Love is so humble that it seems impossible to ever really catch anything but the briefest glimpse of her. She is like a tiny field mouse dwelling in the dark. Should we hear her scratching in the corner and shine a light she will, quick as a flash, scurry away so that we catch sight of only the tip of her tail. Indeed love is so bashful that we often forget about her entirely. For love, to change analogies, is like light. When we are sitting with friends we do not think about the light that surrounds us but only of the friends that the light enables us to see. Likewise love illuminates others and so our attention is focused on what she illuminates rather than with the illumination itself.
Love, in a very precise way, enables us to see. For in daily life we perceive others in much the same way as a cow gazes at cars. We walk past thousands of people without really seeing anyone. I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine told me of something that happened when she took a train from Connecticut to New York. As the conductor, a large and imposing man, approached she realised that she had left her purse at the house. When he got to her seat and asked for her ticket she, with much embarrassment, explained the situation and braced herself for the worst. But the conductor just sat down in the seat opposite and said, “Don’t worry about it”. Then, for the remainder of the journey they talked. They shared photos of their family, they exchanged jokes and they spoke of the ones who meant most to them. When the conductor finally got up to continue his rounds my friend began to apologise again, but the conductor stopped her mid sentence and smiled, “please don’t pay it any thought, you know its just really nice to be seen by someone.”
This might initially seem like a strange thing to say as the conductor was being seen by thousands of people every day. But only in instrumental terms, only as the extension of a function he performed. In this brief conversation with my friend he felt that he had actually been seen as a unique individual and that was a gift to him.
This is what love does. It does not make itself visible but rather makes others visible to us. In a very precise sense then love does not exist but calls others into existence: for to exist means to stand forth from the background, to be brought into the foreground. Love does not stand forth but brings others forth. When we love our beloved is brought out of the vast, undulating sea of others. Just as the Torah speaks of God calling forth beings from the formless ferment of being so love calls our beloved from the endless ocean of undifferentiated objects.
In this way love is not proud and arrogant. It does not say, “I am sublime, I am beautiful, I am glorious”. Love humbly points to another and whispers, “they are sublime, they are beautiful, they are glorious.” It does not tell us that they are perfect despite their weakness and frailty, but that they are perfect in the very midst of their weakness and frailty.
Love does not want our hymns of praise or prayers of adoration. She does not want our sacrifices or seek our time. One cannot and should not even try to love love. For love always points away from herself. To honour love is to be in love, to swim in the world illuminated by her.
That which love illuminates means everything to us: a reality that can be exquisitely pleasurable or devastatingly painful. As such we will always experience the one we love as the most sublime existence in the universe. This experience however hides within itself a deep truth, a truth that we would do well to forget as soon as we learn of it (for it works best in darkness). Namely, that the most sublime presence in the universe is not our beloved but the love that exposes them as our beloved. The love that does not itself exist, but which raises our beloved to the level of existence.