Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What is Love?

While the first theme from “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” , War versus Peace, is hidden in the shadows of the text,  another theme is boldly stated in the title:  LOVE.

The search for Love, and for an understanding of what Love is, drives the story and the characters' actions.

There are three possible interpretations of love (1):

The first is romantic or erotic love. This is lowest form of love, as it is of the body and belongs in the material world, containing only the potential of what Love is.

This potential can grow into the second form of love: platonic love, or friendship. This is an intellectual Love, springing from the mind, and it’s a love that still sees the other as separate from the self.

Finally, when love reaches its highest potential, it transfigures difference into a mystical union with all other sentient creatures and becomes Divine Love. Arising from the heart and soul, this highest form of Love allows us to vanquish any sense of alienation that we may experience in an increasingly isolationist modern world.

In “Dancing in the Shadows of Love,” Grace represents this ideal of Divine Love. Her compassion for all other creatures–animals and humans–transcends all difference and brings with it peace (the opposite of war) and love (the opposite of hate.)

Grace loves unconditionally: she accepts both the flaws and differences in others with a compassionate understanding born of the Divine Love she feels. She chooses, in humble, ordinary ways, to live out her compassion by showing only kindness. This spiritual gift draws others to her “like beggars wanting to touch the garment of a Master for their salvation.”

Jamila, succumbing to her own ezomo (inner demon), struggles to transcend her prejudices: her physical difference to Lulu is too wide an abyss for her to take a leap of faith and recognise that Lulu is her true friend.

Zahra’s misunderstanding of the kind of love Enoch and Grace share arises out of her obsession with placing her faith in material goods: that which she can see and feel and touch. From the first, she recognises that this outlander, this Enoch, has something to offer. But Zahra sees her alter ego Little Flower as evil, and can’t accept what Little Flower represents in her life.

The innocent Little Flower struggles to exist within Zahra’s soul, seeking a divine connection with Grace and Enoch and the abused girl Hope, while Zahra, finally realising material goods do not offer her the love she seeks, turns to Enoch. “I love you, Enoch,” Zahra says as she kisses him. “This is not love,” he replies.

So, what is love?

If Grace represents the ideal form of Divine Love, Lulu is the protagonist who has the most potential to achieve a state of grace.  And, no, Grace’s name is not a coincidence! 

Born a Pale One, persecuted for her difference,
Lulu learns it's easier to hate than to love
Lulu is doomed to be forever separate from others by virtue of her birth as a Pale One (a person with albinism.) In the “land of normality,” difference is seen as an ezomo that must be conquered.  Despised for her difference from the moment she is born, still Lulu seeks love.

At first, she seeks love in its lowest form: romantic love. In her loneliness, she misunderstands Sub-Prioress Dalia’s compassion, and her love turns to hatred.

Then, on her arrival at the Court of St Jerome, she sees in Jamila the potential for another kind of love: amity.  But Jamila, afraid of Lulu’s difference, cannot offer her the friendship she seeks.

Finally, purified in a cleansing thunderstorm as she hides in the Garden of Remembrance at the foot of Grace’s memorial, Lulu surrenders to the love only Enoch can offer her:
He is a vision of the new day I have longed for all my life. Only this time, I can choose the colour of my freedom. I wipe away the last remnants of my tears and see my future before me: doubt or belief; despair or hope; hatred or love. Which will I choose for the rest of my life?"

But Lulu, although she comes to realise what Love is, still has a difficult choice to face: despite her own emotional wounds, despite her anger at the persecution and betrayals she has suffered, is she capable of showing compassion even to those she hates?


Read “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” to find out whether Lulu chooses to hate or to love.

(1) Osho. 1994. Osho Zen Tarot: The Transcendental Game of Zen. Gateway Publishers. United Kingdom. Pp. 14-15.
Images purchased from iStock


Helen Ginger said...

Wonderful breakdown of Dancing in the Shadows of Love. I think, as a reader, that I saw these things as I read, but I wonder if it would have been good to read this post before I read the book. Hard to say.

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Helen, I took a while deciding whether to post "explanations" of the themes - nicer I think for the reader to find out for herself - but finally decided if I kept "spoilers" to a minimum, these posts may interest new readers enough to want to read the story. I'm pleased you saw these themes as you read the book!

Judy, South Africa