It seems that very often expressions of love, or what we might call love, are intertwined with an element of some sort of transaction. This idea is probably most clear in romantic love, where reciprocity and fidelity are almost universally understood to be the foundation for a loving relationship between two people. If I give my love I expect to receive these two things in return. But if we examine ourselves more deeply, we see that even when we express something as simple as kindness, the expression is usually accompanied by an expectation. When I give up my seat on the bus to someone who appears to need it, I might expect to be thanked, or at least acknowledged. If instead, the person who took the seat which was offered didn’t even smile, let alone thank me, my mood might change from one of caring about them to disliking them. If my reaction did not rise to the level of disliking the person, then I still might create some imaginary scenario in my mind about their lack of gratitude.

It’s not just with people, though. This summer Karen started feeding birds at our house, putting seed out on the porch. At first they didn’t notice it, and I remember thinking, well, that was a waste. I even felt slightly aggrieved on her behalf. But after only a few days, flocks of Pine Siskins discovered the feeders and now they are there all day, eating, squabbling, then flying off, only to return again and again. And then I felt better about it. It was all very subtle, but I had a tiny expectation that her care for them should be met with an appropriate response. Absurd? You bet.

It is common knowledge that much of the explanation for all of this goes back to the nature of our egos. From the point of view of my ego it is always about me. Acts of kindness or love are made, at least in part, to reinforce my belief about my innate goodness. Of course, there is much in it all that is not about the ego, what we might call more pure motives. But the ego always plays its part.

More importantly, I wonder if all our expectations and disappointments aren’t actually due to a huge misunderstanding. Perhaps there is always a reciprocity whereby every act of love, kindness and generosity is received and responded to, but by something else, something much, much greater than the recipient we are focused on. We are entranced by the form of the recipient, and think the response should come from that form. However, the form is only that, just an outer form, and it is not the form, but something else that can always respond to our love. If I could begin to understand that as more than an idea, I might then feel that all my efforts were not only acknowledged, but valued far more than I could possibly imagine. What if it is the entire universe that is the underlying recipient of our expressions of love and kindness, and it is this conscious universe that responds to us in kind? What then of the forms; what of the others? We can’t love the universe directly. It is too large, we can’t get our arms around it. It is the forms that can be the object of our love, for they are on a scale that is just right for us. And it is the same for us, we are one of the means by which other beings can express their love for All. We are all loved, and it has always been so.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Written a half century ago by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.



  1. Thank you, Dennis. How to love on a scale that is right for us? I am reminded of this excerpt from Beelzebub’s Tales, “The eighteenth personal commandment of our Common Creator: ‘Love everything that breathes.'”

  2. Thank you, Dennis. This is just what I needed today.

  3. I am glad, Susan, be well.

  4. Yes, a very good point, Greg. That injunction always causes me to wonder what things breathe and what don’t, it’s not so obvious, is it? Thank you. I am also reminded of something else from Gurdjieff concerning love, “Start with plants, it’s easier.” And, of course the two ideas are actually not incompatible at all. Best wishes, Dennis

  5. Always good to read your postings, Dennis. Once again it reminded me of another area in life, aging, treasures known and treasures shared, but with what expectation?
    Be safe; be well!

  6. Thank you, Mitzi, it is good what you say.
    Best wishes,

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