The song “Oh Well”, by Fiona Apple, speaks with such clarity of emotion. I love listening to it, because I can identify with every bit of emotion it contains, and I feel its every word so completely. It is honest and real, and not many people are anymore.
Go, listen to it now: http://youtu.be/SieghTbbWjk
Walking through some of its lines, they are perfect…
What you did to me made me / See myself something different
What you did to me made me see myself somethin’ awful
When I was looking with calm affection / You were searching out my imperfections
It took me such a long time to get back up the first time you did it / I spent all I had to get it back, and now it seems I’ve been outbidded
And when it counts you recoil / With a cryptic word and leave a love belittled / Oh what a cold and common old way to go
Won’t you go away / Turn yourself in / You’re no good at confession / Before the image that you burned me in / Tries to teach you a lesson
It’s beautiful, because it is so real. And yet, there is a problem.
Its conclusion soon emerges:
What wasted unconditional love / On somebody / Who doesn’t believe in the stuff
And it’s easy and wholly understandable to feel that way. For love, at a certain angle, has much of selfishness wrapped up in its experience. It touches our emotional lives so deeply. And it’s easy to conflate the two together, such that, paying too much tribute to a selfish emotion, it follows the path of least resistance and rebels against the pain, rejects sacrifice. It’s easy to do, in pain, but it’s a step that mistakes the true nature of love itself. And it is so important to step beyond this. Because love is not selfishness. Love has nothing to do with selfishness. Not “unconditional love”, anyway, of which the song speaks—of which we all should speak.
For unconditional love is… unconditional. It does not depend on any responsibility of the beloved. It does not depend on the changing seasons of the heart, or the storm clouds, or the fog that rolls in drowning affection at times in its dreary veil, or the sea tides salted with tears that swell up and wash over them both. It is without condition. It is an orientation of the heart and soul that exists outside of time and space. It is so preciously rare, and it can outlast time itself.
From the selfish perspective of a love inverted in on itself, a love full of demands, it can feel like it’s wasted if the beloved disappoints, or acts with meanness, uncharity, or belittlement. If the beloved does not conform to its plans. But unconditional love laughs at petty plans, knows nothing of them, has no such concerns. For it sees souls and loves a heart. And of what weight are the little concerns of Earth compared to the majesty of a heart and a soul?
If it feels like it was wasted, it was not unconditional love. It was love with a thousand conditions. It was an, “I love you, [just as long as you make me feel good and not one moment longer]”. It was a broken love in need of redemption. It was a love that has not yet transcended itself to grasp its full nature.
But once that transcendence occurs, as it hopefully will again and again in each of our lives, even while disappointment might abound, even while the beloved might offer nothing but pain, even while the fog remains and no promises can ever be offered, the lover can smile in quiet recognition, and look upon another heart in need of love, another soul who, while fighting for its very life, is also so alone and in need of one who understands, who makes no demands. And that is when the heart infused with unconditional love feels warm, in the unqualified recognition of its object, and whispers, softly, “yes, I will love you; and no, there is nothing you can do to make me stop.”
Because it is precisely the one “who doesn’t believe in the stuff” who needs unconditional love the most.
Unconditional love is NEVER wasted.