Once upon a time, I had a philosophical conversation with someone about unconditional love. We were wandering aimlessly around the sleeping streets of his neighborhood somewhere in the hilly south of Germany, pre-dawn frost just beginning to crystallize out of the moisture on car windows. The clear October weather revealed the immeasurable vault of the night sky above us, and in the serene quiet of that tiny town, under the lush, unending blackness and all the heavens’ uncountable stars, it was hard not to think about “limitlessness” and “forever.” Hard not to think about things cosmic.
I tried explaining to him on that meandering walk that unconditional love means exactly what it’s called: it has no conditions — or, therefore, limits — of any kind. As such, it is not reliant for its survival or its magnitude on time, place, distance, investment, feedback, and so on.
“But that’s not possible.”
“Of course it is.”
“No, it isn’t. Because then love would be limited by its own lack of limitations.”
“What do you mean?”
“If unconditional love is not limited in any way… and if it can always be everywhere… then that means it can never stop or be stopped. Which means that it IS limited; its limitation is its inability to be limited. A limit is a condition. Which means that it was not unconditional to begin with.”
Upon hearing this, my mind had a mini-explosion, and I delighted at the inarguable paradox. I turned and smiled at him, speechless… and then conceded his point. I liked — for some reason — the fact that I’d been wrong.
Except that today, I realized… unconditional love is not even limited in THAT way… because we do create walls, or at least ideas of walls; we create places that love “cannot” go. We convince ourselves that this is the truth and, thereby, create an experience of limits, superimposed over the limitless reality that underlies everything else.
And meanwhile unconditional love just happily waits for us, right there, in the spaces where we’ve decided it can’t possibly be. The moment we decide it may exist, there it is, there it WAS, instantaneously infinite, like the moment you place one mirror in front of another — a glimpse into forever, and yet a glimpse into the place right where you’re standing. Nothing faraway or unreachable: just an endless here–now.
In other words, I’ve finally figured out how my friend was both right and wrong at the same time:
To the extent that we can experience *illusory* limits on it — and that these limits feel indeed very real to us — unconditional love is NOT limited by its own limitlessness.
It is so vast that it accommodates the ultimate paradox.