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  • “The first time I met you was on our wedding day.”
    “I was scared.”
    “I was shy.”
    “I was nervous.”
    “So was I.”
    “But my father and my mother said we'd learn to love each other. And now I'm asking, Golde.
    Do you love me?”
    “I'm your wife!”
    “I know! But do you love me?”
    “Do I love him?”
    “For 25 years, I've lived with him, fought with him, starved with him. 25 years my bed is his..”
    “...if that's not love what is?”
    “Then you love me?”
    “I suppose I do.”
    “And I suppose I love you too.”
    “It doesn't change a thing, but even tho, after 25 years its nice to know.”

    Tevia and Golde from Fiddler on the Roof -

    I think at one time I believed in love at first sight. The concept is wonderful and romantic, that belief there are “soul mates” out there we are instantly drawn to, another person who will know our most intimate desires without asking. We delight in such tales, although they all seem to have the same basic plot, seeing as most of them are extrapolated from Shakespeare's immortal Romeo and Juliet. Like too many instant romances these days, the two were much too young to be making these kinds of decisions [Romeo was 16, Juliet 14], and like too many marriages these days, the story ends tragically.

    Perhaps my teenage self would call me jaded, but I have to say I've gotten past that flirtation with instant love, and begun to realize somewhere far in the back of my hormonally challenged brain those feelings of instant connection are based as much on desire and the internal instinct to procreate as anything else. That these feelings of connection are often accompanied by some amount of inhibition loosening concoction, legal or otherwise, and a certain amount of peer pressure, would seem to add some validity to my conclusion.

    So what is love? How do we know for certain we love anyone, let alone specific individuals. How can we quantify this emotion so we might accurately describe it to someone else in words that make sense to even the youngest listener?

    The question is to a large extent rhetorical, since we've been trying to figure this out for centuries. But for me, the easiest description of love was given by Jeffrey Tambor in a scene near the end of “Meet Joe Black”. Death (who looks amazingly like Brad Pitt) is asking Quince (Tabor) how he knows Allison loves him, or how he knows he loves her. His answer?

    “It's like you can know the worst thing about each other, and it doesn't matter. That's what love is.”

    Somehow I doubt that kind of knowledge is instantaneous. Especially when most of us are taught to make a good first impression on others. As parents, we try to teach our children to respect the rights of others by being polite and well-groomed as a social convention. Like it or not, those lessons usually stick, and our children grow up masking themselves to some extent for the purposes of getting along with others.

    Like I said, the question is very difficult. Paul took a shot at it in 1st Corinthians, chapter 13, although he was describing Charity, or Love in action. He said:

    “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (verses 4 – 8, NIV).

    That one seems to be pretty all inclusive, doesn't it? And it brought me back to the three fundamental indicators of a disciple of Christ.

    “Love without condition. Forgive without limitation. Judge no one. “

    Funny, but looking at that now, I'm almost inclined to abbreviate it to the first one, since the second two would appear to be included in the first, based on Paul's description. If you love without condition, it would seem logical you would forgive without limitation and certainly not judge anyone.

    So what is love? For me, it is the ability to see past the exterior of the individual to the true nature of the person. Or, if you prefer, to see the nature of God in everyone.

    ”The Kingdom of Heaven is in you and all around you.” - The Gospel of Thomas, unacknowledged by the church.

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