Sunday, July 17, 2011


by Scott Bradley

"God is love." —John

The belief that "all is love" is one I frequently hear. I do not know what it means, however. It is somewhat understandable within the context of John's Christian theism where there is a personal creator-god who does and feels stuff. (Though I have a hard time reconciling this "love" with what he actually does and feels.) But for one who tends more toward a Tao that does nothing (though nothing is left undone) and feels nothing (though all things spontaneously arise and are nourished), this Love doctrine rings hollow.

I guess I tend more toward Tina Turner's "What's love got to do with it?" But since I truly have no clue about Reality, I wish to be open-minded here. So, I will quote another song, "I want to know what love is and I need you to show me." And if the Beatles had it right that "All you need is love", then I beg you to show me.

I admit to having often failed in love and to love, but still I am not a cynic who believes that "Love sucks." I still know it feels good and makes life a happier experience. I'm all for it. And I know that it has expressions other than romantic love (eros), such as a more general fellow-feeling (philos) and the unconditional, 'divine' love (agape) [much proclaimed, but never practiced.] But still I remain unable to assign any of these concepts or feelings to the Ultimate.

This is not really a problem, only it leaves me a bit flat-footed to hear this belief expressed by those more 'spiritual' than I, like when someone 'spiritual' recently asked me my sign. This is the spiritual equivalent of asking me if I am still beating my wife. How does one respond? Or, more apropos to this paragraph, it is like mixing three metaphors and expecting it to somehow make sense.

But that's the heart of it, I guess — it sounds warm and fuzzy, and really, really spiritual, but for me, it just doesn't make any sense. What is this Love? And who or what is doing (?) it? I need you to show me. You needn’t explain it (how could you?) — just show me.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. I'm looking forward to seeing how people respond to this question.

  2. There have been thousands, if not millions of attempts at trying to describe what love is. To quote Watts:
    "Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything". I think often that "Tao is Love" For love does nothing - though nothing is left undone. Isn't that the dynamic behind Buddhist compassion and lovingkindness?
    Acceptance. An embrace. No judgement of any kind. Gentleness. And Faith. A harmonious life free from strain - and your question Scott, still remains unanswered:>)

  3. Well, it sounds corny as hell, but let me give it a try:
    Walk outside, dear Taoist. Listen to the wind moving through the trees; listen to the birds, and listen, listen, listen, very closely, until you can hear the murmuring of people talking blocks away. Open your heart to it, and erase your self awareness. Accept it all, and revel in it all -- that, I think, comes close to showing you what love is.

  4. Love is a verb, not a noun..the old Taoist hermit told me that along with all other practice, you should maintain a loving heart (ai xin). Love is something you do, not some objective thing or quality of an ultimate. Love is always defined in terms of relationships, particularly human relationships. (I'm not convinced that my dog or cat or bird "loves", although I'm sure lots of dog owners will beg to differ with me.)

    May I recommend a little volume written by one of my professors, "The Meanings of Love: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Love" by Dr. Robert E. Wagoner.

  5. My verb/noun comment is just rhetorical, you know. By "loving" we create "love." I think the verb comes first.


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