In the coming couple of weeks, I want to share with you an encounter with a man who gave me a new perspective to love. Surprising, this man has never touched a woman, so he says. All the same, I believed everything he said.
On a chilly Monday evening, I went up on a lonely hill in my town. It had been days since I felt a void in my heart – or should I say my soul was yearning for something it didn’t understand. Did my wife annoy me? Was it mid-life crisis setting in this early? Maybe I had met someone who was troubling my poor heart!
I have been told several times that our hearts are traitors. You may be comfortable and happy, until you meet someone or something that stirs the quiet waters.
At the time, there was no one confusing me, apart from a young Muslim woman in a black hijab covering her from head to toe. Her eyes had spoken volumes. I dismissed the thoughts of her because I didn’t expect a woman whose bodily features I hadn’t seen to drive me into deep thought - I thought about my family; where we want to go, how life would be without any of us and the happiness that would fill our hearts when we reach our desired destinations.
This always keeps me focused. It, however, did not work this time round. That is why I was on this hill. After three hours of quiet, an old man walked up to me.
“Son, what are you doing here alone?” he asked in a deep youthful voice for a man with a bent back, and whose greyed hair surrounded only 25 per cent of his bald head. He wore a purple cassock and the years it has covered his bones were also written on its fading fabric. From the collar on his neck, I knew he was a priest.
“I am getting in touch with my inner self,” I said, his eyes gazing into mine. After explaining myself, he asked me: “Do you love anyone?”
“I do. I have a beautiful wife and two daughters that I adore. I have a mother I cannot trade for silver or gold. I also have friends I lean on when I am broken,” I responded. The old man, Aloysius, as he told me his name later, said, “Like many people I see, you need to love more.” Strange, I thought.
“You do not love enough. Love someone like he or she was the only proof you had to prove your innocence before court,” he said.
Placing his hand on my shoulder, which made me somehow uncomfortable, he told me love is the most powerful force in the world. I agreed. I have seen people kill or get killed for love. I also know wars that have started over love.
“When you love, you have a purpose. You have a drive. You live for something,” the old priest said. “You may have power or get rich if you love someone. Love is that powerful.” One can also achieve the contrary – when the drive dies – the old man said.
I wanted to ask him which love he meant, remembering categories of love from my catechism classes: agape, philos and eros or something called platonic. He interrupted my thoughts. “From today on, concentrate on your wife like she is that half meant to fulfill you.”
Father Aloysius told me to look no further. Look to the maker of love himself. God, he said, was the true example of loving.
“He loves everything he created. And so, he looks at them like there is no other thing he is meant to do,” he said, gesturing at the grass, trees and birds playing before the setting sun.
Looking at me smilingly, he opened his eyes wide, displaying a set of decaying teeth, and added: “If couples trusted each other like the birds trust the night, and they expected nothing in return, no marriage would break. Only love makes us whole”.
We walked downhill, as he directed me to his old church house where he invited me for coffee. We talked love and promised to meet again.