In honor of the alleged Mayan Calendar end-date, 21 December 2012, this is my contribution to the End of the World, whenever it may come.
LOVE: an analysis and commentary of 1 Corinthians 13
by Eva Caye
Excerpt from New International Version (NIV) [found at http://www.biblegateway.com]
THE LACK OF LOVE:
1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
To ‘speak in tongues’ was once considered a gift of the Holy Spirit, called glossolalia. From dictionary.com:
noun -- incomprehensible speech in an imaginary language, sometimes occurring in a trance state, an episode of religious ecstasy, or schizophrenia.
A person found speaking in tongues was often treated as if they were being touched by the Holy Spirit, for sometimes they spoke languages that actually existed, which perhaps some in the room could interpret. I have, allegedly, personally experienced two instances of ‘speaking in tongues’. In the first, three people who were members of the same church tried to convince me that it was an important manifestation of the Holy Spirit. When one looked at the others and said, “I think she needs an example, ready? 1, 2, 3....” and they proceeded to babble at each other, I cried at their pitiful attempts to force such a manifestation, though they thought I was crying because I ‘felt’ the Holy Spirit in them. In the second, a ‘spiritually adept’ person stated that deliberately speaking in tongues would magically attune a person to some mystical spiritual state in which prophecies could be made. After he deliberately blathered nonsense for a good five minutes, he proceeded to predict circumstances I will never see, such as me dying in childbirth (unknowing about my previous hysterectomy).
Nowadays, we call it gibberish, diagnose it as ‘word salad’, and treat it according to our personal background beliefs. My personal beliefs are, if the Holy Spirit truly inspires someone to give them a verbal gift of tongues, it would only be a valuable gift if it were comprehensible to at least one person present. I am not discounting the possibility by any means that this could occur, and I suppose speaking in tongues provides some sort of spiritual fulfillment for the speakers. Regardless, this first verse is absolutely correct: if it is not done in, with, or for love, it is meaningless, the crashing of percussion instruments with no rhythm, simply noise, no manifestation of spirit.
To me, the REAL essence of verse one is that almost ALL human speech is just as worthless. How many worthwhile things do you hear of a day? Here are some phrases I would find worthwhile hearing:
“...And I want my entire fortune left to [specific charity].”
“911, there’s a [tragic circumstance] at [specific location]!”
“I do.” [marriage vows]
Why do I consider those phrases important? Because they provoke actions to demonstrate actual love upon one’s fellow humans, or animals, or the Earth.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
Prophecy and miracles – I believe in both. I have researched prophecies since 1979 or so, and I have often asked people if they have ever experienced miracles, listened carefully to their stories, and tried to assimilate them into a framework of knowledge. The two purposes of prophecy are a) to forewarn us about imminent tragedies, and b) to get us to change our ways so those tragedies do not happen. The purpose of miracles is to demonstrate that they result from scientific principles we do not yet understand, and the overwhelming number of those principles are based on spiritual activities which juxtapose with matter in ways science has yet to determine.
‘...fathom all mysteries and all knowledge’ is a powerful reminder to me of the use of intelligence. I know an incredible number of intelligent people, many of whom are moral and/or spiritual. I also know, and know of, vast numbers of intelligent people who have few if any morals. Some sociopaths are so intelligent they have perfected lives of exquisite, socially-acceptable public fronts, all the while abusing friends, relatives, indeed anyone they can, just to support their own image of grandeur. I definitely wonder about the moral capacity of corporate executives who do not grant their lowest workers a living wage, for example.
If you are spiritually advanced or intelligent enough to predict the future, how do you use those powers? If you use them to take advantage of your fellow humans, if you do not offer your services with love, I fear for the state of your soul. Yes, you can charge money; I want my mechanic to tell me of imminent brake failure! Yet if you deliberately inspire fear in people with your abilities just to skim them of their cash because you want a new car, I more than fear for the state of your soul. I fear for the state of our society, for this seems to be the prevalent attitude right now, causing untold suffering throughout all social strata and socioeconomic levels.
