I’ve been listening to Rowan Williams these last few days – well actually one 2002 talk several times. I’ve listened a lot to him over the years, but his 2002 Greenbelt talk – Kiss and Tell: Intimacy and Mystical Experience - is one of the very best talks I’ve heard him deliver, and as I’m discovering it benefits from repeated listening, not because its technical (and in that sense complex), but because its simultaneously accessible, profoundly human, and yet also deep – it’s content circling around the profundity of God’s love for us, and love for God, and the importance of human love and loving. He explores why we turn so often to the language of human love, loving, and intimacy to talk about and explore our experience of God.
For me I couldn’t but help hear St. Paul and his letter to the churches in Corinth (1 Cor. 13:1-7). I’m glad too that over the years I’ve had the likes of Williams, the Christian Mystics and many other wise persons walking along side me, helping me change and deepen my experience of what it means to be fully human; what it means to be alive; and what it means to truly love. But, the journey is still not over, the unfolding continues.
Other strands woven through the fabric of his talk:
- The importance of the Christian mystics, in particular: St. John of the Cross & St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
- The Song of Songs and the very human acts of yearning, passion, and hunger for another person – for love, and to be loved and wanted for who we are.
- Human loving, relating, and intimacy.
- The absence and withdrawal of love.
- The importance of love maturing and deepening.
- The mystery and depth of our humanity – there is always more; we’re always more than can be seen and experienced. The multi-dimensional, multi-layered realities of being fully and wholly human.
- The importance of the longevity of love and loving – love as something that matures and enlarges – enlarges our relating to self, others, and God. Love as a journey of unfolding.
- The inevitability that to truly love will also, as a consequence, entails the experience of pain. To feel no deep, wordless pain in our human relating and within the context of human intimacy is, as a corollary, not to have truly or deeply loved. Love hurts, but love is the source of the most profound and sublime joy, peace and deep contentment.