I was thinking about a famous Beatles lyric, the other day; the one which goes, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Unfortunately, I don’t think this is quite right. I think that, in life, in our present society, the vast majority of the love you give is wholly unrequited.
Think about life as an artist. Your best works, I’ll wager you a fiver, are the ones that you poured the most love into. That’s what made them special, better and memorable. The love you poured into those works helped them to reach other people and to affect them emotionally. Loveless works are not as lovable as works made with love.
Now here is where it gets interesting…
Some artists pour love into their works, or out into the world, in general, in the lively expectation of that love being returned and amplified. Sometimes it is. Most times it isn’t. Most times, you don’t even get a hundredth of the love back that you put in (at least not immediately). There are, of course, examples of artists whose fans love them so much that it becomes overwhelming and problematic for them to deal with. After all, love without mutuality is unbalanced and having too many people love you too intensely is impossible to reciprocate. You just can’t pour enough gratitude (a kind of love) back to those that adore you. I can see how that might drive you crazy. It’s easy for such people to become entitled and overindulged. Those are not good things, for an artist.
For most artists, though, there is little expectation of love in return. You pour the love out into your art and to those around you not because you expect any back, but because it increases the stock of love in the world. Through your living example, you just might start a small domino effect, where your love inspires others to put their love into the world in turn and you get a giant chain reaction of love-giving. I think this is what they mean by being the change you seek. Heaven knows there is a giant love deficit in the world, most of the time. Doing what you can to turn that around is always worth doing.
Sometimes, the love you give, but never see returned, can begin to deplete you, though. If there’s never a kind word, or an expression of appreciation, or a small kindness, it can begin to feel like you’re uniquely unlovable, despite the love you constantly try to emanate. Of course nobody has to like you, just because you like them, but being wholly unloved can feel very isolating and diminishing. It can consume you, if you let it. Everybody deserves to be loved, after all.
Miraculously, though, when you least expect it, love can find you of its own accord. It might be through something as simple as a thought-provoking tweet, or a blog post that resonates with you, or a thank you note that you really had no expectation of receiving. Sometimes, the love that other people put into the world finds its way to you all on its own and it surprises you. It’s amazing how restorative, nourishing and sustaining those random acts of kindness and love can be.
My settled notion is that one ought to put as much love into the world as one possibly can, even if its ignored, cynically spat back at you, denigrated, unrequited or ungratefully consumed, without consideration. I think you should continue to love those that don’t love you in return, despite their hurtful rebuffs. It’s the only way of spreading empathy and kindness. In short, it’s the only way to become more, not less civilised, in a world that has a seemingly insatiable appetite for destruction and killing. If you genuinely treat your fellow humans as worthy of love, not as unwelcome “others”, “aliens” and “invaders”, you’ll find that’s how you will be treated too. It is how your art will be received. Your love will remain unrequited, until a tipping point is reached.
When that global tipping point teeters from hate, prejudice, exclusion and destruction to love, acceptance, inclusion and creation, it will be a great day for humanity.
But there’s only one way to get us there…