Love, Personal and Impersonal

From Spiritual Man (c.1914) by

Suppose a lake to be frozen over, with millions of holes in the ice, and suppose each hole to be endowed with a consciousness. Then each hole might call itself a person, and say: “I love myself as a hole; I love my personality, my individual form, and my separateness from others. Then, I see all around me these other personalities, these other holes. I love the form, or shape, and general character of some of them; and others I dislike; and those which are far from me, I do not know at all, and I am indifferent to them. But here, near me, is a hole which I admire very much. It is so finely shaped, and so large, and I can see so much of the clear water through it.” But the sun shines warmer as spring comes on, and the ice begins to melt. The boundaries of each of the holes become larger and larger, until, soon all the barriers are melted away. Then each of the holes has lost its so-called personality, its sense of separateness, its love of self and its love of other so-called personalities; for they have all disappeared. Yet no hole has lost anything that it had except its limitation; but it has kept all the good that it had and has gained all the good that all the others had, and all that was in between, that none of them had ever had, in a surface sense of things while they remained holes. Each has lost its love of holes in the love of the whole. Even before the sun melted away the ice, had each little hole looked below the surface and realized the depth and the all-inclusiveness of the immense lake of which it and all other holes were but manifestations, each would have known that itself and all the others were one in the whole, and so each would have loved the whole, and would have loved each manifestation of the whole,-the distant as well as the near; for it would have known that to like or dislike holes on account of their so-called shapes, or so-called personal characteristics, was to be looking, not at the essential element in the holes, but merely at their temporary limitations.

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