Unobstructed Love

The problem with unobstructed love is that it’s rarely understood. Maybe that’s because it does not appear like any other love—puppy love, romantic love, true love, love of country. No, unobstructed love is unlike anything we see in day-to-day life. It is seen mostly in stories of great heroes. But even then it’s so rarely witnessed that it can seem illogical, perhaps even a sickness or a chronic miscalculation.

But when the Light shines through one’s soul and there becomes a certainty of what one must do, even after all the tantrums of asking that the cup pass from our lips, and the horizon one sees is suddenly more broad than ever before—well, it’s not easily forgotten. The rare gift to be one with one’s word, hopes, and faith washes up a dingy day and a mangy life to a spit shine inwardly and outwardly. It holds all of creation within reach of understanding and just far enough away to remain in awe.

The surrender does not come easy as it is nonverbal and lacks explanation. Whether it is a visitation, a message, or a simple knowing, the experience is a private one and known in one’s heart and deep in the gut. How we shall think about it or which words to use comes about later with time and wonder and our awkward attempts to make sense of another realm.

When love has the walls around it lifted so that care and compassion are moved up and out of the rat runs of ordinary living, the transformation resembles water seeking its own level. The rules of gravity have been changed and it might be that there is no downhill and yet there is great motion and new movement and expanse.

We are spotty in our practice of unobstructed love. We try to love the ones we know we should. We might even try to love the ones we did love before something came undone. There’s the duty to love the inferior and goodness knows there’s slews of them. But what of loving all that is? What of loving those who might do us great harm, perhaps the ultimate harm? Could Jesus possibly have meant to Love our enemies? Surely, it’s metaphor or a translation problem.

And yet, at the stage of unobstructed love, it’s a simple reach. Not a simple practice, goodness knows, but once glimpsed, the temptation to feel and see that Grace again is too wondrous to await chance. No, this is an elixir beyond all.

And so it comes that a Mother Teresa, a Martin Luther King, a Daniel Berrigan, a Gandhi set off on some spiritual adventure, and the great parade of spectators haven’t a clue as to the core of the adventure, not a clue—not want house and car, leave family and home, be in danger—maybe in jail or war zone? How could this not appear as madness for the merely in love?

The moments of Grace are not so rare. But the signing up for the lifetime subscription and heeding the call, that’s when the crowd thins out. For the blessed few who reach that state of love and stay on, it’s a ride that teaches us all how limited our vision is and how regular our hopes. This is not a ride for anyone. There’s no gift in being misunderstood by so many. No, this is a ride for a few and a message to us all that great love exists and can change hearts, move mountains and empires, and provide an edge to the known world for us to wonder at and hope the blessing comes again soon to someone.

John Calvi

John Calvi, a member of Putney (Vt.) Meeting, convened the Quaker Initiative to End Torture (QUIT). He has been working with torture survivors since 1982 as a healer and massage therapist. See