So what is meaningless love. I’m not talking about the love between an old married couple who may now wonder why they are still together. Nor am I anti- gay, although some may consider the love proclaimed between two people of the same sex ‘meaningless’. But I do wonder if the very casual attitude todays generation has with sex and transgender relationships is completely meaningless, when its compared to the dictionary definition of love. It’s certainly not biblical. In history when a man left his mother and father it was so he could ‘cleave to a woman and become one flesh’. The implication being an on-going relationship, where a new generation is established according to Jewish tradition.
Ironic then that Israel has one of the highest abortion statistics in Europe and Jerusalem is not unknown for it’s pro-gay rallies. Does this not mean that the alternative outcomes of love are meaningless? Love, love love. All your need is love. As a child of the sixties it was The Beatles that gave society permission to talk about love. Sing about love. Enjoy love. experiment and even lament. To be brave and wear our hearts on our sleeves. After a long decade of post-war recovery perhaps people had no more excuses but looked after their heart desires. No longer interested in simply ‘making do’ with whatever was available ‘on the love shelf”. Suddenly it was permissible to look elsewhere and find some other meaning from the traditional love genre dictated down from the previous 50s decade.
Despite opposition from strong society strongholds – governments, churches and educational establishments, the 60s became the most influential sexual revelation to date. Hence the word ‘love’ became not just a term of family or community endearment. Nor something whispered along the moonlight streets following a date between a hetro-sexual couple. Who, for the purpose of the media, were probably married or at least engaged thus giving a ‘green’ light to their intended audience that such public behaviour was universally acceptable. Now love had a post-modern meaning.
No longer a hallowed term, shared in sacrifice and the sacraments ‘For God so loved the world. No greater love has this than a man lay down his life for his friend’. Perhaps Post-war society had had its full of sacrificial love. So the word ‘free love’ was derived to mean; ‘the idea or practice of having sexual relations according to choice, without being restricted by marriage or long-term relationships’ explains goggle dictionary. But if love no longer included commitment was it any more free? Interestingly this definition does not include the word ‘love’ but rather sex with reference to the relationship. A lot has been written and learnt about the impact that such sexual freedom can have on society. But my question is, what did it all mean?
Was love so restricted beforehand that it needed the word ‘free’ added to be fully accessible. Did this new freedom really include love in it’s genre and practice. For a lot of folks the answer is ‘no’. As alongside the freedom to perform sexual activities was also the freedom to walk away from their partner of the day, week or month. If that person happened to conceive during the ‘relationship’ neither had to commit to either keeping the child or parenting it. Neither did the state have to recognise the offspring of an unwedded relationship. Nor the church. Not that this was anything new, but is did mean that these issues were no longer hidden.
But what has that generation done with the freedom it fought for? Has any lasting significance or sense of purpose been acknowledge as a result. Well at least we talk about love more openly and acknowledge the complex diversity of human relationships more honestly. Both the church and society have, for their part, engaged with the social change that has occurred in the last decade leading up to the millennium and consequently church leadership and government policies have been altered to reflect the changing landscape of non-marritial, same-sex, trans-gender relationships which are as much a part of 21st living as internet access. Love is all around us.
However, I have come to wonder if somehow the very fragile, honourable, noble idea of love has become over-familiar with its transition into every avenue of life. We ‘love’ our phones, our hair, the latest blockbuster, the cutest band. It sometimes feels like we love everything and everyone so much so that it becomes somewhat meaningless love.
Where is the depth of passion, sacrifice of self, longing or waiting for love’s emotion to evolve and grow. To evaluate it’s impact on the consequence of decision, the commitment of involvement or the hope of improvement. Nowadays, if we don’t ‘love something’ we simply change it for something we do. Until that is, we loose interest in that too and search for the next item we can put value on. Be it object, place or person. Is it any wonder that conditions associated with depression and anxiety are on the increase or that suicide rates have increased by 60% since the 70s worldwide.
So how can anyone find meaning in anything, including love? Solomon, the alleged wisest King of the bible had this to say about it. ‘Meaningless, meaningless. Everything is meaningless under the sun’. Written in approx 930 BC it seems he had his finger on the pulse of society even then. After several more thoughts and lamenting, he concludes in the final chapter of Ecclesiastes that, when all is said and done everything is meaningless except to ‘fear God and keep His commandments’. Interesting in the light of the fact that many of todays questions on the meaning of life stem from an overly free society which chooses to ignore the rules and fear nothing. Not even the consequences.
For myself I have found meaning in submission. Both to my parents as I grew up, my teachers and educators. Also my peers and others in authority like policemen, politicians and doctors. I haven’t always agreed with their practices but I have respected their intentions as I concluded that they wouldn’t be doing their work unless they loved what they were doing. Really loved. Willing to giving up their own time, energy or agenda for the hope of a better outcome. Constantly re-training and evaluating how to make streets safer, policies fairer or patients healthier. Dedicated but not fearful.
So this is my conclusion. Love can be meaningless. The very word ‘love’ is so often overused I wish I could find a suitable replacement for it. I love you. There. I’ve written it. But without the context of knowing about me, it is meaningless, isn’t it? God is love. But if you don’t actually belief in him, you can’t know him. So you can’t know his love or be expected to respect him (another meaning for ‘fear) yet alone ‘keep his commandments’. But the truth is that when we respect the rules of love there is new meaning to be had. Love is patient, love is kind, it doesn’t boast, it believes, hopes and succeeds.
I think that is what King Solomon was getting at and somehow I agree. To be successful in love we need to find it’s meaning. Re-write the script. Choose my words a little more carefully. After all love is more of a verb than a noun I think and if I believe in love I need to respond to it with action. To love a little more deeply, speak a little more kindly, wait a little more hopefully that somehow love is understood a little more sincerely.