"I know what your problem is. In fact, I know what everyone’s problem is. Furthermore, I not only know the problem, I have the solution."So begins Father Dwight Longenecker in a very interesting blog post in which he diagnoses the problem at the foundational level of our hearts - lack of love.
Fr. Dwight continues ...
"I am convinced that at the heart of all our problems is an empty or a broken heart. What I mean is that there is a 'love lack.' Our problems stem from the fact that we do not have enough love–total, unconditional, over whelming love. Somewhere along the line an ache like a hunger pang developed in our heart and we sensed way down deep that we were not loved, or at least we were not loved enough. From that perceived lack of love we developed our problem."Feel that nagging Love Lack? Try some drugs, or booze, or sex, or power, or money, or even the applause and accolades of show biz.
In Fr. Dwight's comment boxes, his readers expand on his insight. Someone calling herself Melancholy Bride remarks ...
"Lack of love really does cause all the problems you described, and because of it, we can’t have a relationship with one of [my husband's] brothers, who is always trying to seek attention and show-off at our expense, which he would not have to do if his parents would just unconditionally love them all."And then there are these great lines in the song "Roxie" from Chicago
Mmmm, I'm a star!
And the audience loves me!
And I love them
And they love me for loving them
And I love them for loving me
And we love each other
And that's because none of us
Got enough love in our childhoods
And that's showbiz
But of course, like all the songs in Chicago, this one is dripping with irony. Are we simply messed up because we did not get enough love in our childhoods? Father Dwight continues ...
"[A woman in counselling with me] explained how [her parents] did not love her, how they did not express their love and confidence and how deprived she was. But I knew her parents. They were good folks. They were good parents. They were kind and generous and loved her very much. So the problem was not necessarily lack of love, but perceived lack of love."
But think about this. Either we're messed up because we mistakenly believe we did not and do not get enough love, or our perception is accurate and the people in our lives don't love us the way they should.
Is the cure, then, what Fr. Dwight suggests - to pray to the Divine Mercy of Christ? Well, certainly, that's part of the cure.
But if we're either mistaken about a perceived lack of love, or truly starving from a real lack of love, the cure is both prayer AND doing the only other thing that will make a difference.
We must love. We must stop worrying about being loved and simply start loving.
If we do what Our Lord told us, if we "love one another as I have loved you", then we can begin to fix the problem, whether the problem is imaginary or real. We can't control how others love us, but we can control how we love them - and that stops the cycle - the cycle of fear, abandonment, lack of love, and inappropriate compensation sought through the pleasures of sin.
This ties in with yesterday's post on Magnanimity. Messed up as each of us is, we can never change the fact that life may continue to hand us the short end of the stick - but our job is to grab the stick and stick with it.
Elsewhere, Frank Weathers posts a reflection on G. K. Chesterton's poem "Fantasia". The poem bears reprinting here, along with a bit of my own explication, for it ties in with The Problem of Love and Its Solution. Chesterton writes (with my comments in brackets) ...
The happy men that lose their heads
They find their heads in heaven
As cherub heads with cherub wings,
And cherub haloes even:
Out of the infinite evening lands
Along the sunset sea,
Leaving the purple fields behind,
The cherub wings beat down the wind
Back to the groping body and blind
As the bird back to the tree.
[Chesterton's poems are not easy. The key to this one is to realize he's playing on the phrase "to lose one's head". How does a person "lose his head"? To get so enthused about something that reason and restraint are left behind. And yet, in this first stanza, G. K. affirms that these are "happy men" who lose their heads, for they "find their heads in heaven", their lost heads becoming like the heads of small angels (cherubs), these lost heads flying on angel's wings back to the body, which, headless, is groping and blind. In other words, though "losing one's head" is a rash thing, it is a blessed thing; and as one must lose one's life to find it, so one must lose one's head to gain it back with wings - with a touch of the divine.]
Whether the plumes be passion-red
For him that truly dies
By headsmen’s blade or battle-axe,
Or blue like butterflies,
For him that lost it in a lane
In April’s fits and starts,
His folly is forgiven then:
But higher, and far beyond our ken,
Is the healing of the unhappy men,
The men that lost their hearts.
[Now Gilbert plays upon two different ways to "lose one's head" - either by decapitation: "by headsmen's blade or battle-axe" for one that "truly dies" or is literally killed; or by a flight of fancy: not in the spilling of red blood, but in the blue of butterflies or in a vision of blue skies one might chance upon in a lane "in April's fits and starts". His point is that whether we lose our heads in battle or in an imprudent flight of fancy, our "folly is forgiven then". But more mysterious than losing one's head is losing one's heart - and how does one heal from that?]
Is there not pardon for the brave
And broad release above,
Who lost their heads for liberty
Or lost their hearts for love?
Or is the wise man wise indeed
Whom larger thoughts keep whole?
Who sees life equal like a chart,
Made strong to play the saner part,
And keep his head and keep his heart,
And only lose his soul.
[Now the zinger stanza. There is pardon and indeed blessing for those who lose their heads in battle or who lose their hearts for love - but the seemingly "wise man" who is really not wise "indeed", the man who plays it safe, the pusillanimous as opposed to the magnanimous man - it is he who "sees life equal like a chart" and who keeps his head and keeps his heart - only to lose his soul.]
The solution to the Problem of Love is to love - even if that love means the Magnanimous Folly of losing one's head and losing one's heart - for in losing them both we find them again in the great mystery and paradox that is the Kingdom.