Thursday, 5 January 2012

A Love Story

This story arises out of contemplations on love, and how we love different things. I would be grateful if we could go deeper and share thoughts on this subject, and hopefully this story can help provide inspiration to think about. :^)

The image is The Princess out of School by Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1914), and following the story is a short poem O Gather Me the Rose by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903).

A Love Story

Once upon a time there was a mayor who loved his city very much, and he ordered that in the centre of his city a beautiful garden to be built.

The gardener to whom this task was assigned did exactly as he was bid, and the garden was filled with the most exquisite flowers and soon butterflies and birds took up their abode in its surrounding hedges and trees to make the place just perfect. The mayor was very pleased, but for just one thing. He was slightly sad that the garden was so carefully contained, with only a little gate at either end. And he would have rather if the garden sprawled beyond its bounds and gathered the city into it, instead of hiding secretly within it.

But the gardener did not mean to hide his work, and spread the word and put up a plaque upon each gate, inviting all to come and walk and stay a little while among the flowers, a peaceful moment of secluded solitude away from the bustle of the city. But not invited were bicycles or skaters, or children playing football, for there were other places in the city where these could be done. The mayor was very pleased but still he knew within his heart that the gardener loved the garden more than the city. Was he right?

A fair lady came walking in the garden with her little white dog, and the most beautiful flower she saw. She desired to capture it, its sight, its fragrance. She went home that evening and began to draw. She had always been good at drawing, ever since she was a little child, but the image of her brush strokes paled beside the image in her head. When she came back the following day, the flower was more beautiful than ever, and though she was sorry to deprive the garden of its beauty, she could not help but pluck it and take it back home to display for all her family and friends. The gardener had noticed the flower too. He liked the lady very much and was pleased it gave her so much joy, but still he knew within his heart that the fair lady loved the rose more than the garden, or she would have left it. Was he right?

In time the flower's beauty faded, but not before it had caught the eye of a little boy who had come to visit the lady's daughter whom he fancied very much. He marvelled at its shape and structure, and when the lady saw him so enthralled, she gave it to him to make up for his melancholy air because the daughter was not there. He took it up to his room and began examining it more closely. Holding it firmly by the stem, he removed the petals, letting them fall. Five filaments remained and a central stalk. Then his mother called and he quickly hid its remnants under the leaves of a potted plant and went down to meet her. But in his playful investigation, he had brushed a little pollen from one of the filaments quite by accident onto the sticky central lobe, and over time this grew downwards and began to seed the ovary. In his room, another flower was born. When he discovered it, and seeing how it had come about, he came to know how flowers could be pollinated by hand, and this knowledge excited him very greatly. He gave the flower at once as a present to his sweetheart, still in the soil in which he had found it, and told the whole story. And the young daughter knew in her heart that he loved the knowledge that the flower had given him more than he loved the flower itself. Was she right?

But the daughter knew also in her heart that most of all the little boy loved her. And she was very pleased at that thought, because she loved him too. But to put that love into words, or art, or music, was impossible, for that was to restrict it. The love she felt for words or art or music, or anything else, could not replace that love she felt for him. So, leaning in towards him, she gave him a kiss.

 O Gather Me the Rose
William Ernest Henley

O GATHER me the rose, the rose,
While yet in flower we find it,
For summer smiles, but summer goes,
And winter waits behind it.

For with the dream foregone, foregone,
The deed foreborn forever,
The worm Regret will canker on,
And time will turn him never.

So were it well to love, my love,
And cheat of any laughter
The fate beneath us, and above,
The dark before and after.

The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
The sunshine and the swallow,
The dream that comes, the wish that goes
The memories that follow!


  1. Oh this is so beautiful. Writing well is priceless dear Jamintoo.

  2. Thanks for reading!

    Maybe I should explain a bit more what I was thinking... often we love the particular, and it's good that way, because it often works in the best interest of the whole. By contrast, some religions see this as attachment, and are especially wary of the particular or conditional love because it means indifference or hatred towards that which is not particular (e.g. not family, not friends)... and yet of course in the extreme cases, this means that these same religions often create a hatred towards our attachments to cancel them out as it were, so aversion to the body, to the world, to food, to pleasure. And there's not much difference between aversion and hatred... either way, the purpose is equanimity, and it's entirely the wrong way of going about it because it ends up as indifference... Anyways! And yet these same religions, Buddhism in particular, also tend to have some very good practices for extending the love we feel from the particular towards... the universal.

    But in the meantime, the question I was pondering was... is this conditional love of the particular actually a form of hatred of that which is other to what we love? And I think the answer is no!!! It could well just be indifference, and those who for example would class the little boy's scientific endeavours on the flower as a "hatred" of the greater flower, are entirely wrong... just as the lady doesn't hate the garden, nor the gardener the city and so on...

    This blog was initially written with the intention of posting it to Buddhist Travellers, but then I thought my own blog was more appropriate for it.

    It might have also been partly inspired by something I heard about city planners not assuming that people are dumb and the amazing consequences this can have, for example... there's a school playground, and the cars are passing by it too quickly... instead of building higher walls and barriers, the architects suggested something revolutionary... let the playground extend across the road with all the chalk markings across the ground to indicate its a playground. There was a lot of disquiet among teachers and parents, but they actually did it! The result... cars slow down massively, no need even to be warned. Why does this work? Because it assumes people are intelligent and uses their own sense of risk. Seeing the playground across the road, drivers become super-alert when crossing that area... When people have a much higher sense of risk, they can over-compensate to ensure safety thus making life safer for everyone... an amazing thought... not sure how this ties in with love again, but hmmmm....

