On Love & Woe
Dependence and expectation are the cornerstones of all pain. The great Buddha once said that one who has 50 loves has 50 woes, and one who has no loves has no woes. By this, he didn’t mean that we should not love, but that love, in essence, raises the very simple human person to an inextinguishable existence. That belief, which mostly stems from the Western tradition, uplifts us all to the level of “individuals.” It allows us to live under the false pretense that each of us, like a snowflake, is unique and that we all have some kind of everlasting purpose although our presence on this earth is so short-lived.
I agree with most of what the Buddha had to say, but this statement was one that I could never wrap my mind around. Being brought up in the Christian tradition embedded me with faith that we are all inherently important and that, in some way, somewhere, we will continue to exist long after we’re gone. The Christian tradition allows me to love, to elevate the human person onto the pedestal of eternal life.
I still do not dispute my own faith; however, I do recognize that the Buddha was on to something. The one statement he made with which I so adamantly disagreed suddenly makes perfect sense to me: those who have 50 loves have 50 woes, because the human journey is, in fact, a solitary one. We surround ourselves with distractions, conversations and plans with others, but to what end? Life is what happens when we are all so busy making plans. We depend on others, only to be disappointed time and time again. We expect a knock on the door that never comes, we expect to build a future with others that only truly exists on a hypothetical plane, and we avoid the pressing question: to what end?
When people have asked me what my purpose was in the past, I often responded with the same simple answer: to love. That is the Christian message. Jesus was killed for it, but at least his suffering wasn’t in vain. Well, wasn’t it? He suffered in order to alleviate human pain and yet, just take a look around you today. What do you see? Humans still killing humans. Humans still acting selfishly and senselessly. Humans still accumulating wealth that they cannot take with them to their graves, just because. Humans dying and, in dying, leaving it all behind: every last bit.
So, the question stands: what’s the point? I can love with all my heart, yet I cannot depend on love returned. I can love others until I am poor, tired, and bed-ridden myself, yet I cannot take an ounce of the love I have given with me. When I die, perhaps a select few will remember that I fulfilled my Christian duty to love, but they too will soon meet their end and all will be forgotten. It has been forgotten billions of times before. Why should we believe that we are any different, or any more important than our ancestors? How arrogant of us.
Dependence and expectation are the cornerstones of all pain. When one does not depend, one is free. When one does not expect, one does not base happiness upon the expectation.
Now, if I decide that I have established that the Buddha was right, where does that leave me? Do I not love? That seems out of the question. Loving others is the fabric of my most basic nature. I am meant to be a lover, a mother, and a teacher. I am meant to give others the satisfaction of being appreciated. I cannot avoid love, simply. So, what’s the alternative? Should I love and expect nothing in return, trust everyone but not depend on anyone?
Perhaps Jesus could do that, as Jesus was a Buddha. But I am neither Jesus nor Buddha.
I am only a woman who sometimes thinks too much for her own good.