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Faith is a very personal, very intimate, very individual matter. We each have faith in a myriad of things on a daily basis... faith in the sunrise, faith in our safety, in our health. We have faith in our friends, our families, ourselves... all things that we can't control, all things we must simply trust in once they've been set in motion. And in a sense - all of our leaps of faith come down to love. Faith in people, faith in a god, faith in ourselves are all ultimately about love. For me, faith is believing in a promise, believing in something I have no assurances of other than the fact that something deep inside me wills it to be true. In the Book of Hebrews, Chapter 11, Faith is defined as

"being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see".

And I like the sound of that... certain of what we do not see. It always reminds me of the way a child believes in magic, in his imagination, in her dreams. In childhood, it was so easy to believe. The invisible was as real to us as anything we could hold in our tiny hands. When I was seven, there was a poem that I memorized:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I, nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
the wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
the wind is passing by.

I've always though of my faith like the wind in the poem, something that cannot be seen, but only felt. It's a source of strength that I can't quite define. It carries me through the doubts, the darkness I encounter. I am able to wander through the labyrinth of this life in part because I believe that my faith will sustain me. My faith in the love of those who surround me on my journey, and moreover, my unflappable faith that someday I will find the love that I've been hoping for at the center of the maze.

Faith, hope and love are inseparable. Hope cannot exist apart from faith, and love cannot be exercised without hope. But of these three, "faith, hope and love... the greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians, 13:13

So I was taught, and so I believe.

But it's more than that for me - you've seen, you've read - There is but a single fixed point in my life where I focus my attentions, and it is love. Since I can remember, I've been in love with love. When I was 5 and the rest of my friends were deeply entrenched in the battle of boys vs. girls, I sat for hours, tiny scissors in hand, determined to cut the perfect heart out of construction paper for my sweetheart's valentine. (furthermore I remember chasing him around the cubby-room attempting to give him said Valentine the next day. Clearly, he wasn't as advanced as I in the area of gender-relations)

My entire life I've dreamt of love… I've yearned for it, I've lived it, I've lost it, I've cherished it. And through it all, through the highs and lows… past my mistakes, past my disappointments, I've never truly lost my faith in love... In its existence, its fortitude, its purity, its endurance. I can offer you up a picture, point out a happy couple and say, "look, there is this love I speak of". I can highlight loving words or actions, but in the end these are not true representations of love. Love is an intangible, and I wholeheartedly believe that the experience is unique to each and every person who opens his or her heart to it.

My whole life I've been engrossed in love stories - the fantastical loves of fairytales, the dramatic loves of literature, the witty loves of the romantic comedy... and so some might say that these fictions have poisoned my mind, have built up in me unreasonable expectations about what love is or what it can be. Some (namely Chuck Klosterman) would look at my dreams of Lloyd Dobler, of Heathcliff, of Mr. Darcy, and say that what I'm looking for doesn't exist.

"We all convince ourselves of things like this... about any fictionalized portrayals of romance that happen to hit us in the right place, at the right time. This is why I will never be completely satisfied by a woman, and this is why the kind of woman I tend to find attractive will never be satisfied by me. We will both measure our relationship against the prospect of fake love... [And] I want fake love. But that's all I want, and that's why I can't have it. " - Sex, Drugs & Coco Puffs

According to Chuck, I'm looking for "fake love". He has given into the notion that he will never find his ideal... he has lost faith even in the reality of love, branding it as a mythical creature existing only in books or on screen. But rather than giving in like Mr. Klosterman, I find renewed devotion to my cause in each fictional account of love. Every love story is unique and passionate in it's own right. It doesn't matter to me if these tales are tragic or unrequited - because the important thing is that they bear witness to the very real, very raw emotion's existence. I don't need proof that I will find this extraordinary force in my life, because my faith is strong enough to carry me until I find a love that trumps my highest expectations.

This is not to say I've never doubted, that I've never been shaken in my certainty… it's happened. I've thought like Chuck before, given in, even subjected myself to lackluster relationships… but always with the hope that I'd find that elusive spark. Even in my hesitation, I was sure that if I only gave myself a proper chance, I'd fall in love. And these questions, this glaring lack of love would nag at me, and I was forced to question myself, my beliefs. I wondered whether I was being foolish to hold out for a feeling I couldn't be certain even existed… whether affection, admiration, friendship were more practical, more reasonable expectations. But when it came time to decide exactly how much I was willing to compromise… I found that my pursuit of love wasn't something I could relinquish.

There are people who tell me that I am courageous for maintaining this faith of mine… for believing in love, for believing in my friends in the way that I do. But in all honesty, I see no bravery in holding fast to my convictions. In many ways, my faith is all I have. It's all any of us really has, isn't it? There is a famous quotation from the 1st Book of Corinthians, Chapter 13 (Trust me – you know this one, it's been read at pretty much every wedding you've ever attended),

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."

This is why it takes no extraordinary acts of courage to cling to my faith… without it, there is nothing. I have rooted the very basis of my world in it's promise, and that world simply could not exist in it's absence.

