The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them,
cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of the Tao
is in the very nature of things.”
~ Stephen Mitchell (trans.), Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (New York: Harper Perennial), 2006.
Loving human beings is hard in a loveless world. Ever since the advent of romantic love among the troubadour poets in the Middle Ages, the romantic has been entangled with the tragic. In the Christian context, the fire of romantic love was kept from consuming the soul because the noble lady was—in theory, at least—the occasion for awakening the poet’s love for divine beauty. He was not just attracted to her, but through her. Sexual love, and even human love, pales in comparison to divine love; the erotic, in this register, is not merely a biological category but a cosmic one.
But in a secular age, running the same program crashes the computer. It places on the beloved a burden that she cannot bear. It’s a lot of pressure to be a soul mate in a soulless world. It’s the inverse of the classical Biblical error of trying to be like God: treating your beloved like a Goddess. It’s paradoxically dehumanizing.
What if this delusion that subtly suffuses today’s default approach to romantic love were based on a deeper one—namely, that love is a merely human, all too human thing? What if, instead, Eros is somehow the engine of evolution? What if the universe were really the Dao, Gaia, the Cosmic Mother, in whose Agapic embrace we can rest? What if, trusting in that background, romance could then be what it should—us playing our part in Lila, God’s play, participating in the divine dance?
I don’t know whether any of that is True. But isn’t it pretty to think so?
New to the Dao Du Jour? Check out “Day 0.”
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