Thursday, August 18, 2011

Love Itself

August 17, 2011

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. Enough that my usual absent-mindedness has become amplified to an almost unmanageable degree. I forgot to turn off the crockpot of tomato sauce before leaving for a day of babysitting; forgot to bring my phone to the first place; forgot to bring my planner back from it; forgot to bring my bike key to my next babysitting gig—despite riding my bike there, and locking it in the parking lot—and also forgot to bring my wallet or cash or a CTA card, thus stranding myself in Lincoln Park at 10:00pm.

M graciously came to pick me up in spite of being “on house.” The drive was good and gave us time to share in some of what’s been crowding my mind and hers: the chaos of our community, the shabbiness of our hospitality, the divergent projects, the need for lines of separation (are we a house of hospitality? a farm? an activist commune?). Some of these pontifications surface in the haphazard article I’m attempting for the newsletter that shifts from “connecting the dots” to “not seeing the forest for the trees. I pose the question, “what is the forest?” and take a couple of grasping guesses.

While the kids were sleeping tonight I read some of Robert Ellsberg’s Saint’s Guide to Happiness and came across this bit about St. Therese of Lisieux:

“She confessed to feeling a call to every vocation, to be a warrior, a priest, a doctor of the church and a martyr. But ultimately she believed that her vocation was nothing less than to ‘love itself,’ a virtue embracing every calling without exception. ‘My vocation is love!’ she wrote” (94).

How well I can relate to “Little Flower” in her feeling of being called to everything and nothing! the latter being what “everything” tends to become when you try to do it all, except perhaps when instead on nothing one chooses love, which embraces all but is itself. I too have felt that sense of vocation to love, but have seldom had the courage to proclaim it with such conviction. When asked what I am aspiring towards, I only can say, “to love well.” That sounds so feeble in my ears. I’ve tried to bolster it with better answers, sprinkling in bits about “systemic injustice” and “simple living.” Flimsy words coming out of my mouth.

Love looked humble, weak even, and I plastered her with credentials—things I do care about, but things that belong in her, not over her. I began to bury love and have observed myself becoming increasingly less gentle, less kind, more irritable and more uncertain. I care about and believe in most of what I am doing, more often than not I enjoy it too. What I am beginning to wonder though is am I doing these things out of love, or instead of love? When I was reading St. Therese’s exclamation, “My vocation is Love!” the thought occurred to me, “The forest,” (the one we are blinded from because of attentiveness to the many trees) “is love.” And I’m afraid I’ve lost sight of it.