“But love… adds a precious seeing to the eye…” Shakespeare
“Where there is love, there is vision.” Thomas Aquinas
We humans are made to see. We are also made to be seen. I think that often what really hurts us in our relationships is that we do not feel understood.
Seeing reality takes much cultivation, and likewise if we are really to be seen by others much is required—both on their part and on ours.
There is something scary about this dependence on others. What if they just cannot or will not see us? Herein is part of the mystery of being made for relationship, in which there is always an element of free gift.
Central in this mystery is the role of love, and how it empowers vision. Shakespeare and Thomas Aquinas both point to this amazing reality. Love brings into focus what is really there. It alone unveils the true beauty of a person.
Have we not experienced this—perhaps from both sides? The mother, the father, the spouse, the true friend: when they really love well, they look with an appreciative eye. They perceive who the other is, and who he can be. And behold, they are now able also to give the beloved a vision of himself, and the very confidence to be himself, and to become himself! So love gives vision to lover and to beloved, through the lover.
Especially in painful interactions with those closest to us, are we not often yearning simply to be seen? If someone could just understand—with a gentle and forgiving eye, then we would not be alone anymore. We would be together. In knowledge, and in love.
But again, is this in my power to bring about? Most directly in my power is the quality of my own love. I can focus on learning and practicing to love better and to see better, and so be life-giving to others. And behold, by an unalterable law I thereby become more lovable—in a sense calling forth, though never demanding or assuring, the love of my beloved. And so also his vision.
Here once again love has given vision: first in the lover for the beloved, then in the beloved for himself, and now—perhaps!—in the beloved for the lover, through a return of love. And finally, this gives a greater vision in the original lover for himself, through the eyes of the beloved.
A ‘precious seeing’ indeed! Is this not human life itself? It all begins in love—a love we first learn to receive, and then we learn to give, and receive back. And to live-in together.
Image: Caravaggio, Portrait of a Knight of Malta
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