LOV – a story by Wayne-Daniel Berard

LOV

“Listen!” said the man dressed in all white.  “It happened like this . . .”

It was autumn, after Yom Kippur but before All Saints.  I had asked about falling in love.

“Listen!

“Once all children of God lived together in a great lake.  The lake was called Lov.

The lake was more beautiful than anything you could imagine.  At the height of day, bright light would sparkle from it; God’s children would float and splash among the light-drops.  At night, the moon would dip a finger in a long silver line upon its surface, and God’s children would laugh, sliding down the furrow of its shadow.

No one lived outside of Lov.  Men and women, elders and infants, young girls and boys knew only Lov as their home, their only state of existence.  They would dive deeper and deeper into Lov, soothed to their very cores by its velvety darkness.  Or they would move just beneath the surface of Lov, seeing the sky and the clouds and the birds through its softening lens.  

Everything slowed for them; the buoyancy of Lov made haste futile and fear unnecessary.  The lake provided all that was needed, sustenance and shelter, security and change.  Oh yes, change!  For the world outside, which those in Lov saw merely as a reflection of their own, was always changing.  In summer, a blue-green calm would prevail; it would grow warmer, and animals of varying sorts would approach the lake to drink and bathe. The children of God would laugh to themselves and pity them a little, as they did not know what it meant to be fully in Lov, but only came and went as their needs demanded.

In fall, fires that did not burn would begin to ignite themselves in the very heart of Lov — the children of God could see the colors reflected in the trees along the shore.  It was glorious!  For weeks and weeks on end, all Lov was ablaze in liquid scarlet, flowed in shimmering yellows.  Currents of orange and amethyst chased each other across the deep.  It was a time of flame, but not of harm, as the burning waters both consumed and caressed those awhirl in the passion of Lov.

And when winter came, it was welcomed.  Slowly the surface of the lake would crystalize; Lov would grow solid and strong.  The illusion that was the reflected world would cease for a time, and a translucent layer of stillness lay upon Lov like a familiar dream.  It was a season of sabbath, a deep retreat in which the children of God would see only the Lov that surrounded them, permeated them, and now transcended and bound them.  In winter they could not pretend, they could not rise above Lov’s surface, even for a few moments.  Once more, they were made to understand; they were not merely in Lov; they were within Lov.

Yes, there was land, too.  Had not the Creator separated the dry land from the waters on the third day?  But the story of Lov went back even further: “In the beginning all was empty and void; God’s spirit moved above the waters.”  The waters that filled the lake called Lov were just these, the primordial waters that preceded creation itself, the waters from which all things else rose  — the dry land, the rivers, the plants nourished by its mists, the living creatures teeming in its basins . . . and human beings  — human beings as well, made from the watered soil of the earth, and enlivened by the moist, deep breath of God.  For in order to breathe life into Adam, God first had to himself breathe in, to take within himself “the mist that rose from the earth to water it.”  And that mist, that water and breath was Lov.

So.  No one ever “fell in love,” not God, not people.  They were immersed in Lov, environed by Lov, created through Lov, eternal as Lov.

But . . .  you know the story.  It has been lived out in your presence, and in your own life a thousand times . . .

People like to play; they like to dare.  Today they tether their lives to a thread and walk where no paths could ever be, in the emptiness of interstellar space.  They still their heartbeats to a whisper, and venture in the shadowlands between death and life, until technology shocks them back to their side of the chasm.  Do you think any of this is new?  Don’t you recall Daedalus?  Or the builders of the Tower?

For sport, or curiosity, the children of God would sometimes try to come up out of the surface of the lake, to rise above the level of Lov.  Oh, it was one thing to float along with one’s head out of the water, or to wave an arm across the great lake to another who shared always this Lov with you.  Those were just little play-acts of daring, showing off — like riding a bicycle “no hands,” with the rest of you wrapped tight around the frame!  Occasionally, one or the other, in a demonstration of strength, would leap out of the waters like a dolphin, flapping their arms like a scared baby bird, and yelling!  But these, too, were like trampolinists who jump high, vaulters who trust their life to a narrow pole — for a moment.  Then, they are very glad that the trampoline’s surface is beneath them, that the pit is filled with mats to meet their fall.  After all, no one wants to remain suspended between heaven and earth, no one wishes to straddle a crossbar permanently.  And no one would ever really try to live outside of Lov, not for a few moments, let alone forever.  Would they?”

