And now for something different, as they say:
Ne me vueilliez pas oublier
Pour tant si je vous suis lontains,
Belle, je vous vueil supplier
Qu’il vous souviengne que je n’aims
Fors vous, et pour tant, se je mains
Hors du païs si longuement,
Ne vous oubli je nullement.
- First strophe of Ballade LXXV
by Christine de Pizan (1365 – c. 1434)
Do not wish to forget me
For all that you are far away,
My lovely, I would entreat you
To remember that I love none
But you, and for all that I abide
Long out of the country,
I do not, in the least, forget you.
-My quick and rough translation
A 14th century love poem written by a brilliant woman, born in Venice and serving in ducal and royal courts of France. She was brilliant and prolific.
I am using this snippet as a jumping-off place. I would like us to re-read these lines only in a different context than the one we immediately suppose.
What if this were our own love poem to ourselves?
How easily we forget ourselves (not merely in the sense of, "Sir, you forget yourself"). We get caught up in the cares of the world, myriad distractions, ephemeral things (some of which demand attention and many of which deserve little or none). Yet wait. Who is the central actor in our personal drama? Who has responsibilities, agendas, deadlines, thoughts, feelings? Why, it is I.
Can I, this Lent, pause and recall myself? Re-call, call my scattered being back into wholeness again. Remember who I am. (And, if I believe in a deity, Whose I am.)
I should not wish to forget myself. No matter how often or far I journey (or stray). I should wish to remember, to love myself. Me, this rather imperfect, somewhat cracked and broken, definitely unfinished being that I am. My spirit, that needs refreshing, rest, and nurture. My body, crying out for the same. All of me. I should never, by any means, forget. And I should reaffirm my love.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
I know, we are reluctant to love ourselves. It seems so... selfish. Self-centered. Narcissistic.
No. It's not. One may indulge those attitudes, but those are not love.
If I am to love my neighbor as myself, as Leviticus and Jesus all taught, then how can I love my neighbor if I do not love myself? If I despise myself, belittle myself, reject myself, then how can I embrace my neighbor? Will I not be as uncomfortable with neighbors as I am uncomfortable with myself?
So, here's a nice Lenten (or anytime) challenge for us all: WRITE A LOVE POEM TO YOURSELF.
It can be short or long, in structured verse or free verse, rhyme or not, be filled with rhetorical devices or simply flow as it will. But write it. Look at it. Read it aloud to yourself. Listen in silence and ponder. Let some love soak in.
All love springs from Love Eternal and flows back into it. Love is never lost or wasted. When faith and hope fade away, love abides. The love we lavish upon ourselves will overflow to others. Really.