A desperate plea for all of us to do better
As 2022 comes to an end, I’ve been thinking about love. I’ve also been feeling anger. What do these things have to do with each other? A lot, as it turns out.
I edited an article this year about love. I won’t say by whom or for what publication, but the way it described love was so — normal. Love was defined in multiple ways: a concept to frame sexual desire, a passion felt toward another person, a kindling of desire, a social union, an encounter that leads to an “advent of the Two,” an experience of a gift.
Honestly, I don’t really know what any of that means. But then, I’ve never loved people or connected to people or cared for people the right way. Love, to me, isn’t any of those definitions. In fact, being loved in that way sounds a bit dehumanizing.
But I do love people. I care about other people. I will pick you up from the airport or let you sleep on my sofa. I will remember your birthday and whether you’re a cat person or a dog person. I will edit your personal statement or write you a letter of recommendation. I probably have a song, a movie, or a TV show I associate with you. But I don’t expect any of this in return. I don’t expect to be loved back. And I don’t know if it’s because I rarely get validated or acknowledged and have simply adapted to being invisible, or if I’m naturally uncomfortable with being cared for on a personal level.
Maybe I don’t want to be known because I associate being known with being judged. Maybe I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to me or dependent on me because I will disappoint them. The truth is I couldn’t be a spouse or a parent. I don’t have that type of love. But I don’t see this as a lack, or something I’m missing, it’s just not something I can do. The same way you can’t, say, smell the differences among regional tap waters. (It’s a gift. And a curse.)
What I have instead is what feels like an infinite capacity for love. It’s so much bigger than me or any one person. It’s beautifully impersonal. It’s the thing that connects me to every living thing, to the pulsing life of the planet, to humanity. It’s compassion, what some call the highest form of love.
But oh, people make me so angry. Seeing so many of you unwilling to take basic pandemic…