Saturday, September 30, 2006

Unconditional love and a dilemma of the rich, powerful and beautiful

There is a line in the St Francis prayer that I was thinking about this morning. “…for it is in loving that we are loved.” My friend, the late Donella Meadows had a passage in a letter she wrote me about how we can create the people around us as lovable. Judith Wallerstein’s book, ‘The Good Marriage’ has this moving passage in its introduction: 'In our fast paced world, men and women need each other more, not less. We want and need erotic love, sympathetic love, passionate love, tender, nurturing love our entire adult lives. We desire friendship, compassion, encouragement, a sense of being understood and appreciated, not only for what we do but for what we try to do and fail at.’

It may be that giving love is the best way to receive it, but I think that seeking love and trying to make ourselves lovable is a fact of life for most of us. Moreover we seek that rarest of all gifts, unconditional love. Unconditional love is that which is freely given because of ‘who we are’ at some deep level.

I never experienced unconditional love in a deep way, from another human being, until I was about 50 years old, and then only briefly. It was a lifetime powerful experience, never to be forgotten. Deeply religious people report that they experience the unconditional love of God in this way. I consider myself religious. I take time for prayer and quiet reflection most days. But I mostly accept God’s love as an abstraction rather than a deeply felt reality.

Rich and powerful, people, in my observation, have the same need for unconditional love as the rest of us. The enterprises of philanthropy and ‘development’ derive their technologies of fund raising from this principle. But the rich and powerful seem often to be plagued by doubts that they are simply loved for their money or their power rather than for ‘who they are.’ One way rich people deal with such doubts is to marry someone as rich as themselves. It strikes me that many physically beautiful people, especially beautiful women may face the same problem.. Fame, beauty and powerful management or political posts may offer adulation and sucking up. But these are poor, transient substitutes for unconditional love.


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