Love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave…
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house,
it would be utterly scorned. (8:6,7)
Love is indeed overwhelming. When physical attraction, the meeting of minds and the sharing of lives come together, then we recognise the truth of these words.
Human love, then, gives us an insight into something greater than ourselves, and something which puts all of our other concerns and values into perspective. Whether it’s Mr Darcy overcoming his ‘better judgement’ to propose grudgingly to Lizzie Bennett, eventually to find true love, or any of the countless novels and films of love crossing boundaries, it’s something for which many of us hope if we have not experienced it. When we find this love, our lives are enriched and changed forever.
It’s easy, though, to mistake obsession for love. Keeping in the world of literature, Severus Snape’s obsession with Lily Potter leads to betrayal and murder, for which he can only try to atone by years of reluctant service and his eventual sacrifice of his own life. He becomes better through the experience of suffering, but what he felt was never love, rather the desire to possess.
Even in such a warped form, the human drive to love is powerful. How can we be sure that it is taking us in the right direction? Perhaps by being sure that our desire is for the beloved to be free to be himself or herself.
Along with this, there’s the traditional interpretation of the Song of Solomon as an allegory of the soul’s love for God. How would it feel to love God this passionately? I confess that I don’t know. But I’d like to find out.