Have you ever wondered why people associate flowers with love? The obvious answer is that flowers are beautiful, just like love. This is certainly true but there’s another association which is often missed.
Love, like all plants, can only grow under the right circumstances. Everyone is born with a unique, precious seed with the potential to flourish into a bush bearing vibrant flowers and plentiful fruit. But in the same way that seeds don’t just sprout on their own, love cannot be willed. It sprouts involuntarily within us when we see someone doing something virtuous, something which resonates with our core values. Love doesn’t require perfection, but it does require nutrients for it to take root between people.
The first essential nutrient is choice. Without choice virtue becomes impossible, and thereby love also becomes impossible. In the western world we recognize this immediately with regards to our freedom to marry whomever we choose. We condone arranged marriages. Even if two people seem compatible forcing them to marry will not foster love even if they learn to make the best of their situation or come to enjoy each other’s company.
When you love someone, you love his or her dedication to virtue – through repeated interaction with the person we receive confirmation that the person we love is striving to align his or her choices in life with their stated values. Thus the second key nutrient for love to grow is observable action. Action is important because a person might think and say that they want to be virtuous, but if they don’t actually do anything in their life which indicates this desire (and we can assume they have the choice if they haven’t tried) then the claim that they want to be good is, at least empirically, false.
The third essential nutrient for growing love is consistency. Again this doesn’t mean either person has to be the epitome of virtue, but if one day the person you love demonstrates empathy and compliments you, while the next berating and insulting you, you would clearly question the degree to which love is possible in such an unpredictably hostile and contradictory environment.
When one or both people in a relationship claim to love the other, and yet the above conditions are not met I would assert that the plants in question are invariably fake. Fake plants are extremely common in the world. They take many forms, the most common of which are biological attachment (parent to child), lust (physical attraction), and fear of aggression (citizen to government). Most often people don’t want to look at the truth of their relationships because it’s too painful. Thus they become emotionally invested in convincing everyone else that their plants are real. Consciously, they may even believe that their plants are real. This is likely because they have never examined their own relationships. However, if you get to close to pointing out the stiffness of the leaves or the fact that they never water their plants, they will most likely become angry at you for your insinuations. “My plants are none of your business! What the hell do you know, anyway?” they may cry in defense.
For me personally I went through the first quarter century of my life believing that the words ‘I love you’ equated to real love. My parents were manipulative and would reject me with derision when I tried to express things that were important to me. Unaware of requirement for choice in love, I was told that because they gave birth to me and took care of me as a child I had to love them otherwise I was a “bad son”. My parents used fake plants to avoid feeling the anxiety that they were “bad parents” and with it the uncomfortable process of changing their actions.
My mother used to tell me “We’ll always love you, no matter what.” She stumbled a bit when I asked her “Would you still love me if I killed dad, who you love?” I can now recognize just how infantile my question was. For children it is a universal survival mechanism to form an attachment with their mothers. If the mother is abusive in some way it triggers an unquenchable need for unconditional love. Without it the child could be left to die.
Fake plants are unconditional. They never wilt and they require no responsibility. They are like a snapshot of life, frozen in time. Thus, to say that the love between two people is unconditional is to say that neither person exists.
You do exist. Even if you have never experienced the wonder of real animated loving relationships, you have a seed in you. You can’t plant new seeds in others until you grow your own. And that requires nurturing your inner child. That is what I am working on in myself and what I hope to help others with through this blog.
I see the future as an immense garden of love. I love this future and will do anything to make it a reality. The stakes are too high and the time too limited for us to keep wandering in an artificial forest.