To love is to hope
“In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” So goes the Beatles’ romanticized take on the admonition of the Law of the Harvest: What you sow, you shall reap.
This Valentine’s Day, lovers everywhere will once again unwittingly celebrate “The End” as they send flowers, sing love songs and text love notes. Thousands of pesos will once again change hands for a floral bouquet, a fancy dinner and a night to remember.
Alas, the logic of “The End” is not always operative on Valentine’s Day. Not to those who are still recovering from a breakup. Not to those whose love and passion continue to be unrequited. And most certainly not to some friends and relations who will all the more feel the painful absence of a loved one today.
Consider, if you will, my friend’s widow, who must deal with her husband’s sudden death just as he was on the cusp of starting a better life for his family. That it happened as he was reeling from a painful discernment decision makes it all the more tragic.
Think of what it must feel like for my other friend to lose his mother to a lingering and terrifying illness despite the many years she dedicated to serving others. Her boundless kindness, which took the form of livelihood opportunities for her impoverished neighbors and daily catechism for their children, will remain unreciprocated.
Imagine the depths of my cousin’s sadness after her gifted son died without warning, weeks before he was supposed to start at his first job. The myriad possibilities he was excited about to ease the financial burden of his single mom would no longer be realized.
None of these make sense. They defy logic and explanation. Then again, if we are to believe the historian Yuval Noah Harari, life does not really make any sense. Humans take it upon themselves to inject meaning through the stories and narratives that they curate in their Facebook and Instagram accounts. “In itself the universe is only a meaningless hodgepodge of atoms. Nothing is inherently beautiful, sacred or sexy—but human feelings make it so. It is only human feelings that make a red apple seductive and a piece of turd disgusting. Take away human feelings, and you are left with a bunch of molecules… The universe does not give me meaning. I give meaning to the universe.”
Thankfully, as a well-meaning friend once offered, we are believers. And our faith as believers endows us with the gift of hoping that, someday, that which does not make sense today would someday make sense.
The philosopher Gabriel Marcel differentiates between a kind of hope that we relate to on a daily basis, and a kind of hope that defies empirical evidence. The former is best understood when one hopes that a friend would arrive in time for lunch the following day. It is a kind of hope that is “merely a calculation concerning certain chances I am considering, a practical little problem of probabilities.”
In contrast, the latter is best exemplified by a mother who hopes that her soldier son who has been reported missing in action would one day knock on the door of their home, even if there is absolutely no evidence to suggest such. It is a kind of hope that “is a matter of my coming out of a darkness in which I am at present plunged and which may be the darkness of illness, of separation, of exile or slavery… Hope is situated within the framework of a trial.”
And what makes this coming out of the darkness ironic is that, on the surface, it appears to be an obstinate shout for help in the valley of death, or a defiant cry to be rescued in the howling wilderness. As such, its perfect formulation can only be “I hope in Thee for us.” For it is a kind of hope that can only be sustained by faith that, despite the evidence to the contrary, darkness will eventually turn to light. We shall overcome.
It’s a compelling thought to reflect on in the face of utter meaninglessness or, for that matter, naysayers who learned the hard way how “… love is handsome and love is kind, gay as a jewel when it is new, but love grows old and waxes cold, and fades away like the morning dew.”
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Von Katindoy dedicates this reflection to his ex-girlfriend Elaine to whom he has been happily married for 20 years.
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