A Loving Sprinkle of "Stardust"
by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, Nov 14, 2007
Dharma-Inspired Movie Review: www.stardustmovie.com
Singapore -- Yvaine, the "star" in the movie "Stardust" remarked thus about love - "... it [love] was the only thing that made watching your world bearable.
All those wars. Pain, lies, hate... It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves... You could search to the farthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful.
So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and... What I'm trying to say, Tristan is... I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I'd know it for myself. My heart... It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it's trying to escape because it doesn't belong to me any more. It belongs to you.
And if you wanted it, I'd wish for nothing in exchange - no fits, no goods, no demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine."
Though that seems like a wonderful declaration of true love, it is still conditional, as it desires reciprocation of love. Isn't that a "demonstration of devotion"?
To burst the fairy-tale bubble, one cannot have unconditional love for someone alone, for if it is truly unconditional, it has to be for everyone - despite their gender, race, religion, age, character... If one's love for someone is conditioned by that person being that particular someone; not being someone else, the love is not really unconditional.
If so, the romantic notion of one-to-one love being true and unconditional is but an illusion! That said, romantic love is not useless - for it is usually part of the path from conditional love of one to unconditional love of all. Even loving a particular someone else is improvement from just loving oneself or no one! As Stonepeace said, "When you do not love yourself, you cannot really love others. When you do not love others, you cannot really love yourself." Not anyone's exclusively, true love is truly for one and all.
In Buddhism, what makes true love is not just loving-kindness, compassion and appreciative joy for one, but for all - with impartial equanimity. These qualities of metta, karuna, mudita and uppekha are the four sublime states of mind. So immeasurable can they be that like Yvaine's case, they cannot be contained. It feels light and nurturing though, never unbearably heavy.
Worldly love is easily mistaken as hatred because they are two fickle sides of the same spinning coin of attachment and aversion. True love has neither of these qualities. Neither is it unpredictable nor uncontrollable, as it is mindful and steady. Unlike Tristan, who wanted to "prove" his love, true love doesn't seek to prove itself, for that is ego at play. True love simply loves truly.
At the end of the story, Tristan and Yvaine gained "everlasting" life as stars. Neat twist to the traditional "happily ever after" as mortals, but even stars burn out, while true love never fizzles out... life after life. Just think the perfect love of the Enlightened for us all.