THE SELF IS THE LEAST OF IT

My right hand is making mischief this morning, Bernie announces in the car. We’re driving down to Springfield for his appointment with a radiation oncologist.

What kind of mischief? I ask.

First it dropped water on my pants when I took my medications. Then it dropped my cup of coffee on the table. Not on my pants.

Is that the same right hand that smacks me around when you’re not looking? I inquire.

The very same, he announces.

We make our way down 91, which has one lane closed for miles, and I think that nothing humbles one like disease. And love.

Never mind. The self is the least of it. Let our scars fall in love.
The first step… shall be to lose the way.

I think Galway Kinnell wrote the above lines. I kept them someplace because I found them haunting and mysterious, but also strange and incoherent. Yet this afternoon it really hit me that love is a very humble thing.

Sometimes people say that love will conquer all. I think that’s very American because in this culture we often see things in terms of strength, power, even war. As if life is a war that will be conquered by love.

A particular song phrase refrained throughout our last Auschwitz-Birkenau retreat: Love is the path. Maybe, I thought, maybe not.

I think that the people who love the most are precisely those who know that love won’t conquer all. It won’t conquer death, illness, old age, exile, genocide, epidemics, or children starving to death. Those people love not because they want to win the fight, but because it’s the best they can do. As the poet says, there’s nothing to direct here or control. If anything, you have to be ready to lose your way.