The Balance of Love in Adulthood and Old Age
Photo by Domi Chung 道明 - Unsplash
The Balance of Love in Adulthood and Old Age
A Passage from my new work
"The Subtle Art of Suffering in the Balance of Love."
As we mature the fruits of love also mature. The candied, sour flesh mellows out to a bittersweet tenderness. The passion and tragedy digs a little more deeply and the airy bliss of youth turns to a slow, gentle aching. As young adults, love seems new and wonderful. We discover intimacy, rhythm and finally euphoria. We also discover impermanence, doubt and heartbreak. The balance continues well into our elder years when the body and mind both hurt, sewing seeds of love into everyone and everything around us. This acrid pith blossoms the flower of youth in love, brilliant, and beautiful. It is almost as though in our old age we become fountains of pain and sacrifice while in our youth we expel innocence and joy. The ensuing crests of suffering and happiness swirl and twirl together to create the intricate back and forth of our lives. In love even the most mature act as children and in heartache the ignorant become sages. We bounce between stupidity and wisdom in love and lust, learning and yearning until we settle into the partner we seem to have known for eternities. The magnetism of love draws us together across distances, cultures and all sorts of other differences and difficulties. In balance we encounter our better half.
Lifetimes from now the balance of conflict might not be war. It might be romantic entanglements. How many armed conflicts began over the affection of a lover? In antiquity love and war seemed to go hand and hand. The reward for a battle well fought was returning to the arms of your loved ones as conflicts raged in devotion to blood and countrymen. Epic, storied romances were much more common in the raging waters of early humanity. The polarization of hearts and empires inspired the myths and legends of old, tales of triumph and tragedy handed down from person to person. It is sad that as a civilization we don't seem to love as deeply anymore. Life is a bit less inspired. The modern world has become a series of mundane tasks strung together by bits of subdued romance. The great devotions seem lost in Saturday night cuddle sessions in front of the television and nights out at the pub or theater. Life is not as painful and in turn does not cleave so deeply into our being, filling the gash with the healing waters of intimacy. The transmutation of mercy into passion does not occur as frequently because the world is not as turbulent. The violent music of early civilization has been reduced to a slow, rhythmic hum. The balance of worry and desire becomes ever closer to balance, the romance and quarrels ever more subtle and nuanced.
When we think of the reincarnation cycle the tendency is to imagine our husbands or wives with us for lifetimes, living in different bodies, in different periods of humanity's turmoil, forever hurting and yearning for one another. The opposite is actually true however. We cross paths with many partners, loving from afar and closely. Catching glimpses and joining in union with many individuals. It is only when we choose to ascend to heaven that our love affairs become static. When we join with God we become permanent in the cycle of love and trust. Then and only then can we find peace in love. The suffering of life on earth is a constant shock to the system, jolting us alive with both passion and pain through the divine spark. Some call it the holy spirit, some simply call it electricity coursing through our veins and animating our beings. Our bodies are forever creating and destroying themselves as our cells multiply and die. We are constantly being reborn, even at the cellular level and nothing is ever permanent, save the little piece of nothing we cling to in our agony. The divine spark of our bodies beginning and ending, revolving around our souls until they are returned to the brilliant reservoir of pain in death.
Healthy love knows that a relationship is not permanent. Our love affairs might end prematurely but eventually they all expire with our passing. When we enter into a love affair it is best to say “I know this will end someday but I will do my best to love and support you until that happens.” Practice gratitude always. That should be our first thought when we begin to love, the acknowledgement and beauty that it ends before it begins. It's funny that we cling so much to the moments of physical intimacy and the moments of departure. When we begin to love we always wonder about when it will end. This can be healthy if we understand the balance and impermanence of things. We also spend so much time imagining sexual episodes that we hardly enjoy them and think of everything else when they do occur. My advice for a healthy love life is to only think about sex when you are having it, being present in love for your partner at all times. You may see a beautiful person and admire them but in musing on intimacy we objectify them for sex, knowing nothing about their person or history. The physical act of love should be held sacred but that doesn't mean you shouldn't find beauty in humanity. It simply means that clinging to the fleeting moments of the end and the moment of union makes us miss the best parts of life which tend to be everything else.
Unrequited love is painful but it teaches us the tough lessons about romance. It shows us that we can't control our partner, their feelings or their lives. It shows us that pleasure comes at a cost which is typically deep pain, longing and sorrow. Losing in love inspires us to be better, to be creative, to admire the love and affection of others and finally to find our complement. It refines the edges of our souls to better fit with the person meant for us. It chisels away our doubts and insecurities about who we are and what we need until the object of our admiration is merely a waypoint in our journey, honored and respected as an archetype for our ideal partner. Most individuals have a multitude of romances that never come to fruition. We might fight off others fervently to impress them but for one reason or another our attempts are thwarted. Throughout life our thoughts linger on these wounds inspiring fondness and nostalgia. Eventually the memories of pain become endearing in our hearts and every time they come up we feel comforted. In this way the love of youth inhabits our minds in old age as the pain becomes a transference in time, delivering us care wrapped in a vessel of hurt spanning decades. These thoughts, watering the plants that yield the bitter seeds we sow that inspire love in our elder years. We did not receive that love and now we want to see it in others. We feel inspired to cultivate the intimacy we did not receive.
When we age it is almost as though we feed our younger selves backwards in time. We nurture our inner children with wisdom. We protect them from the future. They rely on us for hope, support and ideas for a better tomorrow. The knowledge of our failing health gives them strength. The imaginings of our future wisdom gives them insight and inspires them. They know when they are older more will be understood and it is almost as though when they send us memories of love they touch our knowledge and learn lessons from the pain. We commune with ourselves in love and pain. The mercy of our advanced years adores our child selves, protects them and heals them through time and space. In this way we also balance ourselves in love throughout our history. It is a constant communication between young and old. The give and take of our fears, our comforts, are insecurities and strengths. Our emotional life becomes a balance within ourselves through the years and just as the world seeks equilibrium around us, in old age we find it within. The violent beginning of birth, just as the universe burst into life, cools down as our thoughts expand and calm. The vibration slows to a steady hum in our elder years until the slow rhythm of our pulse grows faint and distant, finally returning to the emptiness of the void. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. We become a part of everything and nothing, a part of nature and the divine, a mother's love and a father's mercy.
- February 20th, 2023 -