  3. I am following your thoughts and I appreciate, dear Jamintoo.

  4. I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes it's best if things are holistic, and sometimes best when compartmentalized. To give an example of the latter, an aid team going into a disaster zone can help much more efficiently and also avoid mental overwhelm by concentrating on a small area and trying to do their best just for the people there to start with. Same probably applies in our own lives also, good to have big vision but always best to start on something small and build on it.

    This holistic versus compartmentalized applies equally to love. It's not really possible to say which is "best". I guess it depends a lot on perspective also. The perspective of the mayor, the gardener, the lady, the boy-scientist, the girl... all different, and all acting according to their own instincts of love, and ideally not judging too much against others for coming from a different view, and yet we do perhaps have a responsibility to be actively more aware of the holistic view ourselves...

    Just pondering..., that was the real reason for the little story. :)

  5. I'm glad you expanded on the reason for the story, Okei... you've offered a lot to think about. I'll take a section at a time...

  6. In terms of loving the particular, we are each so unique that our passions are very "particular" and without fulfilling those passionate pursuits, the whole is less for it. And, I agree that some religious types misunderstand the meaning of "attachments," but without understanding our own ego and its conditioned attachments, Love - in the True and Absolute sense, is impossible. We don't have a clue what we truly Love while the childish ego is in control of our mind. So spiritual detachment is not about indifference but perfecting or reuniting with the Love that is the core of Being who we are and the impulse that brought us here to this lifetime. "Full aliveness," is impossible until the littleness our child became attached to - related to the body-level identity - has gradually been transcended.

    You're right... religious dogma is good at causing indifference to others and even hatred and aversion for the simple pleasures of being human - as though we don't have the capacity to control our physical inclinations, and will lapse into drug use or some kind of depravity if left to our own natural passion for life. But, equanimity - which is synonymous with the ability to reason - is only available if we are not controlled by childish emotions which are the opposite of authentic passion for what we innately love.

  7. But, there is always a "whole" to consider, even as we apply our gifts to particular efforts - like the aid worker example, but not everyone has the capacity to See "holistically".... it is a particular gift of consciousness and it seems that you have it, Okei... and this is probably why the topic interests you.

    Just as an aside - about aid work, we've been working on a plan for the situation in Haiti, where the well-intentioned aid workers and all the committed NGOs who came in after the earthquake have not evolved into a system that builds the capacity of the people of Haiti. The cholera epidemic is worsening and without a holistic plan, the different groups are not supporting the whole. But, not everyone is here to think holistically in this sense .... however, their individual work is enhanced by being able to think of their organization's larger goal.

    Personally, I've found that there is a "divine whole" in which each of our talents support the unfolding of the greater good for everyone - if we are being true to Self and fulfilling our passion and purpose, but most people aren't able to see beyond their conditioning.

  8. On the individual level, you said... "spiritual detachment is not about indifference but perfecting or reuniting with the Love that is the core of Being who we are and the impulse that brought us here to this lifetime. "Full aliveness," is impossible until the littleness our child became attached to - related to the body-level identity - has gradually been transcended. "

    That's interesting what you said then about there needing to be a guiding principle for the various elements. This is verging on a very core political problem of the function of government! If government is absent, you probably have something like the aid situation you've been witnessing in Haiti. And we all know what happens when conversely government tries to take over all the arms of power... It seems right across the political spectrum what they seek is that minimum amount of government which maximizes individual freedom (to follow one's own purpose of your previous quote), just they differ both in theory about what that minimum is, and in practice when a government perceives a challenge to its power, and... this just reminds me of something I saw today:

    The U.S. Constitution: was it good enough?

    Roger Pilon, the Cato Institute's expert on constitutions, was asked at a May 1993 Cato forum whether something could have been added to the U.S. Constitution, some amendment or some paragraph, which would have prevented the erosion over two centuries of the constitution's power to limit government. Mr. Pilon answered he would have added four words - "and we mean it".

    Interesting though that in the UK, we seem to have done quite well without a constitution at all. What we have instead is an enormous weight of tradition! ...which somehow keeps things pretty smoothly on track, touch wood. So, whilst many countries have had fascist episodes in their recent past, the English have been relatively more cynical of authority and steadfast in their rejection of any absolute power. Still, it's not the "rule by consent" that democracy aims at, where citizens pay their taxes not out of fear of the state, but out of the desire to implement the decisions we ourselves have made.

    On the holistic level, you said "Personally, I've found that there is a "divine whole" in which each of our talents support the unfolding of the greater good for everyone - if we are being true to Self and fulfilling our passion and purpose, but most people aren't able to see beyond their conditioning."

    Ah, I love the stories of Buddha at Sedaka (which I posted once, and you've already read).

    Love, look after and trust yourself is the best way to love, look after and trust others.

    Do not be taken in by that which seduces others, but stay upright, vigilant and mindful as if your life depended on it.

    Thanks for the time and thought and for sharing it, Nancy. It is much appreciated. I wish you all the best in your amazing work around the world!!

  9. Beautiful story.

    See how one's love for beauty was passed around. Maybe not in ways they thought and hoped but it was nevertheless. .

  10. Thanks Had! And the beauty we see outside, I like what Nancy said about knowing it inside also.

  11. ""The deed foreborn forever,""
    Beauty that is planted inside our hearts is not forgotten easy and often grows

  12. :^) Yes!

    When all is quiet on the dark seas
    Still can I hear the background hum
    Of distant universes come
    To wake the spell of memories.