I shuffled my feet, one to the other.

“Eventually,” went on the man in white, “competition got the better of too many of the children of God.  It became a mark of distinction to pull oneself away from Lov and up onto the dry land.  At first, no one would stay more than a few moments, as the atmosphere apart from Lov was terrifying.  There was fire hidden everywhere, fire in the air, fire in the sand and on the wind.  It was excruciating to take even the fewest steps, impossible to breathe without burning. 

What was worse, this invisible fire was clearly the inveterate enemy of Lov, of the waters that preceded creation.  The moment one ventured away from Lov, the fire attacked from every side, sucking the moisture from one’s very pores like some all-present demon.  One only had to walk away from the lake for an instant to immediately thirst for Lov in the most desperate ways; not just with the lips, but with one’s entire being.  For this was the worst part of pulling away from Lov, even as a prank:  the emptiness, the void.   The very substance of reassurance, the constant, unavoidable embrace that had been one’s life would suddenly disappear into hot, dry nothingness.  The children of God had from the beginning lived together in one heart.  But now — it was not hatred they would feel, or rage.  It was nothing.

So, what sort of urge would drive so many to experience that dryness more and more often, for longer and longer periods of time?  Inquisitiveness?  Determination?  Simple contrariness?  Or was it the fruit?

You know the account as well as any:  “The earth shall send forth vegetation; seedbearing plants and fruit trees that produce their own kinds of fruits with seed shall be on the earth.  And it was so . . .”    And this fruit grew on dry land.

There was plenty to eat in the waters, of course.  None of the children of God knew the word “hunger.”  At first it was the appearance that attracted, the glowing gold and orange suspended in the air, like a passionate reflection, like suns that did not burn.  Why wait through the long seasons of Lov?  Reach out your hands and taste.

Here the hidden fire slept, cool and defenseless.  Snatch it, defeat it, consume it.

Win.

Were you honestly about to say, ‘What has winning to do with love?’

For the first time, children of God saw love as one season out of all time, as one experience rather than all experience, as something to be won, lost, and re-won, rather than a gift never other than theirs.  In the fruit, they believed they had found a short-cut to eternal fire; why bother with winter, summer, spring, when it could always be brilliant fall? A fall into love.”

“Romantic,’ I was surprised to murmur to myself.

“Bulimic,” the man in white retorted.  “Why starve oneself, eating only crumbs, when everything one touches is banquet?  Why insist on only this day of love, when every day, every month, every second around you is Lov, and only Lov . . .

“Tuesday,” he then muttered in his white iridescence, and sighed.

“Pardon? . . .” I replied.

“It’s insisting that every day be Tuesday, this falling in love of yours; that only Tuesday has worth, passion.  It’s trying to constantly recreate Tuesday.   Oh, often enough it will be Tuesday, and often enough the flame will ignite itself.  But the other six days . . .”

“Are themselves also waters in the one lake?” I said.

The man all in white smiled.

“Falling in Lov is not your issue.  Climbing out of it is.”

“. . . Not just mine, ” I added, more defensive than I’d meant to be.

“No.  Not just yours. But yes, yours.  

Listen . . .

As for the fruit, it was a great deception.  For the children of God, it was the opposite of an aqualung; it provided moisture where there was none, enabled one to spend more and more time on the dry land.  But why?  Why be satisfied with dribbles of water, when an entire lake is there before you, is your home?  Why exist apart from Lov at all, preferring instead to subsist on . . .

“Lov’s bought illusion, ” I whispered, more to myself than to anyone else.

He nodded. “And so, the vicious circle began to strengthen and grow.  They should have realized when the fruit would not survive in the lake of Lov, where it quickly became saturated and spoiled.  And the longer they stayed on the dry land, the more like the fruit these children of God became.  Flashy, impermanent.  Unable. like the fruit they consumed, to spend much time in their lake home.  Coaxing them, forcing them would merely cause them, too, to become spoiled and saturated.  For the first time in human history, it seemed possible to have too much Lov.

But most did not see it.  In order to spend more and more time apart from Lov, which they had no need to do, they required for themselves more and more of the fruit, which they had no need to eat.  In order to experience (so they thought) their fire, their passion at will, they devoured fruit upon fruit, until they became immured even to its illusory effects.  But still they sought it; still they consumed . . . 

