Sometimes I am amazed at the answers Tarot gives me to certain questions. I decided to ask this one after watching a classic In Search Of episode about great lovers. It focused on the fictional tale of Don Juan and the (possibly somewhat fictionalized) life of Giacomo Casanova. In both cases these men are viewed as legendary lovers but when you listen to the tales of Don Juan’s conquests he seems more victimizer than lover. He lies, cheats and steals to have his way with women. No trick is too devious or to low. When he is finished the women are often embittered and furious. Casanova, on the other hand, seems to be a scoundrel and con artist in many ways but his lovers are left with fond memories and seem to bear him so ill-will.
Considering the very different styles and personalities of these two legendary lovers, I decided to ask Tarot what is love? At it’s core, what does love truly mean? Drawing Judgement in response to this question was surprising. The card shows a winged angel with a determined expression in the foreground. Behind him are several coffins that have been opened and their inhabits are beginning to emerge. Three additional angels hover in the background offering their assistance. Not exactly the visual I was expecting in response to a question about love.
Upon further reflection it started to make more sense. Love, true love not the initial passion and attraction that we often claim is love, is about seeing our partners for who they really are and loving them anyway. Real love is about constantly working to revive the relationship; to bring it back from the dead, and not lose sight of the fact that untended it will wither and die. Real love may experience dormant periods but that doesn’t mean it’s dead, merely hibernating. Real love is about accepting that sometimes we go through dark patches in our lives and when we emerge into the light we might need the support and love of a partner.
Romantic love is often portrayed as unconditional and never-changing. In my experience real love is very conditional and constantly changing. It morphs and expands and grows. Sometimes we may think it has died but then something will reignite it and it comes roaring back in a wave of memory and joy. I have found that sometimes those we love and who love us can be very judgemental, weighing and evaluating our behaviors and failure but loving us anyway. Rather than wrapping relationships in rose-tinted gauze, real love accepts our flaws and screw ups. Perhaps Shakespeare said it best – love is not love which alters when it alteration finds. Real love is not perfect and flawless. It is riddled with cracks and flaws but it endures; it is strong enough to face any judgments made of it. In fact that may be part of the message here too – real love makes us strong enough to face Judgement together, powerful and enduring and not wilting under pressure.
There is a wonderful Twilight Zone episode called The Hunt about an elderly country man who loves hunting with his dog. Before leaving he has a conversation with his wife, whom he clearly loves. Their every interaction speaks of that love but they never say the words. Instead they have this conversation:
Old Woman: “Old man I never said this to you but we have endured powerful well over the years together.”
Old Man: “Hmm? Nearly 50 years we’ve been married, eh? Come October 16.”
Old Woman: “Long time to travel together.”
Old Man: “Well, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
To me, that is real love.