A work in progress

Understand that everything is a work in progress.

That is just another way, maybe, of stating Darwin’s statement about evolution, but he was not thinking about relationships, work teams, organizations or politics. I am.

I think a lot about love and power. I write about them and I have recently – at this latter stage in my life – rediscovered the fact, the idea, that love is a work in progress.

Maybe you think it’s foolish to have believed anything else, to believe that love, once put in place, would stay there. If you worked hard to plan and build a house on a piece of land, you expected the house to stay there. Well, maybe not forever, but you get the idea.

But love is not like a house on a lot. If you think of all the metaphors that have been composed about love, not many of them are static. Love is not a rock. Love is not the sky. Love is not the Lincoln Memorial.

Like it or not, love is alive. Love is more like a river or a primrose. It is born, it changes and it dies. How could it be different? Everything is the universe has a cycle, even the universe itself. It has a big bang, it shrinks, it grows and, sooner or later, it implodes.

At this point you may think the subtext is discouraging: Don’t expect too much, don’t expect love to last. Maybe. Expectations are hard to manage and maybe your love will last all of your life and maybe not. My message, today, is best said by someone I have admired for a long time:

be of love(a little)

More careful

Than of everything…


Cummings wrote that and Sister Corita Kent plastered it on a poster and I have read it and re-read it for fifty years.

Love does need nurturing. It needs attention, tending to, fertilizing, honoring, repotted and guided to change. It certainly is admirable when you can do this to and with another person, but I am focused on doing these things to love itself – the way you love and the love that is in that space between you and another person. That process needs care.

It’s very possible that love can die prematurely, for a hundred different reasons: neglect, strangulation, abuse, imbalance—you know the reasons, you know the feeling when that space between you is polluted, muddy and tense.

One of the saddest things about our education is we don’t have any training in love. We seem to learn by osmosis, by watching our parents, by meeting someone who knows a way of loving we don’t or — most of us – by trial and error.

From the chair I sit in today, love is still a little mysterious. There are still doors to be opened and things in the corners that need a light shined on them. Love is still a work in progress, a long trip that is often exciting and frequently boring. Sometimes there’s a rest stop, sometimes a dinosaur museum, a beautiful sunrise and an afternoon of singing along with the radio.

Love requires change. It needs a balance between growing on its own and being tended. What I wish for you and me is that we have the opportunity to practice this ongoing, sometimes elusive, often sacred space between ourselves and another person.

What else is there?



4 replies
  1. ddduke
    ddduke says:

    Hi John,

    In the end, when all the noise has died down, there really is nothing more and love is invisible within nothing, but felt and known as one enters into the unknown and then we become a lost love to those we leave behind: Nothing more than love. Thanks. Duke

  2. mary
    mary says:

    John, your words are candid and thought provoking. In this often hectic world, it is good to pause and reflect on the really important “stuff” of life. Thank you for giving me cause to do just that.

  3. Ulla Solberg
    Ulla Solberg says:

    I am struck by the tenderness in these contemplations. And progress? I am reminded that every heartbreak – as it begins to heal – allows the heart to grow a little bigger.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *