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What is Love?

Beginning with Paul's letter to the Corinthians, love is patient, kind, it does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonour, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

So that is pretty straight forward. There are six things that love is and seven things it is not according to this Biblical passage. 

For Will Shakespeare - "love is not love which alters when it alteration finds ... it is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests ... and is never shaken.

You have to be older than twenty to appreciate Shakespeare's instruction. It is an idealistic notion and I can see how this might be true and how it might not. However he does carry some authority because of all the plays he wrote that we still love because his characters resemble a timeless authenticity. He has earned his credibility.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
Lao Tzu

In my life this is true. As a young child I was loved and so grew to be an adult, then was loved again. These are markers in my life where I could have discounted the love I received because it was less than perfect, or the courage to carry on when my love was also imperfect.

“We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”
Robert Fulghum, True Love

Weirdness is another word for the unpredictable, for diversity of experience.  Love does not attempt to prove that it exists, it is not a chemical compound, the GDP, or "jobs and the economy".  Is love the reason for these things? Not exclusively but perhaps to allow love to remain.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” 

And so the most powerful people on earth might have been successful at locking away their hearts to leave a clear head for strategy - to keep their lovers on a leash to use at their convenience. Or the most broken people on earth have locked away their hearts because their experience leads them to believe that is the only way they can survive. This is what Karen Armstrong calls the "reptilian brain".

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.”
Mahatma Gandhi

There are so many friends around, so many people who base their work on love and truth. We are not famous because we are abundant. We don't remark on them as something distant like a news headline because we know them. Diverse, imperfect - we need your help. Need you to be clear in mind and heart so that we can get behind the trends that lead us to more happiness and less suffering.

Yes all these quotes but one are from men. Why is that? Why did I choose men rather than women? I chose those who were well known in many nations and women are not as celebrated globally in that sense. However I will end with a quote by Hannah Arendt which I think is the most profound.

"Love, by its very nature, is unworldly, and it is for this reason rather than its rarity that it is not only apolitical but antipolitical perhaps the most powerful of all antipolitical forces." Hannah Arendt.


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Where does "Greatness" come from? The imagination? Facts? Confidence? A willing suspension of disbelief in a slogan that makes us happy? A capacity to judge well? An ability to observe and find solutions that benefit most if not all? Taking responsibility for the community? A masters degree from Oxford or Yale?

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Greatness is like a dove in the imagination, an angel, a temporary insight, a fleeting epiphany. Something aspired to in the privacy of our minds.

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