Endless love and its boundaries

Today Teo Bishop asks where love fits in into Pagan and polytheistic traditions. Read the whole article and its comments before returning here.

I agree that love is a worthy topic for Pagan discussion. The word does indeed not seem to coined very often, or is it? I have the impression that Pagans often prefer to speak of specific kinds of love, rather than just plain love. We speak of Sigyn’s love for Loki when he suffered in bondage. We speak of Brighid’s first keening upon finding her son dead. We speak of Aphrodite loving Ares with all her might, and her having to share her equally beloved Adonis. The love of these gods is often described as boundless and intense. Yet, all these examples of love are specific. We love that specific person. We love that particular book. We suddenly love that stranger that passes our threshold, and we wonder where he suddenly comes from. Love is particular. Love is enacted and embodied.

We love that what is close to us, whether for a short while or forever. We love in the moment. Love can overwhelm us and love is without boundaries. But we are humans and we do have boundaries. This boundary is very much a sacred thing.

Teo writes:

I’ve met people who seem to care little about love in a broad or theological sense, but a lot about love for their tribe. The boundaries are clear to them. You have it for some, but you don’t necessarily have it for others. There is an inside (where love is given), and there is an outside (from which you protect yourself).

I am a cosmopolitan. I believe in kindness. I believe in global solidarity. Yet I am not completely averse to the above statement. Love can cross boundaries, but the boundaries are real. Tribalism, as in defending these boundaries at all costs, is bad in my book. Reinforcing the wall between insiders and outsiders I do not favour. But not recognizing that we humans create tribes and that we all have our own boundaries, is a mistake I think.

Pagan traditions all value hospitality as a great virtue. The threshold is a sacred boundary, for it is a liminal space. Who do we let in? And who will remain outside? I believe in inviting new people into our homes, in speaking with strangers on the bus, who suddenly are not at all strange any more. Maybe, I will let them enter my heart as well or at least let their ideas fill my mind. My boundaries are porous and they move about. There is also not one boundary, there are circular layers. One stranger may get a free cup of coffee, another one will become my best friend. Love is at the very centre of this circle, but I cannot share it equally with everyone. When I love, I love fiercely. For love is fierce. Others I wish the best, but is that love? I do not know.

We must recognize our boundaries of love before we can let people (or other beings) cross them.

Circles of love

When a person says they feel love for everything and everyone, I think, yes, in a specific time and place perhaps. We cannot keep this up. We need boundaries, but I hope with many bridges and doorways. But let’s remember, these bridges need building and the doors need opening. They require action and effort. The Christian notion of indiscriminate love makes me suspicious. Not because loving once neighbour is bad, but because our neighbours have faces. And we should want to know our neighbours. And in knowing them, we will learn love. But as long as our neighbours remain faceless, deep love is not possible. Love has a face.

Love is requires meeting and thus there is always a meeting-point, a magical threshold.

In order to let love move as freely as possible, we need to be hospitable. We need to be courageous and wise in order to know when to open doors and when to close them. We need all these virtues to love.

Love and friendship thrive on virtue.


2 thoughts on “Endless love and its boundaries

  1. Great post, and there is a lot to digest here.

    “The Christian notion of indiscriminate love makes me suspicious. Not because loving once neighbour is bad, but because our neighbours have faces. And we should want to know our neighbours. And in knowing them, we will learn love. But as long as our neighbours remain faceless, deep love is not possible. Love has a face.”

    I see Love, practiced widely, not as the act of pulling everyone close to us and giving them the same devotion we give our family and friends. You defended that kind of fierceness as something that a certain inner circle has earned, and I agree with you on that. Instead, I look at Love as the opening and leading note in how we approach not just relationships but everything we do–how we eat, how we drive, how we exercise, how we wait in line, how we speak to an obviously overwhelmed airline employee, how we work, how we motivate ourselves and others.

    Love is not only a feeling I have in relationship to other people. Much larger than that, Love is an emotional and spiritual space we can occupy during the day, and invite others to step inside–and bring ourselves back to when the day takes us to less peaceful places. This is sacred space we can carry along with us. It does not mean that we love all equally, or that we apply our love indiscriminately. It doesn’t mean we don’t act cautious when we are possibly in danger, or that we skip among the daises acting like everyone is our best friend. It just means that we step forward, pregnant with possibility, and open to what may unfold.

    1. I agree with you that love is more than a feeling. Love moves us to action. But love as a spiritual place …, that sounds as compassion. And there is nothing wrong with compassion, but I just do not call it love. I see and understand how others would equate the two, but I don’t really. But I do think it is very interesting to call love a space. It is different from saying love is an energy floating all around, or a Platonic Idea. If love is a space you can hold, that means you need to make room for it. It may mean you can sit in it. I rather like it as a metaphor.

      I have to really think on what it means to call love a space. I know fear is a place you can go to, is it also a space? Is anger a space too? What are your thoughts on this?

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