love is something we have and give or receive. Happy, sad, angry and fear are feelings. We recognize love as being more complex. Love is something we have and give to others. Others can give their love to us. Do we give happy, sad, angry or fear to others? No. We give our love to others. Others give their love to us. Love is possessive; my love, your love, our love. If love is something we can give, receive and possess, where does it come from? Where does it exist when it is not possessed? Where does it exist in its pure form before we pollute, condition, filter and process it? For all of us who believe in a Divine Entity the answer is, of course, obvious. Love is pure in the Divine and is an energy that we receive freely and seemingly unending from the Divine. We then promptly apply filters and conditions before we give it to others. Conditional – I will love you as long as you love me. What pollutes love? Linking it to a feeling, usually something that gives us a physical satisfaction. Sex. Chocolate. The list is probably endless. We say we love them, but love truly has nothing to do with it. These things create chemical reactions in our physical bodies that give us a good feeling, not love.

Filtered – We love only those that “deserve” our love.  We love our animals but not our adversaries or even our neighbors.

Processed – “I do this for you because I love you.” True enough except that the statement itself shows that an evaluation has taken place to consider the pros and cons of the action. We then override the cons for “love”.

One of the most rewarding spiritual practices is to cultivate the ability to bring love into all aspects of our life and to all people we encounter. This entails learning how to include loves’ presence while we speak to another, are in conflict with others, and are living with others. While this can be a daunting task, it begins with having the intention to do so. And it is supported by appreciating each manifestation of love that we encounter.

Even practicing loving-kindness for the time it takes to snap your fingers is beneficial. Each drop of practice is significant and, as the Buddha said, “With dripping drops of water, the water jug is filled.” Pure love, unconditional, unfiltered, unprocessed, unpolluted, pure and natural as we receive it is most easily recognized and shared with the Divine when we look inward. Are we loved because we deserve it? Do we receive Divine love because we have earned it? Do we receive Divine love because we love the Divine back? Do we receive Divine love in spite of who we are? No, no, no and no. We simply receive love from the Divine. The Divine freely accepts our love, our conditioned, filtered, processed, polluted love. “God, if you will just do this one thing for me I promise I will never….I will always…” Love travels a single bi-directional channel. Open up to give it freely and you will receive it freely. Those who do not believe in the Divine  attribute “love” all to physical chemistry. That is ok. They also receive Divine love. They should also receive our love. I believe in love. When two can add pure love into a relationship, whether it is eros with your partner or phileo with your friend, it creates a true lifetime (and then some) bond.


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