L´earning to Love
Gloria Ornelas Hall
Although love is everywhere, the experience of loving is individual. Rather like oxygen, spread throughout the atmosphere and yet contained in each cell. To individuate this experience we have to set boundaries with clear-cut limits, much as cell-membranes envelop and contain individuated life.
Differentiation makes every cell specialize in the functions of a specific tissue, such as muscle cells, bone cells, erythrocytes etc. People are also different, each able to develop specific capacities to benefit the whole of society. Membranes establish points of reference, contiguity, exchange, interaction and bonding between cells. Skin contains internal fluids and organs; it separates but also offers the possibility of contact and encounter. Limits trace boundaries in a relationship, establishing individuated rights and responsibilities.
Using the analogy of cell-membranes, to understand the interaction between lovers in a relationship, we find that membranes are not rigid, but flexible and permeable, open to receiving and excreting substances through pores. Relationships should, likewise allow interaction through flexibility and mutual acceptance. Giving and receiving is what allows life. Intolerance in a relationship makes us close all possibility of dialogue, exchange and growth.
Lovers open these boundaries to share an ethereal space of mutual loving (rather like the process of endocytosis in cells, where membranes open up to engulf external substances to internalize them). This fusion implies trust and responsibility. Once we have shared our lover’s intimacy and known his vulnerability, we are empowered with capacity to either help or destroy him. This is the risk of loving. This is the responsibility of choosing the right person we let into our heart’s hearth. Having someone break that trust and hurt us, impairs our integrity. The membrane is severed.
I´m sure everyone has suffered from heart-breaks that destroy innocence. We must, as cells that constantly repair and revitalize tissue, care and repair our hearts. Trust is built with generosity. We have to give loving, a second, third and chances ad-infinitum. Anger is repaired with patience. We have to transform the ‘rage’ of having been hurt, into ‘cou-rage’ to uphold faith in our loved one’s dignity, especially when he forgets it.
Cells keep their shape through a cytoskeleton; bodies, their uprightness, with their bones. Souls are kept righteous through virtue. It takes kindness to ‘re-pair’.
In human tissues, a lesion takes time to heal, hardening through a process of scarring that renders it insensitive. The same thing happens in loving. We harden our hearts in distrust, becoming cynical and vengeful. We must, therefore, be selective, treasuring exclusivity. We must ‘adhere’ only to people who build us, constructively. We have to learn to say “No”, to say “stop”, to say “not now”. We have to establish clear rules of mutual respect.