The Substantial Presence of Love

Love is a potent experience of positive attachment. It is an intensity of being. A bond, a state, an emotion, a thought, an instinct, and much more, affection encompasses many ‘metaphysical substances’. It is a substance which fills these intangible but descriptive nouns, these words which become vessels for love to exist within. It is an abstract concept found within all, a symbol.

Platonic, romantic, familial, universal, and more, such as love related to experience (ie, events, interests, careers): these forms of strong connection contain nurturing elements upholding this concept of symbolic attachment. The spirit of connection is all encompassing. The more we hyperfocus on romantic love, the less we understand it’s true nature, as it’s productivity requires an understanding of all forms of positive attachment. Human beings are unique in many ways but in our place among the cosmos, we are the same as all else in our reliance on various relationships. All aspects of reality interacts with each other in a sacred interplay and exchange.

We’re gregarious, with extraordinarily complex social structures— our capability to form intense bonds has allowed us to flourish in adverse conditions. Mutualism is a key form of symbiosis which infers a productive, beneficial relationship between two separate entities. Ebb and flow is a concurrent, synchronous exchange of energy.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the ways an open-minded view of love could apply to relationships such as between artists and art. All art builds the art world, and the artists are created as they create, and the reciprocal relationship of nurturing between the two entities (art and artist) can be called love. To create and be affected by creation is a cycle of deep positive attachment. 

Love is a form of proof. What we value, what we desire, what we lack, what we have, awareness builds alongside true love. With honesty and trust, evident facts come to light. This applies to any form of relationship. The more earnest the effort and authentic the presentation, the more productive the connection. A person who’s truly passionate about their life’s work will achieve more than someone begrudging. Lovers who openly share their thoughts and feelings develop an enduring bond. 

A level of compatibility becomes obvious. Balance in complimentary difference, dynamism through cooperation, love is symbolic of how pieces of reality fit together in complex systems.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, an Indigenous author and plant scientist, writes in Braiding Sweetgrass that our garden reciprocates our love and I found this passage particularly memorable: “Gardens are simultaneously a material and a spiritual undertaking. That’s hard for scientists, so fully brainwashed by Cartesian dualism, to grasp. ‘Well, how would you know it’s love and not just good soil?’ she asks. ‘Where’s the evidence? What are the key elements for detecting loving behavior?’ That’s easy. No one would doubt that I love my children, and even a quantitative social psychologist would find no fault with my list of loving behaviors: nurturing health and well-being, protection from harm, encouraging individual growth and development, desire to be together, generous sharing of resources, working together for a common goal, celebration of shared values, interdependence, sacrifice by one for the other, creation of beauty. If we observed these behaviors between humans, we would say, ‘She loves that person.’ You might also observe these actions between a person and a bit of carefully tended ground and say, ‘She loves that garden.’ Why then, seeing this list, would you not make the leap to say that the garden loves her back?”

I once held extremely cynical views regarding love. There was a long-standing belief that I was incapable of love and impossible to be loved. I was suspicious of kindness, I’d experienced far more cruelty than kindness and always assumed ulterior motives. From childhood I developed a pattern of being drawn to familiarity. The compounded trauma of going from one cruel person to another left me out of my depth when I’d encounter people who refused to take advantage of me. I couldn’t process the concept of true connection until I could look at life from an entirely new, newly forged, perspective.

Being able to look at facts as they are without preconceived beliefs interfering is an incredibly difficult task, as beings built to be biased. Most inconveniences of the mind relate to survival instinct. Our brains wire a certain way to adapt to certain conditions, and we unconsciously compare current situations to past experience in order to make judgements. I cannot imagine ever believing love to be unattainable but that’s because I now have accepted certain realties. Back then, I could only reference what I knew. My bias was that anything ‘good’ was never truly good. 

Now, I see love everywhere. I see it in flowers and bees, in people reading books, in the rustle of sand under an ocean wave, because I have felt it so profoundly. Facts regarding love are now undeniable to me. Miracles are commonplace if we allow them to be. 

Many people deny themselves love. They shut down, shut out offerings of happiness from people and pastimes. Sometimes we don’t believe we’re worthy, we don’t trust, we don’t care, we lack faith in what is possible, and we forget how simple love is. It may begin as a reaction but evolve into an existence. One small choice to believe in possibility may lead to a revolution of perception. Denying evidence of love is futile as the abstract concept of love is interwoven in everything. 

Reflecting upon love can reveal our contradictory beliefs and hypocrisies, as well as the germinating substance-seed which has so much more to tell us about who we are. Harmony can be found. We must be part of the balance.

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