And What Is Love?

On the Edge, Living on Air, Oldest on Earth

Yale called them the Undying Lands, a term borrowed from Tolkien. To Yale, the Undying Lands were in southeast Utah, the land of his mysterious origins. We never did find out much about his beginnings. As a child, he went from foster home to foster home, what he called Foster Fear.

His life was as mysterious as where he came from. Sometimes in the middle of his chores on Rolando Claycomb’s ranch, he’d disappear. No one knew (or cared) where he went. No one but me. I followed him once, during a thunderstorm. Sitting at the edge of an overlook at Dolores Canyon with crooks of lightning dancing all around him, he dissolved like a wraith into the fog. I never did find out how he slipped away.

In the end, all mystics speak of love and nothing else. They don’t believe in ‘kinds’ of love, for they realize that love is one, of a single nature. They don’t write about unconditional love, since they see that as a redundant phrase. If we place conditions on our love, then it’s not love at all. But only barter. The human idea of love seems a description of a bargain. A this for that. A tit for tat, if things don’t end well. The world sees love as just another struggle for power, a desire to possess and to control. To possess innocence. To hold onto forever and ever. And if we can’t have it that way, then we’ll kill whatever it is we try to love. In that bargain, we kill off love as well. Love must make its escape from us, since it can’t be held down, owned, traded in one kind of transaction or another. And this is why, the messengers tell us, love seems to us an elusive thing, a thing easily killed off. It comes off in our fingers, and we can see its traces, butterfly’s wings. The winged thing, though, dissolves in the sunlight.

Yale might say that love is that desire behind all other desires. Which stands for all other passions, in which all other desires are subsumed, and in which a single and mere desire is but a poor fraction, a symbol for that which is inexpressible.

That which loves us beyond measure, passed all comprehension, has no words, no formulary, no embodiment which can be held or made love to. We try to kiss it, but it’s like touching light with our lips.

That which is, in reality, our wild heart’s desire, our heart’s wildest desire. Can never be controlled or ordered around or quantified or even understood. As we pose all our other playthings in this pretend place, love’s the one that can’t be posed. It can play with us, and we with it. It can tease us, and we can tease each other with it. Then, like Yale, it slips away, maddeningly away.

When you wake, this will you know. And you’ll wonder how you could ever have believed anything else was true.


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