‘Faith that can move mountains’ is what gives me hope. It indicates a spiritual power, a state of readiness, a knowledge that one can handle the vagaries of the future or even the end of the world. Yet, without love, what miracles even matter? Would you perform a miracle before vast numbers of witnesses just so they would love you? The love YOU give is the miracle; the faith YOU inspire is the miracle. All ‘miracles’ not performed WITH love, for the support and well-being of fellow life-forms, are worthless and desperate measures for attention, adulation, self-aggrandizement. If you are spiritually strong enough to do miracles yet perform them for your own selfish interests, you are trying to accumulate spiritual power given to you by others, which will not last if you do not give them love and faith that they can do the same. You end up living in a spiritual vacuum and your spiritual energy will be spent, eventually drying up.
The purpose of performing miracles is to share spiritual power, and that is done with, by, and for love. Those witnesses and recipients then learn that they, too, can develop spiritual powers, ‘faith that can move mountains’, and share those abilities with love. The true power of love is growth; if the emotion you think is love causes people to wither, turn inward, reject others, and lose willpower, you are not experiencing true love. If you project true love, your loved ones brighten, always look forward to new endeavors with and for you, delightfully offer to share your burdens, and pursue their interests and goals with enthusiasm. What kind of miracle would it be if everyone were to learn to love like that?
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
How many people would give to charities if the government did not offer tax relief? That is the measure of a man, to give when it does not matter to anyone but the recipient. To give whether it inconveniences you, and knowing you will get nothing back out of it. Although I immensely respect Robert A. Heinlein’s concept of Pay It Forward, and have even used it on occasion to assuage other people that I really do mean to help them out with no strings attached, I still consider it a ‘string’, a condition upon giving that I prefer not to employ. What matters is giving from the heart, giving in the spirit of love, giving with the knowledge that the person is being blessed with a bit of your love, in the hopes they thrive and grow and learn the spiritual value of possessions.
Boasting – I’m guilty. I love knowing I can accomplish X, Y, and Z, that I ‘did it all myself’, that I spent innumerable hours perfecting my craft, or that I made it through some hardship and survived. How many people look upon me as if I am nuts, though? How many people listen to my ‘accomplishments’ with jealousy? How many people feel shame if they have not achieved what I have achieved?
What matters with both of these is to do it with love. If I give of my possessions or money to a cause which matters the world to me, I can release that blessing with no regret, never wanting it back, with full assurance that I have made someone’s life easier or helped build a better future for us all. If I market my newest book, it is because I have filled its pages with love, with life lessons, with ideas and energy that I hope to inspire in all my readers. If I mention my achievements to my family and friends, it is always with the hope I can inspire them to think of their own potential, help them avoid pitfalls I have seen, and always to offer assistance to them in any expertise I have.
This is love: I went drastically out of my way to set up my first book with a print-on-demand publisher because my sister wanted a copy she could hold in her hands, instead of a simple ebook. My sister in turn gave me several pieces of pottery she made with her own hands during a class she took. I personally discovered the information on the class and sent it to her so she could learn how to do this art-form she had always wanted to try. She has always encouraged me to be an author. We inspire each other to greatness, simply out of love.
THE QUALITIES OF LOVE:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Patience is something we should all work on. When I feel impatient, I tend to find there is a reason for it, a block of some kind, which shows me something I can do to perfect or correct a situation so the outcome is enormously better than it would have been. To be patient with other people can be a trial, for they may have not assimilated a new situation which impinges upon their ability to work/react/relate at your level. When I feel a struggle to keep patient in a situation, I concentrate on finding the love. Do I really love what I am doing or the purpose for which I am doing it? Do the people who are keeping me from progress need a loving hand to guide them?
Kindness is in critical short supply these days. It inspires me to hear religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama proclaim kindness is their religion. Yet, what is kindness? The dictionary refers you to ‘benevolence’, thus defined as a desire to do good to others. In other words, love inspires us. As such, love is a life-force, an impetus of our behavior, of our capacity to grow.
