In our worst moments,
Over the weekend, we all learned about the tragic death of 48-year-old-superstar Whitney Houston. A heartbreaking death by any measure of one so beautiful and of such tremendous talent. In 2002 in their well-known interview, Whitney confessed to ABC’s Diane Sawyer, remarking, “The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy.” She shared with Diane that her choices were her own: “Nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do.”
And so a part of us reacts and may conclude that Ms. Houston was indeed the sole author of her own ruinous Path of anger, alcohol, drug abuse, and the premature plummet of her career and untimely demise. Yes, it is true; she did create her own tortured life and destiny by her choices and the ensuing consequences. But this would be to view the poignant tragedy of her life only from the detached level of the head and mind and not from any measure of compassion from the heart. In such a hard-hitting perspective, we would not be able to see that, although she had no apparent external “hunchback” like Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame, she suffered internally with her own form of an invisible hunchback, which she allowed to cripple and destroy the promise of her life.
If each of us came forward to describe our own “hunchback,” those inner demons and gargoyles that from time to time control our choices and course in life, what would yours be? What would it look like? How would it express itself? How many times has it undermined you just when you were about to succeed in a grand way? How many times have your demons sabotaged your efforts, when you licked your wounds only to retreat from your own brilliant gifts?
Further, how many of us are perfect in the choices we’ve made? How many of us can say we’ve not had our own terrible and massive screw-ups? Or phases of numerous unwise choices that led to awful, humiliating, or disastrous consequences, some effects of which we may still be living with today? How many of us know firsthand what it is like to live in the fish bowl of the public’s eye and its too frequent, unmerciful feedback? How many of us have not had our own dreadful meltdowns in one way or another, in varying degrees along the scale of mild embarrassment to the extreme of complete breakdown? How many of us have not had our own episodes when we endured a torturous “dark night of the soul,” perhaps repeatedly? How many of us have lived a stainless life? How many of us are amongst the sinless ones who always refrain from tossing the first stone of judgment? How many of us are perfect?
The red rose is the symbol of human and Divine Love.
On the annual designated Day of Love—Valentine’s Day—it strikes me that love and compassion are equal sides of a merciful coin, which taken together make it a coin of forgiveness. Last night, Mercury and Neptune (mind and spirit) conjoined in the tender, empathic sign of permeable Pisces, providing all of us the spiritual opportunity to soften our minds and hearts so they blend beautifully into a gift of love. It’s a chance to pause, to feel deeply that when one of us falls, we all fall. When one of us shines, as Ms. Houston did magnificently at the height of sharing her iconic gifts of song and acting, we all shine. We all sparkle in that moment of triumph when any one of us expresses the true glory of who we are. We all applaud. Or, at another moment when we become aware that another seems downtrodden in heart, we have the choice to reach out a hand for theirs and say, “is there any way that I may help? You look sad.”
The Ancient Greeks have wise counsel for us on this Day of Love, a day that is meant to be expressed endlessly all year long. The Greek language had four distinct words for love, the highest expression manifesting as agape in the deepest sense of true love. In today’s Greek, this translates as unconditional love.
Agape is more than a name or concept, for it vibrates most potently as Divine Love. Agape is the spiritual love that knows no judgment but rather offers compassionate understanding. It encircles us as Universal Love, for in the eyes of a Master or God, we are loved without any reservation. There is only eternal empathy for the multiplicity of trials, limitations, distractions, and appetites that besiege us on the “egoic” level of human life.
To attempt to express agape’s depth of meaning in words is an inexpressible task. Any of these descriptors placed in front of the word love may get a wee closer to the heart of it:
Utmost, Supreme, Peak, Ultimate, Inconceivable,
One of the most widely known passages of the Bible has been called the “Love Chapter” from 1 Corinthians 13. It is also referred to as “The Greatest Gift.” The King James Version (KJV) uses the word “charity,” whose synonyms are words like kindness, acceptance, concern, humanity, generosity, goodwill, benevolence, sympathy, compassion, understanding, and impartial love. Agape is thus most closely associated with this famous verse. Charity and such even-handed Love are still another coin with interchangeable sides, the result being deep and true forgiveness for our humanness. In the same chapter of the New King James Version (NKJV), love has taken the place of charity:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
• Bittersweet (on the Path of Life we all have to choose between the
Text © by Zane Maser, 2012. Red Rose photos © by Chris and Zane Maser, 2012. The photo of the artist’s silver rendition of Quasimodo is from WikiCommons. All rights reserved worldwide.
My editorial guru and technological wizard is Chris Maser, my delightful husband.
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