The recipient of love

It was a cold Fall morning. The sun tried to warm the body under a heavy wool coat. I was walking on the narrow and winding streets of the charming village located at the foot of the mountain that houses the monastery, on my way to Loureiro’s shop, for a cup of coffee and some conversation. I was sad as I felt some close relations of mine did not return my love for them. The shoemaker, who sewed leather by trade and ideas as art, greeted me with the usual joy, and soon we were seated by the counter with two steaming cups before us. After I explained my dissatisfaction, I asked my friend why love caused so much suffering. I found that conflicting, as this feeling is undeniably connected to good and light. Ultimately, if love was so good, no one should suffer for it. The cobbler sipped the coffee and replied, as if speaking the obvious: “They suffer just because they don’t understand love.” I disagreed. I said that love is intrinsic to everyone. I added that there should not be a human being on the face of Earth who did not know love. Loureiro smiled and said: “Yes, this is true. However, feeling love does not mean we know how to decipher it. Furthermore, love is not the only feeling that runs in the veins of everyone, all feelings do, the better and the worse. No exception. Identifying each one of them is essential; not allowing one to contaminate another is part of the skill set of the walker.”

“But let’s stick to love, or else this conversation will be too long. Who suffers for love is he who has not understood the rightful recipient of this most important feeling or its mechanics.” I said I had not understood. The shoemaker reasoned: “The root of suffering is to love the way a merchant registers inventory in and out. If we give affection, tenderness and attention we demand the same in return, as “payment”, if you will. This means, we only allow ourselves to love if we are loved back with the same intensity. Isn’t it so?”

I agreed that it was so. Loureiro shrugged and said: “Wrong recipient.”

I said I had not understood. He explained: “When we act like that, we show we are more concerned with ourselves than with others. This attitude shows that we love for what we will receive in return, and the other is a mere channel through which the love we give will be sent back. This is not love, this is selfishness. This is like sending a letter to ourselves. What is the sense of writing a letter to oneself? Love is a poem we write haphazardly, without worrying about signing it. Gestures that stem from the purity of heart are the best verses written about love’s imperishable role. It is the poetry that one puts in a bottle and throws it in the ocean with the joyful purpose of filling the soul of whoever finds it, with no other agenda. Love, to be actually so, should be committed to not being bound to the reaction of the other in returning it. The love you feel is not the one you receive, but the one you give. Love is a strange commodity, the more you let it flow out, the larger your inventory.”

I argued that love is exchange. Everyone wants to receive in the exact amount they give. The cobbler shook his head and said: “Exchange is trade; love is sharing the beauty and joy of life that pulsates within you. Without payments, taxes or levies of any kind. Like flowers we plant at the side of the road to enrich the life of those who will come after, without the concern on whether or not they will enjoy the colors and scents. To love is to offer the light within us to illuminate the dark dungeons of the world without presenting a bill of charges for services delivered. Or it is not love. This understanding is an important step to be free from any emotional or love dependency, and, therefore, to end all suffering. If you look carefully, you will realize that we suffer for jealousy, envy, selfishness or other less noble feelings, but never for love.”

“Think about the sun, which provides light and warmth, allows and renews life and asks for nothing in return. Hence its greatness and power. Love transcends magnetism, propelling everything and everyone to orbit around its generating station. It is like the sun: when you ask for nothing in return, you get everything.” He paused briefly, and added: “This is the strange and fantastic equation of life that we persist in not understanding. Then we suffer.”

I said I had always heard that love was an exchange. Loureiro was emphatic: “You learned the wrong lesson. If you want to stop the pain you must quit the classes of selfishness and jealousy, and attend a different school.”

I argued that he was insane. I remembered the wonderful feeling of being loved. He arched his lips in a smile and said: “I agree with you. This feeling is exhilarating and I want to feel it every day. However, this is precisely where danger lies. This feeling is good and fair, but it cannot turn into the object and goal of love one gives, in which case it becomes a selfish attitude that aims to benefit oneself, not the other. Then, it is no longer love; this is why we suffer. One must pay heed so that the recipient of love is not the sender, in which case the letter loses its sense and love gets lost in itself, ceasing to exist.”

I wanted some more coffee and asked him to refill my cup. That entire conversation was too disconcerting and, I must confess, it was difficult for me to grasp it. When I thought that Loureiro was going to relieve my intellectual discomfort, he struck the final blow: “Only in the infancy of the soul we insist on thinking we are the center of the world and that the universe turns around our ego. From this stemmed the word ‘selfishness’. The natural outcome of love-related selfishness is jealousy, a feeling so strong we mistake it for love. The worse is that jealousy is connected to the feeling of insecurity and outdated ideas of domination.” Once again I asked the cobbler to further explain his thoughts. He was didactic: “The idea that we are absolute and the center of the world makes us believe that we have exclusive rights on everything and everyone. We use the word ‘engagement’ for our relations improperly, to hide the true feelings that move us: jealousy and selfishness. We want to dominate others due to conditionings and faulty education. When we become involved with someone who is a source of joy for us, we display the fear of their leaving.” He paused and added: “But how can you lose what is not yours to have?” Then, he said: “We have the delusion that happiness is only possible if we have in our hands all that involves us and all people we believe are important for our happiness. This is the origin of imprisonment. To tame causes pain, taming people brings along unavoidable suffering. We suffer due to other much less noble feelings, and we blame love for something it is innocent of. No one suffers from love.”

“We forget the lesson given by the sun and charge for heat and light, emptying the joy of those who orbit round us. Love is not demand or commitment; in fact, love is the remedy for this condition. It is freedom and plenitude. It triggers the magnetism that attracts everything.”

I wanted to know what was necessary to stop suffering. He furrowed his brow and said, seriously: “We often feel an existential void whose origin it is hard for us to identify. Then, we look for someone who can fill it up, and transfer the responsibility for our happiness. This is the perfect formula for failure and pain. Instead of treading the path of self-knowledge to heal the emotional fractures that prevent us from moving forward, instead of illuminating our own shadows that prevent us from evolving because they blame others for our suffering, we prefer to take the shortcut of finding someone who will solve the misery we feel. In short, we have the delusional idea that to love is to have someone who will make us happy. This causes stagnation which, in turn, makes us boring; this causes dependence that builds prisons with no bars.”

“What if we invert the equation? Taking over responsibility for one’s own happiness is to be ready to initiate on the Path. Honestly and boldly undertaking the process of self-knowledge to transform oneself is the first step. Not to demand anything from others and focus on the responsibility of sharing the virtues that blossom in your soul is a sign of evolution and fertile ground for love to flourish in one’s heart. This brings lightness, the freedom of being. This brings peace, the plenitude of being.”

“This change, in fact, is the breaking of the shell that prevents us from being whole and denies love in its entire dimension. One must renounce making any demands, just because no one owes us anything. If one claims any rights over the other, rest assured there is no love involved. If we feel like someone’s owner or creditor, it is not love that is guiding us. Love refuses domination because it is libertarian in its core. Demands cease to make sense once we realize they are like letters written to the wrong recipient.”

“Once we realize we are accountable for our happiness, and that no one owes us anything, all that is given to us, as little as it may be. No fruit grows off season. Love requires patience. Because it knows it cannot offer perfection, love allows compassion with the imperfections of the other to grow.”

“Only when we accept that the recipient of our love is not ourselves, but others we will feel the love’s entire power and strength pulsate. It is the process of developing wings that will allow flight to the High Lands. There is no other.”

We spent some time without uttering a word. I broke the silence and, moved, said that I had to go. I was late in re-writing all my letters, because I did not want to postpone an important meeting. Loureiro smiled.

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.


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