…they blink and reality shivers. Nothing crueller than lov ing and being loved by a prophet …disciples who love their messiahs too much.

Because the prophet, the revolutionary, the messiah, the human embodiment of a cause is … godtouched; he or she sees and feels and moves through the world with divinity of some kind or another running through his veins. It doesn’t have to be literally divine – though it usually is in some way – but it is something that lifts them beyond, that makes them holy to other humans, and when that happens, when disciples gather, they love him or her for it, they become utterly devoted.

And even if the prophet loves back, even with all the love in the world; his highest realm of love is reserved for something mere mortals cannot touch; his eyes lift over and beyond the horizon of reality, they look towards something greater. for the disciple, the love is the greatest and smallest part of that glory they can ever hope to hold.

it’s hard enough if you just love the prophet wholly, for who they are, for the ideal they embody, for their divinity

but to be loved back, to have that, but to know that no matter what that their love for you can never measure up to the engulfing love you feel for them, because so much of the prophet is sacred space, reserved, devoted to something beyond human, to the transcendence, the divinity, the cause – not even consciously, it’s just their nature - 

that. that is cruel.

I found this almost a year ago. The full analysis has a link to my favorite poem, “Lessons on Loving a Prophet,” by Jeanann Verlee. It’s cited as an example of whatever this feeling is. There’s more to the poem than just what’s described here, but that’s a finicky point. I don’t disagree with this, but there’s something else.

People like this, godtouched individuals (gods in their own right), are something else. If you love them, you know this when you see them. Even if it takes time to work out the details, you know they’re special right away.

One way or another everyone sees it. For most people it never goes past the superficial level of acknowledging that this being in front of them is something else. Their feelings never go past that, and it becomes dehumanization via objectification, idolization. They know they’re in the presence of someone who’s great, who’s more, and they don’t know what to do with that. They hold them up on a pedestal so they don’t have to look them eye and acknowledge them for what they are, and they grovel at their feet as a sign of devotion. (As if debasing yourself makes you worthy.)

Then there are people who see what a person is, but who don’t accept it. They see this greatness and they want it for themselves. Maybe they have the wrong idea of what it’s means to be that way. There isn’t an experience in the world that feels like how it looks like it should feel, and power isn’t an exception. You navigate the world differently when everything you do has the weight of divinity behind it. Even if you can comprehend what that means, you’ll never understand what it’s like if you have it. And this group of people decide: if they can’t be like that, they want to own it. They want to take their god and make them a container for their power, something from which they can take and exploit.

For the first month of knowing him, there were three things that I let sink in:
  • that if I wanted to know him, I’d need to step up to the plate. He was something else and it would take work to stand with him. (and I did, and I’ve continued to do that for three years. I’ll do it until I die.)
  • that it wouldn’t end well. I’d either walk away devastated; or I wouldn’t walk away, because I’d be dead. I know what I’m doing here, and I’ve always known.
  • that he was something else, and whatever I was it would never be that.

I said that I was valid regardless, that what I was still counted for something, even if it wasn’t that. I said it like it was a point of grief (and it was, and for a long time I grieved for everything that I wasn’t and would never be), but I stayed.

It never occurred to me to try to take from him, to use him to make me better. It never occurred to me to debase to gain permission to stand next to him because I would never be worthy. Counter to both those options, I stepped up.

I stepped up as his friend, because I was awful, and I didn’t want to hurt the person who meant the most to me. There’s nothing I did that’s so horrible that it’s worth changing over, except for what I did to him.

I stepped up as a prophet to my god, because one way or another I was going to stand in his presence. I was going to keep company with him and his greatness (one and the same), and I refused to keep company with my grief.

I’m here in my own right and I always have been. I would be great in my own right, too. I wouldn’t turn away out of fear of my own inadequacy. I’d face him. I’d stand within the radius of his power with only my strength to protect me, and I wouldn’t flinch away. I wouldn’t reach for it like I needed it to live. There was something in me that drove me to pick it up, to stay still when I could have run in fear. It was enough to keep me standing when by all means I should have been floored. If I hadn't done it, I wouldn't have believed myself capable of it. If I didn't have a reason to test myself, I don't know that I would have stayed.

And I stayed because I loved him (as a friend, as a god) and I wanted to be with him.

And this is primarily where I disagree with the quoted analysis. Loving someone like this can’t be a point of grief, if you truly love them. It takes a special person to even recognize someone with divinity like this, and a lot of stubborn grit and will to love them. Even then, it takes a lot of strength to survive that love -- both feeling it and receiving it.

If you love them and you’re disappointed that they don’t love you so completely, I’d have to ask, who are you in love with, really? Because it’s not them. I’d sooner say you’re in love with yourself. You want all of their love to fall on you – how is that any different than wanting their power?

Even if your love is sincere, you come to terms with knowing that you’ll never have all of them. If they love you, you’ll be immortal. You’ll be graced with a piece of their power that’s every bit as sincere of what you feel for them. There will always be a part of them that you understand, but you’ll embrace it all the same – isn’t that who you fell in love with?

And this is why it’s devotion: To stop your love from going sour when it’s not returned in its entirety. You chose to be there; why act like it’s a curse? How can you be surprised by the very nature of what you fell in love with?


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