Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Blessed are the poor...

I've been told to read Pinckaers, Living the Beatitudes. I'm now on chapter 3, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. On page 44 he talks about poverty and love, up until this point I understood, but this gave me cause to stop and reflect...

There is no true love without poverty...Love knows it's own worth and is rightly jealous. It wants to possess our hearts totally, and cannot endure anything else besides, or any comparison. We must therefore become poor and empty, if love would enter and abide with us...Poverty is love's handmaid and companion. It makes us free, supple, and flexible beneath the action of the Holy Spirit, who is the Master of true love.

Furthermore, poverty purifies our love from that instinct of possessiveness which is its most dangerous enemy. Without the help of poverty love becomes possessive and, desiring to monopolize its object, it abases and defiles it until it flees from the lover. In the end, possessive love corrupts and destroys itself.

Perhaps I was just being dense, but for some reason this seemed contradictory. He first speaks of love possessive as a good thing, something natural, then speaks of possessive love as a bad thing, something which "corrupts and destroys itself." How is love possessive good and possessive love bad?

Well I spent three days thinking about this and I still don't understand love possessive, but I think I've begun to understand possessive love. The closest I can come to love possessive is that when we love an object it becomes the focus of our attention. Should our hearts be taken with other objects of affection, we no longer love the primary, or loose it. None of this sounds right though.

Possessive love is a bit easier. Being human, the lover fears the beloved, or rejection by the beloved and tries to protect himself by possessing the beloved instead of loving the beloved.

Pinckaers describes poverty as that "fundamental emptiness which lies at the depths of our being: the consciousness of our condition as creatures...All that we have and are comes from another, and will be taken away from us some day, whether we wish it or not." So a lack of poverty is the lack of acknowledgment that we are helpless, or the belief that we are gods.

Relating this back to our possessive lover, it is difficult for someone who believes himself to be self-sufficient to love for he has no need, or desire for anyone outside of himself. Should he find in himself poverty enough to desire a beloved, it would be for selfish reasons. He would need the beloved to validate the control he has illusioned himself to have.

Since he sees the beloved as a tool to validate his own illusions, he never realizes the depth of the gift given to him by the beloved. The lover, lacking poverty, does not acknowledge control outside of himself and will attempt to force the beloved to truly love. Yet love cannot be manipulated or controlled, it must be freely given. Deep down he knows this and thus will see any affection given as coerced and superficial.

As this cycle continues he will begin to despise the beloved because she represents his failure. His lack of control, which he fears and rejects, is evident in his beloved and thus he seeks to destroy the evidence of that failure. He will begin to attack her in order to regain a semblance of control, if he cannot have the love, he will have power.

In order for the lover to experience true love he must first recognize that he is poor, that everything he has is a gift that can be taken away. Once he accepts his lack of control even the most insignificant goods become precious. Superficial love is a joy and true love a divine blessing, for neither need have been given at all. Furthermore, since all gifts depend upon our acceptance of the gift, or our rejection of it, the lover will cherish the love given by the beloved all the more, knowing that, should he choose to reject it, it may never be offered again.

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