As such, I see love as the working currency of the universe, the ‘aether’, the substrate of spiritual power. Who knows? Love could be gravity, or magnetism, or love could be the strong atomic force which keeps subatomic particles associated with each other. “...it does not boast, it is not proud” means to me that love has no personality, so who is to say that it is not what holds the fabric of spacetime together?
Love is frequency, love is action, love is the flow of cosmic forces. Love is being in ‘the Zone’, when all your actions are righteous, and perfect, with no doubts or need for thought at all. To be patient is to recognize that the time for action has not yet come; to be kind is to recognize that some more ‘life-force’ needs to be applied to a situation. And those people who can tap into that astonishing force, whether it be for one instance or one ability, can and do produce miracles.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Slanderous, self-seeking, impetuous, judgmental behavior does not represent true love. These are human attributes we derive specifically from our animal nature. Once again, with this verse we see that love has no personality. It is a powerful force which people and those animals within our influence (who can develop this anthropomorphic resonance with us) can tap, producing acts of heroism and beauty, acts of sustenance and evolution, acts of attraction and accretion, acts of progress and transformation.
In fact, most human behavior you can observe does not entail love, even if it looks like an act of kindness. We are even deliberately trained out of it, such as in medicine, teaching, and service positions, lest it affect our judgment, productivity or efficiency. Nowadays ‘detachment’ is all the rage, although loving your career is encouraged. It appears to be an odd inconsistency, yet in many instances I agree to the need for some detachment, simply because most people do not understand or define love as an impersonal, benevolent force. If detachment were defined as 'impersonal love', I would be all for it. But for most people, love comes with conditions, and if they don’t pay you enough, you can feel free to move on to a new career. To find the rare activity, performed with true, non-judgmental, unconditional love is so outrageous to modern sensibilities that we take pictures of it and put it on the news.
We all know that is how things should really be. We all know we should incorporate more true, unconditional love in our lives. We know what is really important. It is my hope that this little essay will remind us all to ‘tune in’ to that channel every day, indeed at all times.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
I have long wondered why humans would develop the capacity for speech only to tell lies with such frequency. If we cannot put our trust in words, why speak at all? This is why gestures and actions are truer than words. Words are mere symbols, a convenience to the expression of complex thought processes. To cultivate outright lies makes a person no better than a ‘dumb’ animal, a brute with no consideration for his fellow man.
Yet consider propaganda, advertising, editorials, literature, or even this very essay. With seven billion people on Planet Earth, there are seven billion perspectives, and it’s not always easy determining which perspectives are based on truths. A company founded by a person who truly believes in, say, the health benefits of his product might hire an advertising firm whose people truly believe the only important thing about ads is that they sell the product to anyone who will buy it. If unwitting people are hurt by that product and the company goes under from all the lawsuits, what service is rendered?
Take literature. I’ve written several books and plan to get them all published. I’ve heard literature referred to as ‘telling lies for fun and profit’, yet I do not design my books with those intentions in mind. I write books with engaging characters, environments, and conflicts so I can interest readers enough to help them notice the truths I have found in life. If they relate to those truths, we are all better off; perhaps I help them avoid situations that could be dangerous, or provide them with words they may not have considered using to avoid such situations. What matters is that my books are a labor of love, which I deliberately write to enrich the readers’ personal lives as if they were the characters in my book, learning all those lessons by proxy. What matters is that I help them think of ways to enhance their lives, find more interests, and grow in wisdom.
THE PERMANENCE OF LOVE:
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
There are two reasons why I consider love a universal force – evolution, and physics.
What is the evolutionary principle that encourages mother animals to care for their young? Some species have it to a great extent, some not at all. Some can even lose that capacity, such as a notable propensity for mother pandas rejecting their tiny cubs. Yet why would parental investment vary across so many species? An astonishing number of bird species, for example, show the male caring for offspring, with some species of amphibians, bugs, and fish thrown into the mix.
