Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Rose of Love

Tomorrow, 23 March 2012, my wife and I will be celebrating our tenth anniversary. It only seems like yesterday that we were standing there, in the indoor gardens of the Winnipeg Conservatory, amidst our friends and all the beautiful flowers, saying our vows to each other.

Ten years.

A full decade of our lives together.

For some reason, over the years a number of friends have asked us to give workshops on marriage preparation, or talk about how it is that we have stayed together and grown in each other's presence. And yes, I know, 10 years isn't really all that long. It's barely a drop in the eternity of which Baha'i marriages last. But some of our friends have told me that there is something that they see in our love, in the way we treat each other, that they want us to try and share with them.

What is it that they are seeing? I have no idea. (Which makes it very difficult to share, let me tell you.) But Marielle and I have talked about this a lot with each other. We have examined our love, our relationship, our life together, and we have a few thoughts that I would like to share with you here. Of course, I'm sure I've put a few of these down before, but I don't care. Today's a good day to share them again. (I'd put them down tomorrow, but Marielle and I are heading off to Port Renfrew, BC, for a couple of days, and I'm not going to post from there.)

First of all, many great minds and beautiful poets have likened love to a rose. Whether it is Shakespeare or Rumi,  or the Greek philosophers, or Bette Midler singing her song "The Rose", this flower has been indelibly linked to this most powerful of emotional states.


Well, I have my own thoughts on this issue. The rose essence, that part which you can smell, is a very volatile substance. It evaporates easily and disperses very quickly. It is a very heady aroma, almost intoxicating. And although I cannot find a reference to it in the Writings on Ocean, there is a reference I once read in a letter to a friend of mine from the Universal House of Justice, or the Research Department. He was asked to oversee the burial of a Persian man, a brother to a member of the Universal House of Justice, and he was sent a letter outlining all the rules for burial. In this letter (which you should treat as hearsay until I can find a copy of it), he is told to anoint the shrouded body with attar of rose, for the scent "is as close as we can get to the next world". (I don't know if that quote was in the cover letter, or in the Writings, so again, treat it as hearsay.) (But the idea sure is beautiful.)

All of the above really sounds like love to me.

It is precious. It is rare. It is beautiful and heady. It is also volatile. And yet it is as close as we can get to the next world.

Baha'u'llah says that we can "receive the surest testimonies from the beauty of (the) Rose", and that we should try to "discover the perfume of the rose-garden of understanding". He also says that we should "Abide not but in the rose-garden of the spirit."

This all sounds even more beautiful to me when I think of it in terms of a rose being love. We can receive the surest testimonies when they are from the beauty of love. We should try to discover the perfume that is shed by the love of understanding. And really, where else should our spirit dwell but in love?

And, of course, "In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love".

But there is one thing that I think is very important about all of this in terms of our life: we should consider the purpose of the rose.

Aside: Just last night, one of the friends said that the purpose of what we are doing in the Baha'i community is to have children's classes and study circles. Inwardly, I cringed at this. The core activities are not the goal, as far as I know. They are tools. Their purpose is to assist us in creating and developing healthy spiritual communities. They are core elements in any healthy community. We are only now beginning to learn what it means to develop these communities,and I think we need to be careful not to confuse the tools with the goals. In other words, while it is good to have a children's class, or a devotional gathering, it is essential that they help lead us towards a stronger sense of community. It is important that they help establish greater bonds of love within a neighbourhood. If not, what are they doing? I have seen a few rare instances where there is a children's class, or a study circle, or even a devotional gathering, in which a few people show up, and nothing changes for years. The hosts are oh so happy that their 3 or 4 friends attend, and I'll tell you, this is a good thing. But we should strive to always grow. If we have 3 or 4 attending for a month or two, how can we increase it to 5 or 6? How can we move it into a study circle that engages more people? How can we help the friends learn more about engaging in spiritual dialogue with others?

So why do I mention this seemingly random thing here? Because I think the rose is a tool, too.

The purpose of the rose, botanically speaking, is not it's beauty, wonderful as it is. Nor is it it's great scent, marvelous as that is.


The purpose of the rose, like any flower, is to produce it's fruit, the rosehip. It is to produce the seed for the next flower. It's purpose is to help propagate the plant.

In a typical love scenario, when the couple first fall in love, they are all aflutter about each other. They are intoxicated with the heady aroma of the rose of love. (Another short aside - the root word of intoxication is toxic. Hmmm.) But then, as time goes by, this heady sensation begins to fade. The rose begins to wither. It's petals begin to fade and fall away. And they, sad couple, think that their love is dying.

But this is not so.

Their love is maturing. As they begin to see each other more clearly, begin to grow together, their love is growing. It is no longer in the state of flower, although there are still traces of it. It is now beginning to move into the state of fruition. And it is from this state that a seed will appear. It is from here that it will begin to spread to others.

You may recall an article I wrote a while ago about the Seven Valleys, in which I talk about something similar, and how when we are in the Valley of Love, we can either go back to the Valley of Search, or progress to the Valley of Unity. I'm all for moving on the Valley of Unity.

Oh, and please don't confuse this with that Rose of Changeless Splendour. That Rose, that Divine Flower, is always reaching out to us, attracting us like the rose does the nightingale. Its purpose is to transform our hearts, not itself. Very different thing, that.

But the love of two people? That needs to mature. And when it does, it is actually even more beautiful than the original rose.

I am so grateful to my wife, she who has been my partner and consort for 10 years (less a day), for pointing all of this out to me, and for sharing her wisdom and love with me, and allowing me to share it with you, dear Reader.

"Consider the rose: whether it blossometh in the East or in the West, it is none the less a rose."

multi colored roses

1 comment:

  1. Mead, you forgot to mention the thorns! You can't have a rose without the thorns! The purpose of thorns is to protect the plant from predators. If you consider marriage as a "fortress", then the thorns would be like the moat.

    From: we learn that thorns guarantee that roses survive the wiles of humans and animals; thorn-less roses signified a sinless life while roses with thorns represented flawed mortality; and roses with thorns have long been a symbol of adversity, as well as sacrifice. Abraham Lincoln said, "We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."
    To take the analogy further; “We can complain because marriage have tests, or rejoice because tests strengthen marriages.