With demand for consumption came the lust to control.  The fruit became more and more rare.  The strong trampled the weak to possess it; the stronger battled each other to own the dry land, to control its groves.  Many began to cultivate the fruit; “labor,” a concept unknown in the green depths of Lov, soon became a demand, and then a virtue.  In their battles and work, in their competition, sides were drawn, associations were formed.  Those on the dry land begged their companions in the depths to join them, to help them, in the name of Lov.  And many came.

Soon, too soon, there were more on the dry land, working, warring, needing and demanding, then were children of God in Lov.  Oh, occasionally visits would be paid.  Tuesday does come every so often of itself.  True Lov was still possible, that season when all the world is flame, reflected out of the deepest depths.  Glorious.  Then the Lov’ers would leave the world of illusion, of winning and losing, of needless dryness and false relief, and plunge together into the heart of Lov.  Now everything was as it was in the beginning — everything was in Lov and of Lov, apart from Lov there was nothing for them now.  But few, if any, stayed past the season.  When the winter came, they did not welcome it.  They were afraid; contrary to what they would tell each other, they did not believe enough in their Lov to give up escape, to be sealed all and only in Lov, even for a time.  So, before the roof could form, they would flee from Lov as fast as they could; only to seek it with pathetic fervor, in fruit upon fruit, for the rest of their lives, asking . . .”

“Where did the fire go . . .” I finished his thought, but my mind was elsewhere.

And now, what is to come?  Too many, too many of the children of God have forgotten about Lov entirely, about their home and their destination — and with good reason.  The more they fought, the more the hot blood of violence flowed into the lake, seeking to pollute it.  The more they plowed and built and tortured the dry land, the more their poisons ran off into Lov — for it is inescapable, the link between our work, our wars, and our capacity for Lov.

And deep in their hearts, many on the dry land regretted none of this.  Rather, they had come to enjoy it perversely — the only type of enjoyment left for those who serve illusions.  They had come to disdain, even to hate their brothers and sisters, few though they be, who did not answer their call, who remained all of Lov.  They were subversives, a danger to the social order, a bad influence on their children.  And as Lov knows nothing of fighting back . . .

And so, in your day, those who live solely and always in Lov are few and hidden.  The shores and shallows where some Lov might gently touch the dryness of your lives have been poisoned, even beyond the point of brief refreshment.  All has become work for work’s sake; all rest has become amusement, and amusement hard work all its own.  How tired your holidays and vacations make you!  And that which you call love, even this has become a competition, a race for fruit that is only foam, a slaughter, even among lovers, for one more taste of thirst. 

This is why you call it “falling in love,” for, to you, a fall is a mistake, a shame.  A fall is something from which you must recover as soon as you can.

And those who could teach you another way, these children have spirited themselves away far from you, safe and deep, deep within the very heart of God, which is Lov.”

“Where is this place?” I asked, barely breathing.

“It is said in Jeremiah, ‘God weeps in secret.’  That is the place,” he said.  “The place called Secret.”

“Whose secret?” I whispered, tears beginning now.

“Yours,” replied the man all in white.  “Yes, yours.”  

“But what should I do!”  I had found my voice.  I was shouting.  “Surely there must be something I can do!”

I thought he was hesitating for an instant’s instant.  Then he looked at me and said:

“I order to protect those few of his children who are still faithful to Lov, the Holy One, blessed be his name, will prepare a great winter, in which the surface of Lov will be sealed for a long, long time.  Those who are within Lov, who are of Lov, will remain there, safe in a great retreat, a mystic season.  Those who are outside . . .”  

Then he turned to go.

“Wait! Wait!” I called after him.  “When will all this happen?”

He stopped for an instant, held his hand out, palm up, looking at the sky.

“Snow?” he smiled.

Wayne-Daniel Berard, PhD, is an educator, poet, writer, shaman, and sage. He publishes broadly in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His latest published full-length works are in poetry, The Realm of Blessing, with Unsolicited Press, in mystery fiction, Noa(h) and the Bark, and in short fiction The Lives and Spiritual Time of C.I. Abramovich, both with Alien Buddha Press. He is the co-founding editor of Soul-Lit, an online journal of spiritual poetry (www.soul-lit.com). Wayne-Daniel lives in Mansfield, MA with his wife, The Lovely Christine. 

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