Nevertheless, higher life-forms have a propensity for nurturing young. There must be a reason why their nature dictates such a thing as preservation, or otherwise species would have never evolved beyond procreating in such numbers that some were bound to survive. This is what I feel is the ‘attractive’ power of the universe, and I call it ‘love’. Whether it hard-wired an evolutionary necessity into the DNA of any given species, I cannot say. The likelihood seems far greater that the vital frequency of the animal resonates to its own DNA such that copies of itself have greater resonance than copies from similar beasts, thus the mother/father care for the offspring as much as they care for themselves.
To me, this aspect of ‘love’, this resonance factor, is the one most people understand deeply. We prefer to be with people like ourselves. Yet in the orchestra of frequencies that can be interpreted as ‘love’, this one is like the outermost core, the static of a lightning bolt instead of the pure lightning itself.
Which leads to conservation of energy, allowing transmutation between states of matter but not disintegration of matter itself. It always perseveres, like love always perseveres. It always ‘hopes’, if you can imagine hope to be denial of a state of rest. Love brings to mind zest, vigor, striving for ‘greater’, ambition, and initiative. This is why I feel we have not adequately explained entropy. We can point at a myriad of entropic examples, yet why has the universe not come to a standstill? This is why I think love is a substrate of the universe, in particular, of life itself. Love is the life-force, creating order out of chaos, growing, experiencing, and arranging for its own perpetuation by survival of species.
Now, consider all the powers of love mentioned before. Preservation of the species (donating to charity, calling 911, wedding vows), miracles (accessing an unknown force that can give superhuman strength or will to survive an otherwise deadly injury or disease), accomplishment, sharing spiritual knowledge, encouraging others to partake of the power of love. It is when we can feel this juxtaposition of spirit, of love, as if with our physical bodies that we truly feel most ‘alive’. And what do we do when we feel most alive? We procreate, we strive for meaning, we help others. We share the love.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
If love never fails, and love is the binding force of the universe, then the universe will not end. The-world-as-we-know-it surely will, at some point. I almost feel as if the author acknowledges that humans, as beings using language to codify knowledge, will realize at some point that all these intellectual exercises we perform are what hold us back with respect to love, to spirit. As if the real meaning in life is not to be found in imaginary dollars, nor in accolades or accumulation of goods, but in action, in feeling spirit and love power your acts of structure and meaning and organization, to build a greater reality than existed before. At that point, we will need no words, no predictive faculties. We will be like gods, fueling our expansion as a species with miraculous powers now beyond imagination.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
The fact that this has been separated into two verses indicates its power to me. We are incomplete, with faculties beyond the imagination of lower life-forms. What is this ‘completeness’ spoken of? What could make knowledge and expectation (prophecy) disappear? What will make us whole?
Love. To be one with the universal Impetus, whatever force it is that causes the stars to stay their courses, that causes gravity, magnetism, heat. The Divine, the Animus, the root of all order and the essence of all understanding.
The permanence of love has heretofore been personified as a being instead of as a force. It was more natural for us to identify with a ‘god’ than with, say, an unseen force of change such as the wind.
HIGHER REALITIES ARE BASED ON LOVE:
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
This verse points directly to the evolution of man as a spiritual being. Here, in these bodies, we are like children, playing in the realm of matter. These bodies will die, but our spirits survive, with death our rebirth into new spiritual bodies. When the bodies die, our spirits will have no need for matter, for we will have ‘graduated’ as students of humanity, understanding pain, pleasure, growth, and disintegration.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
This physical world is all reflection, quite literally. A spectrum of light falls upon a physical object, most of those frequencies are absorbed, and the ones that do not are reflected, giving the object a ‘color’. And such a tiny fragment of energy that it, though our limited perspective grants enormous meaning to it!
These frequencies are only the ones in the realm of matter. Can anyone really say that spiritual substance, spiritual frequencies, and spiritual attributes do not exist if they can only be perceived by spiritual beings? Who can surmise the true scope of the universe? Those who ride the waves of love.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.