“Take away love and our earth is a tomb” (Robert Browning).
THE LATIN PHRASE SINE QUA NON MEANT “WITHOUT WHICH NOT.” When we say that something is the sine qua non of something else, we mean that the first thing is absolutely essential to the second. The second thing could not exist without the first.
Is it too much to say that love is the sine qua non of human life? Honestly, I don’t think that’s an overstatement. Many things may be taken away from us, many “essential” things we may have to get along without, but take away love, and what is left is something less than a human life. By this I do not mean that we have to be loved to be human — I mean that we must love. We ourselves must love some personal being outside of ourselves. There is nothing any more deeply embedded in our nature than the need to love. Whether or not love is acknowledged, appreciated, or reciprocated, the great happiness of life is to love. It was no one less than Friedrich von Schiller, who wrote the poem Ode to Joy and was a leader of German Romanticism, who said, “I have enjoyed the happiness of the world; I have loved.”
I came of age on the Mississippi Gulf Coast not far from the Louisiana Creole country. In those lands, there is a beautiful proverb which says, “Tell me whom you love, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Today, and every day, let’s meditate on those whom we love — let’s resolve to love them more purely, strongly, tenderly . . . and lovingly!
It should be said, of course, that we do sometimes take love too seriously. It’s a force far beyond what any of us mere mortals can handle, and we ought to see the humorous side of our “assaults with the intent to love.” We ought to just admit, as some wise person said, that “the game of love can’t be played with the cards on the table.”
Still it’s the most wonderful thing this side of heaven, isn’t it? It deserves nothing less than our best effort. We ought to honor it and receive its grace with gratitude. We ought to quit trying to make it be our slave, and instead allow it to be the heart-piercing, two-edged sword that it has always been in the realm where it came from.
“Make your service of love a beautiful thing; want nothing else, fear nothing else and let love be free to become what love truly is” (Hadewijch of Antwerp).