In life, we each have the choice as to whether we live and and love on life’s terms or our own (the ego’s) terms. As Rilke put it, “Life is always in the right.” But this is not what we want to believe; we want to believe that we know best, that we’re not lost, that we have things figured out well enough, that we’re more or less in control. But to live and love on life’s terms is a much more difficult and emotionally taxing–even terrifying–yet, in theory, rewarding, meaning joyous and meaningful, way of living and orienting ourselves in the world. That’s the wager. Live and love on our terms or on life’s terms? Which one will make our lives truly extraordinary, which one will allow us to become what God or the gods intended, which one will allow us to live and die well, awake, more fully alive and fully born?
The following is Gibran’s take on what it means to love on life’s term–to not cater to our ego’s excessive need for control and security, but to instead to love more bravely, more honestly, more deeply–even if doing so wounds us and takes us far beyond ourselves.
To me it’s the only way that makes sense to love: all in. Life is too short for any other way. No one gets out of here alive, so why live and love as if we do?
When love beckons to you follow him,
though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses
your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
so shall he descend to your roots
and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire,
that you may become sacred bread
for God’s sacred feast.
All these things love will do unto you
that you might know the secrets of your heart,
and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace
and love’s pleasure,
then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness
and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
into the seasonless world where you shall laugh,
but not with all of your laughter,
but not all of your tears.
For Love gives naught but itself
and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not
nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
And when you love you should not say,
“God is in my heart,”
but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
Think not you can direct the course of love,
for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must have desires,
let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook
that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
to return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart
and a song of praise upon your lips.
( – Kahlil Gibran, “The Prophet”)