Agony and Love


As he prayed I looked at his beautiful, gentle face and saw without any veil his agony as well his love. — Henri Nouwen

Deep love equals deep agony is a proof of sociology. It is as true as any geometry proof, i.e all vertical angles are congruent. While I accepted the latter proof my freshman year of highschool, the former proof is something I am still trying to stomach. Deep love will always equal deep agony.

It is something I have no problem finding evidence. Proof was at a funeral I attended when I was 16. A young boy passed after being shot in the chest. I knew him. He was an acquaintance, possibly a friend. I was sad, but the mother of that boy was in agony. Her face fresh with wrinkles formed by the weight of grief. Her sobbing was like an Arvo Part choral piece, A gruelling sound — the clashing of love and pain. It gave the listener goosebumps.

Such is life, right? Agony and love live together and we are their offspring; little vessels of dysfunction that have mommy and daddy issues. While that statement may sound sarcastic, it is not the intention. Agony and Love is a paradox that torments.

Just this week, several things were stolen from my backyard. A human being came in and took something that was mine. Something that was valuable to me. On the scale of inconvenience and agony it fell somewhere around I cannot find my effing keys and I am late to a significant event in life. My wife called the police. A quiet, gentle police officer came to our door and drafted a police report. A day later, we were informed they had found the items at a local pawn shop. I was relieved. This was simply an inconvenience; a random happenstance, a crime of opportunity.

My wife and I were then informed who stole it. It was an individual who I allowed into my house. A person that had been part of my weekly rhythm for 2 years. All of the sudden the prick of inconvenience became a wasp sting that throbbed. The level of relationship increased the amount of pain felt.

This is nothing revolutionary. I am not the first to notice this, nor will I be the last. The profound thing to me is people still choose to love, and people choose to embrace the agony of loss. The degree of love will always equal the same degree of pain, and even so love is experienced and joy is felt as a result of that love.

Meaningless should be my mantra, yet the compulsion to love, be loved, and find joy has more clout. These compulsions are ridiculously dissident to the scientific principles that have propelled the human race through history, but maybe the dissence isn’t a result of misplayed notes. Maybe it is a purposeful discord; A reminder that this life is not about the propulsion of self. Maybe life isn’t about continuation — I have lived and I have remained. Maybe the mantra should be I have lived and I have felt. I have felt most excellent love and the deepest pain, and through it all joy remained.