Complacency is a potently tragic hallmark of our lives. We’ve certainly got bunches of it. In fact, as the old saying goes, we’ve got it “in spades.” Complacency is conceived in the bosom of familiarity, where something becomes so commonplace that we errantly render it as ‘common.’ We’ve yet to beat this terribly corrosive tendency we have to assume that the more we have of something, the less it’s inherent value. And held tight in the womb of such thinking, complacency is vigorously nurtured and eventually borne.
With such a debilitating mentality, it often takes the absence of something to help us understand why the presence of that thing is so terribly vital. In fact, how vital something is might best be illustrated by removing it altogether. We are constantly surrounded by things that are absolutely vital to our existence, yet the regularity of their existence renders them ‘common.’ In time, ‘common’ becomes bland. And in time, bland becomes invisible. And over time, we walk in the company things wholly vital to our existence, but we feel ourselves to be walking alone. We become complacent.
Diluting of Love
One of the things that we become complacent about is love. We blithely toss around the idea of love in a manner that paints it as something of a magical storyline. It seems that far too often we’ve relegated it to the penmanship of misty-eyed novelists or the musings of our own minds, and in doing so we’ve seemed to have created some horribly diluted understanding of love. We’ve created sugary-sweet caricatures of love that we’ve woven into everything from t-shirts to holidays. We’ve penned its prose into a million cards, and we’ve inserted that self-same prose into tens of thousands of chapters that lay nestled between the covers of a thousand novels. We’ve created starry-eyed renditions of love that serve to put the cold realities of our existence at bay, and we’ve crafted innumerable romantic tales scripted to convince us that the shrunken life that we’re living is not all that there is to live.
As is the case with far too many great things, we contort and editorialize them to suit our pithy notions and shallow needs. We can’t see great things as being great things unless we extort them and enslave them to some level of servitude. It seems that great things are great if they serve us. And so we take grandiose license with great things to mold and twist and shape them to make them great based on our needs or our schemas. And in doing so we gut them of everything that made them great, and we field dress them to their own death. We become complacent about great things. And it seems that we do that with love.
Losing Love to Understand Love
If we want to appreciate something in earnest, it seems that we must first lose it. The slumber of complacency is deep. There’s something at the basest core of our humanity that doesn’t awaken until it’s violently shaken. And often that violent ‘shaking’ is to lose the very thing that we need to be awakened to. Sadly, by the time that we’re finally ‘shaken’ awake from our dozing complacency, the thing that we needed to be awakened to is long gone. And out of the ensuing panic we desperately try to figure out how to get it back, or we determine that we can’t get it back so we either settle into denial or grieve our loss. Therefore, maybe the best way to understand love is to understand what life would be like without it. That’s probably not something that many of us think about or have thought about or would like to think about. But, what would our existence be like if this thing that we call ‘love’ simply didn’t existence? Additionally, what if any shred of any emotion that was even remotely similar to love simply did not exist. Take love out of our existence, and the chilling question would be “what’s left?” If we knew that, we might be less complacent.
What’s Left Without Love
Loss of Community
Take away love and we have no reason to consider our fellowman nor join him in the partnership of life and living. The communal foundation forged strong by empathy, fired by sympathy, and cinched tight by respect is obliterated. The unbroken strength of that foundation as faithfully sustained by conscience and ethics would collapse and completely implode. In the collapse, we would become brutally rogue entities savagely committed to the sustenance of our own existence. Life would become wholly adversarial, helplessly falling into the smoldering ashes of anarchy. Without love our world would fall, and in the chaos of the descent it would tear itself apart to its own death.
Loss of Self
Take away love and our own individual existence would fall into abject irrelevance. The desire to sustain ourselves would devolve to a singularly primitive savagery that would be completely dependent upon the degree of savagery that we possess to sustain it. Hatred of self and for self born of the absence of love would cause us to viciously turn on ourselves, rendering us our own enemies. We would then become the very thing that we fear and the very object that we despise. And in such a pathetic conundrum, we would have no point of escape. The deep passion to expand ourselves, to expotentionally grow, to vigorously nurture the plethora of resources that we possess would simply not exist because we would not have the love for ourselves that would prompt us to such dynamic actions. In essence, to become loveless is to become non-existent.
Loss of Life
Take away love, and nothing would capture our imagination. We would find nothing compelling. We would never marvel or be held in the mesmerizing embrace of wonder. We would never be lifted to heights of ecstasy, nor would we know the depths to which one could fall. Passion, desire, dreams and hope are all borne of love and entirely sustained by it. And when they are gone because love is gone we become little more than mindless carbon-based life forms driven by a drive to exist that is no deeper than the drive to exist. Without love our humanity vanishes and with it everything that sets us apart from everything else. Rather, our lives would be lived out on a stale robotic continuum where life would have no flavor, no scent, no color, no melody and no texture. We would know nothing of vision and we would cease to be fascinated by ceaseless possibilities. We would lose the ability to visualize something greater than ourselves, and then believe that we have the ability to become that thing. Rather, we would become automatons, driven solely by the baser drive of instinct alone. Take away love and we take away meaning.
Loss of Existence
Finally, have we postulated that without love existence would never have existed in the first place? While we have done a bang-up job of banging up life, it is love that always puts it all back together again. And when love puts things back together, it always puts them back together better than they were before we messed them up. Love is the single thing that has called humanity up and out at times of monumental crisis. Love is the thing that pressed men forward at those pivotal moments in history when everything that was not love declared all as lost. Love is what pushed civilizations upward and onward when they teetered on the brink of oblivion. Love is what called people to moments of great sacrifice so that others might move on even if those sacrificing could not because of their sacrifice. It is on the winds of love that we have been raised up and thrust out. And so, I would be so bold as to say that if it weren’t for love, existence would have never existed in the first place.
Getting Back to Love
Love is far more than something that has arisen from the penmanship of misty-eyed novelists or the musings of our own minds. Love is far more than the sugary-sweet caricatures of love that we’ve woven into everything from t-shirts to holidays. It is infinitely greater than the prose that we’ve penned into a million cards, and it is unimaginably superior to the self-same prose that we’ve inserted into tens of thousands of chapters that lay nestled between the covers of a thousand novels. Imagine life without love and you will begin to touch the periphery of this incredible thing that we call ‘love.’ And in doing so, we can once again understand the wonderfully immense power of this thing called ‘love.’
© 2015 Craig Lounsbrough, M.Div., Licensed Professional Counselor