Thousands of philosophers through the ages, religious and atheist alike, have agreed that one of the most fundamental desires of the human person is to love and be loved. This desire transcends a mere hierarchy of needs: we are willing to forego food, shelter, and safety to have this desire met. We create art, spend exorbitant sums of money, and cause ourselves deep psychological and even physical wounds all in pursuit of loving and being loved, and of knowing and being known.
At times, for many of us, this pursuit begins to seem fruitless, or futile. We despair that we will never be fully known and loved, and we begin to “cut our losses”. We stop pursuing our deepest need because the cost has grown too high with no return. We settle for less than love and being loved, and knowing and being known. Instead, we turn to using and being used, surface-level comfort, and the empty promises of various addictive habits and coping mechanisms.
There’s a song from the 2019 chamber musical Octet, by Dave Malloy, which captures this feeling. (Warning: this musical in general and this song in particular portray the themes of internet and pornography addiction in very graphic language, careful discretion is heavily advised and I do not recommend this for most of Konza Catholic’s audience, I only came across it in a class). The musical as a whole is constructed around the concept of an Alcoholics-Anonymous-style support group for people whose lives have been ruined by the internet. This particular song, “Solo”, is (ironically) a duet between a woman stuck on the endless cycle of dating apps and an isolated man addicted to pornography. Through the song, they each express the deep loneliness that led them to their coping mechanism, and the way each of their mechanisms has only served to make the loneliness more severe. They also acknowledge that it was never supposed to be this way. In a particularly heartbreaking moment toward the end of the song, the woman begins belting the phrase “I could be so good at love”, longing for something that she has never gotten to experience, and seemingly begging the rest of the group, and even herself, to believe her. (There's a short [and family/work safe] clip of this moment here.)
This is, in many ways, the experience of all humanity, settling for second-rate replacements and surface-level fixes for our hurts, our weaknesses, our broken hearts. We grow tired of the chase, and settle for wounding ourselves and begging others to believe we are worth knowing and loving, and that we have something to offer.
In the end, then, we can possibly add some nuance to the desire expressed earlier. The Human Heart, wounded, does not only desire to be loved and to love, it also desires to be pursued. While that desire in particular is usually only applied to women, I think it holds regardless of gender: We all want someone to follow after us, to prove that we are worth pursuing, that we are worth loving and being loved by, that we could, in fact, be “so good at love”.
Today is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the day we commemorate and celebrate most specifically His love for us, meditating on the blood and water which flowed from His heart when it was pierced on the Cross. Many people, including us here at Konza Catholic, have discussed the Cross as a love letter (for example, Suan’s piece here). Since we have that covered, I’d like to focus on the fact that while the Cross is certainly unique as the pinnacle of God’s pursuit of his people, it is part of a pattern extending throughout scripture and our own lives.
There is a tradition, particularly among the Eastern Fathers, of identifying God-acting-in-the-world in the Old Testament with the Second Person of the Trinity. So, for example, God walking in the Garden with Adam and Eve and God speaking in the burning bush are taken as examples of the “pre-incarnated” Son. The reason given for this behavior is that He simply cannot stay away. The image we get of Jesus through this tradition is one who is madly in love with His creation, who cannot stop chasing after it and proving that He loves it, doing what it takes to win it back even to the point of death.
One of these identifications I find particularly interesting is the rock in Exodus 17. As Israel is lost in the desert, grumbling, and begging to be returned to Egypt, God provides them with “living water” through a rock. St. Paul himself in his letter to the Corinthians says explicitly that “the rock was Christ” referring to this moment, and adds the fact that “the rock… followed them”.
Jesus in his love pursues us even through a rock, and His people could go to that rock and find refreshment and healing. How much more can we go to His heart for the same? Even now, Jesus is pursuing you, regardless of your sins, your past, or the ways you’ve tried to fix yourself. He not only desires to love you, but He desires that you would love Him as well, and He even tells us how to do so. All he asks is that you put those things aside and run to him, so that he can love and know you. Will you say yes?
Andy Brandt is a Staff Editor, Producer, and General Ne’er-do-well at Konza Catholic. You can find his writing on Catholicism, Justice, and Politics here.