Without trusting the people closest to us, without the promise of love sparkling in the distance – what do any of us really have? Ambition, power, material wealth – what good is any of it without the people you love in your life to share it with? I know we're bordering on very hokey territory here – but at the very least, in my case, it's true. Pit an average night out with my friends against a glitzy night out with the rich & famous and I'd pick my friends every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Facing a life without the promise of love seems daunting, even pointless. I cling to my faith because it keeps me going.

To borrow (or rather steal directly) from Moulin Rouge!, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be love loved in return.". This is my creed, my cry, my singular belief. It cannot be proven, it cannot be seen, but it exists all the same… as a product of my faith.

ps –that last link is one of my favorite songs, on loan to you for a limited time only



( 3 spankings — spank your inner moppet )
Jul. 27th, 2005 08:55 pm (UTC)
I've been meditating on love a lot lately and the different kinds of love.. I think I've stumbled upon something I haven't felt before maybe.. and am realizing that "love" doesn't always have to mean crazy-romantic-sweep you off your feet type of feelings..

anyway, let's hear it for love! of all types!
Jul. 28th, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC)
Hi Jocelyn,

I'm going to tackle this again; don't ask me why. I surely don't think I can change your mind about anything, much less love. But I simply can't get over the feeling that you have let your wishes for an ideal get in the way of what is real about love.

I’m not entirely sure what you mean by love. That's true even in this post, and if you look at all of the posts in your journal, there just seems to be a number of things you mean by love. Even in the books you quote; the love between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is represented differently than the love between Heathcliff and Catherine. And they are COMPLETELY different than the love between Christian and Satine.

To begin with, while I love Moulin Rouge, I ask you why Christian and Satine's story is something you want to aspire to. Their love is impossible; first because she's a prostitute, and second because she's dead. I know you - I know you don't want impossible love. You've tried that in the past (the evidence is in this journal), and it's somehow just not that fulfilling. It can be enormously fun to be in an impossible love affair; one certainly can have many fabulous "cry in my cosmo" moments. And if that is what you’re looking for, then go for it…but obviously crying in your cosmo and writing about love is not the same thing as love. In fact, it seems to be that if love isn't satisfying, it's not really love. Why would you yearn and yearn for something that makes you cry and is unfulfilling except in the absolute short term? That makes love sound like random hook-ups; fun in the short term but unfulfilling.

I say this because I'm trying to decipher what you mean by love. Is love only unrequited love? Were Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy still 'in love' 5 years after they were married? More importantly, did they still feel the same way after they were no longer “unsure of each other's affections”? Or did there love change and mature? Basically: is love one thing only, or can it be many things? Are some versions of love better, or more satisfying, or filled with more or less "zing?" We all know “zing” is necessary – but what else makes up love? You can have zing in an affair, or a one-night stand, so even if you can’t have love without zing, love has to be more than zing, so what is it?

So presumably you don't want a love that is impossible, but something that is real. Let me get personal here. I'm in love, and she's in love with me. All our friends think we are absolutely made for each other; although we are mismatched in certain ways, people who know us well think we are best couple they've ever seen. Or close to it, at least.

...continued below
Jul. 28th, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC)
..continued from above

But are we absolutely "ideal" for each other? Is this an "ideal" love? I don't think I can say that. Some days I'm more in love than others; some days there is more zing than others. There are some ways we annoy each other, and there are some things that each of us would change about the other. Is that ideal? Somehow I think you would say “no,” even though there are certainly things Ms. Bennett and Mr. Darcy, or Heathcliff and Catherine would change about each other. So it’s not ideal, but is it love? I think so. And anyway, a person who thought I was completely perfect would be unbearable. How could either of us grow if we didn’t think we had faults? It’s SO much easier to develop as a person if you have someone beside you egging you on, giving you constructive criticism, and WANTING you to be the best person you can be.

Perhaps I should finish up, this being your journal and all. Rather than wonder what love is, for me its more important to ask what love does for me. Are we a team against a sometimes uncaring world? Do we trust each other? Do we make each happier, as a whole, than we would be apart (because you CAN’T be happy all the time, so if you are looking for that, you are completely out of luck). Is there zing/chemistry/attraction? Is each of us willing, at least occasionally, to put the other first? Can we make sacrifices for the other? There are more, but I’ll let you fill in the blanks.

My point, finally, is that love is real and it exists. I’m not sure if love is mystical, spiritual, or just hormones and chemicals, but it’s there. So if you just simply want love, and the things enumerated above, you can find that. But ideal love, all-consuming love….if I’m right and that’s what you are (sometimes) talking about…well, Christian/Satine, Romeo/Juliet love ends in death for a reason – it may exist, but it exists only in proportion to its impossibility. So that is my long-winded answer to what I think you’re asking. Ideal love does exist, but only if you are willing to have it not last. I think rather than searching for that, perhaps it makes more sense to stop searching for ideal perfection, and look for something that can sustain you. Something that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy would have AFTER the novel is over – a love based not on impossibility and unfulfillment, but on mutually feeling that the other is your best possible partner in life.
( 3 spankings — spank your inner moppet )