He prayeth well, who loveth well Both man and bird and beast — Samuel Taylor Coleridge from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner
(Listen to this lunar letter by clicking here).
We yearn for one thing more than good health, wealth, power, or influence. What we desire most of all is love. We want to make it, give it, and receive it. If our jobs are upside down and we find ourselves in a financial mess, it doesn’t matter as long as there is love. And when we feel the absence of love, everything else in our lives can be wonderful and amazing and that doesn’t matter either. Without love everything just seems flat, dull and lifeless.
What does it take to be a really good lover? Flat abs? Regular romps in the bedroom? A little blue pill? Lightning striking the first time you kiss or touch? No. What about the practical stuff: agreement on the fundamental questions, ability to communicate with one another effectively, mutual respect and admiration? Again, no.
To be the greatest lover ever there is only one thing you need to do:
It sounds really easy, right? Pay attention…I can do that, anyone can do that! And this is true, anyone can do it, but all too often we don’t. Why? Because paying attention means looking beyond your beloved’s strained smile when they get home from work, seeing the stress around their eyes, and even though you have dinner to make and a dog that wants to go for a walk, stopping everything, taking their hands in your own and saying “tell me, my love, tell me what’s going on.”
Paying attention means putting down the phone, the computer, the baby and saying “honey, let’s go out to that new place you’ve wanted to try.” It means touching, holding, and kissing not the way you always have, but the way that your beloved needs you to — right now, today.
John Duns Scotus, a medieval theologian and philosopher, defined love in this way: I will that you are. To understand love in that way, as I will that you are, is to say that I love you — I want every single day for you, I want every moment for you, I love your existence in this world, I love your being in and of itself. To will that someone else is, is to pay attention and embrace all that they are, all that each of us is…our shiny parts, our dark places, our stories, our scars. Love that pays attention sees the miracle of the beloved’s existence every single day and is resolved to be responsive and alive to it.
Something more happens when we pay attention as well. We begin to fall in love over and over again. We fall in love with our beloveds, our partners, our spouses every single day. But more than that, we fall in love with the world…with the way that sunlight falls on this branch of ivy after an afternoon rainstorm, with the way that fat purple crocuses surge up, up, up to the light through the ice and snow, we fall in love with the sound of a hawk’s cry on the cold north wind, and with the squawking of fat baby blue jays filling their bellies with blackberries. And so it is that it doesn’t matter whether you are in a love “relationship” or not. We are all lovers. There is something or someone that you hold precious, something or someone that is your very own beloved, something or someone that is no less than a daily miracle.