A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 21 December 2009

Countdown To Christmas (2): Agape/Universal Love

He reached down, he reached down and he touched the pain...

Iris Dement: He Reached Down

Although the exact meaning of the Greek word 'agape' has been somewhat fluid over the centuries, I'm taking it to mean here a kind of selfless, total, universal brotherly love (in contrast with 'eros', the type of love we may find easier and more familiar - personal, individual, erotic, self-regarding love).

Perhaps only a few of us - samaritans, saints, bodhisattvas - can ever attain a true state of universal love for all of nature and humanity. I know I struggle with natural phenomena like tropical storms and tsunamis - which wreck and take lives - and I struggle with loving the whole of humanity, including the cruel and the arrogant, the uncaring and the wicked. I want to reflect on all this when I begin my 3rd Camino in January.

Love is patient; love is kind
and envies no one.
Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude;
never selfish, nor quick to take offence.
There is nothing love cannot face;
there is no limit to its faith,
its hope, and its endurance.
In a word, there are three things
that last forever: faith, hope and love;
but the greatest of them all is love.

Corinthians 13: 1-8


gleaner said...

That is a wonderful passage, always inspirational.

Hmm, my struggle with the cruelty and ignorance of humanity is lessened when I move from my anthropocentric perspective to an eco-centric perspective...then it truly is an amazing place full of wonder and the uncaring side of humanity is not in my vision. I think Thoreau wrote about our tendency to focus on humans and not see the natural world around us -

The Weaver of Grass said...

A good sentiment to hold Robert - I can identify with that.

am said...

Good to hear that your third Camino begins soon.

On this winter solstice day:

"Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished."

(Michael Strassfeld)

What is said of light could be said of Love, too.

Thank you for the quote about love from Corinthians and for Iris Dement's agape song.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about the Camino being a good place to work these things through a bit more (perhaps the space and the exercise coming together?)

I've just come across this snippet by John Clare:

"For everything I felt a love
The weeds blow, the birds above."

Thomas Merton writes somewhere of an experience of feeling a radical oneness with everyone on a city street. I'll dig the quote out after Christmas.


and can you tell us about your Camino plans?

The Solitary Walker said...

Wonderful comments... thank you all so much.

Andy - Via de la Plata. More later!

But not a lot more as I don't plan too far ahead and never in great detail. That's just the way I am. I like the unforeseen, the unpremeditated, the serendipitous flow of things.

Having said that, I did book my airplane ticket to Seville yesterday!

Johnnie Walker said...

I'm loving this series of blogs. A little respite from the madness of Christmas preparations where more than ever the tubes in London are just conveyor belts to materialsm. (Rant over).

But you put your finger right on a tender spot for me - how I feel about the truly evil things of which humans are capable. It attacks my fundamental belief that goodness must always succeed. Fortunately the attack is usually repelled by a look or smile or action which in its tenderness reinforces my hope.

What things to contemplate on the Via de la Plata! I'll think of you as I step out at the other end of Spain!


Anonymous said...

I think the Camino teaches us things about this. When I walk for pleasure, I choose where I walk and can usually get away from places that disturb or remind me of evil.

The Camino takes us through Spain, the urban as well as the rural, past the pro and anti fascist graffiti, and so forth.

And, of course, it is there in the Gospel of Matthew. The Nativity is followed by the Flight into Egypt and the Massacre of the Innocents.

We have to keep on with Hope and working for God's Kingdom.

Sorry if I'm getting inappropriately preachy - enjoy anticipating the VDLP


The Solitary Walker said...

Your own venture walking the Via de la Plata in winter partly inspired my own plan, John...

... And Andy, I read fully your Camino blog last night and enjoyed it very much. I was much struck by your idea of the walk itself becoming the prayer, and also by your observation that the Camino takes us willy-nilly through every sort of milieu - city, country, by motorways, on remote tracks, by rubbish heaps and half-built estates as well as across sublime landscapes, past good and bad graffiti...

I made a similar comment myself at the end of my 'Tabula Rasa' post of 2nd January 2008 - that the Camino was not an escape from reality, but very much a journey through reality. With this in mind, it's worth also mentioning that there can be one or two trail devils along the Way as well as the much written-about trail angels! (Though the angels do outnumber the devils by a long way, I hasten to add.)