Have you ever experienced unrequited love? Ever love someone who was so out of your league they didn’t know you existed? Ever been horribly, unfairly, unceremoniously jilted by a lover? Ever love someone for years who treated you like shit most of the time? Ever love someone who turned out to be completely different than the one you thought you fell in love with?
Ever tried to muster up feelings of love for someone or something you did not, could not, love?
And yet still, despite its ephemeral nature—from its meaning, to its translation, to how it is individually experienced—some of our greatest thinkers, philosophers, social critics, poets, not to mention a good chunk of pop culture, still repeats “Love is the answer.”
We should love everyone and especially nature. That’s what’s wrong with the world, they insist, not enough love. And every time I hear this, I roll my eyes, even when it comes from someone I love.
Most recently I heard it in an interview coming from Wendell Berry (link). How someone so inspiring, who has led such a charmed and wholesome and respectable life, who now at an advanced age seems so wise, could repeat such nonsense confirms for me only one thing: “We don’t see things for what they are, we see them for what we are.”
Love is the answer to the West’s problems, they say, because you take care of what you love. And the younger thinker and social critic Paul Kingsnorth agrees with him.
Now here’s a homework assignment I’d love to give to these fools. Kingsnorth likes to study tribal cultures, which I think is really cool. He likes them because they have a solid home in nature, unlike Westerners. And I agree. So, I think he should ask all those tribal folks their opinions about this ‘love’ solution so many Western thinkers keep harping on about.
My bet is, it doesn’t translate. At all. I bet he’d have to write an entire essay for them about what he means by love in the first place, let alone how he expects that will solve anything.
How do you make someone love you? Or care about you? I have a difficult time imagining a more monumental task. And yet, somehow those who care about nature are tasked with getting those very great many, like the Technocrats and their vast entourages, to not only love it, but to respect it, to care for it, to nurture it even. Seriously?
What a debilitating delusion they are spewing. And not just once or twice out of an understandable desperation. But constantly, for decades now.
Yet to call it out for the obvious shallow fantasy that it is, I become the bitch.
Well then, so be it. Let me play that role for a minute or two right now.
Imagine Mother Nature is your very own mother. Maybe you love your mother, let’s give it the benefit of the doubt. You love her, but your sisters love her more. And your mother and your sisters are screaming at you—“You don’t love me!” “You don’t care about me!” “You are exploiting me and you must stop!”
How will you respond to their shrieks and demands of love and care? Deny your lack of love, perhaps? Maybe yell back that they are all wrong about you? Maybe ask what they mean by that?
You might be so sure of your love that you ask what you can do to prove it?
Maybe Mom replies she wants you to write her a poem professing your loving feelings. So you do. You go even further, and you write 10 poems and throw in a tediously long essay to boot. And you’re very proud of your efforts and you feel you’ve really captured the intense love you have for her.
And she says she likes them, even the tediously long essay. In fact, everyone who loves her also agrees how perfectly you’ve captured those feelings of love through your words. Astonishing.
But, after all, those are just words, and you said to love her is to care for her, so she wants to see some action.
So with the same zeal you wrote the ten poems and tediously long essay you tackle the part where your loving words become caring actions.
You chop wood and carry water for her. You refrain from any negativity in her presence, because she doesn’t like it. You insist that everyone in her company, through shame or coercion or even force, abide by her rules and preferences.
At long last, she is satisfied with your efforts. You can feel the power of her appreciation filling your heart and coursing through your veins.
She tells you, “Child, you are a true master of loving care!”
“Except, you see, there’s so many children over there who don’t love me. And their lack of love for me is upstaging your love. Their lack of love is demonstrably more powerful than your true love. What can you do about this?”
And you reply, “Great Mother, don’t you worry, I can make them love you like I do!”
Really? Can you? What makes you so sure about that?
You read them your poems, and they smirk. Then they read your tediously long essay and shrug. You show them your admirable work in fetching wood and carrying water for your Great Mother, and they respond by clear cutting your forest and damming your river.
Then they tell you their favorite joke, laughing all along.
The joke goes like this: There were these three dudes on a yacht. One was an American, another was Russian, and the third one was Mexican. They were all drinking and getting boastful as drunken men like to do.
The Russian said, “In my country, we have so much vodka we can afford to throw it away!” And he takes a full bottle of vodka and throws it into the ocean.
They all laugh harder. So, the Mexican says, “In my country, we have so much tequila we can afford to throw it away!” And he takes a full bottle of tequila and throws it overboard.
And they all laugh harder still. Then the American says, “Well, in my country we have so many . . .
And he picks up the Mexican and throws him overboard.
The Russian and American look at each and howl with laughter. And the American blurts out between guffaws, “Tough love!”
To The Holy Spirit
O Thou, far off and here, whole and broken,Wendell Berry
Who in necessity and in bounty wait,
Whose truth is light and dark, mute though spoken,
By Thy wide grace show me Thy narrow gate.