Item 1544 - Report on the possibility and desirability of love

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Reference code

CA ON00389 F4-9-1-1544

Title

Report on the possibility and desirability of love

Date(s)

  • April 10, 1968 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

2 p. of textual records

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(1932-1996)

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This item consists of a two page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: On the possibility and desirability of love, published in The National Catholic Reporter, April 10. 1968, pp. 7-8. Nouwen begins his article by asking if love is possible at all. ‘Is there a spark of misunderstanding in every intimate encounter, a painful experience of separateness in every attempt to unite, a fearful resistance in every act of surrender?’ He then states that he intends to describe what he calls two main forms of existing: 1) a power or ‘taking’ form and 2) a forgiving form. He then finally intends to ask the crucial questions, ‘Is love a utopian dream or a possibility within our reach?’ There are three major headings in the article: 1) The taking form, 2) The forgiving form and 3)The possibility of love. In 1) Nouwen describes the taking form as a form of power. We objectify the other, we try to control, to manipulate vulnerabilities and weaknesses and classify and label others. ‘This leaves us with the suspicion that the reality which we call “love” is nothing other than a blanket to cover the real fact that a man and a woman conquer each other in a long, subtle skirmish of taking movements in which one is always the winner who manipulates the other… we find ourselves doomed to the impossibility of love’. In 2) Nouwen describes the forgiving form as one of trust, openness and vulnerability. He suggests some characteristics of love. Love is truthful, tender and asks for total disarmament. He asks: ‘Can we ever meet a fellow man without any protection? Reveal ourselves to him in our total vulnerability? In 3) The possibility of love, Nouwen attempts to answer these questions. He begins by noting that life is often a very painful fluctuation between the two desires to take and to forgive. ‘And we have good reasons to be afraid. Love means openness, vulnerability and confession.’ Again, Nouwen asks if real love is possible and answers by saying that it is not if ‘the only real and final solution to life is death’. He then points to the person who he suggests has broken through the vicious circle and quotes from the prologue to the Gospel of John which speaks of Jesus breakthrough. ‘Suddenly everything is converted into its opposite. Darkness into light, enslavement into freedom, death into life, taking into giving, destruction into creation and hatred into love’. He concludes by stating that ‘the core of the Christian message is exactly this message of the possibility of transcending the taking form of our human existence.

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Existence and location of copies

Preservation photocopy available in Articles by Nouwen Access Copy Box 1.

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Publication note

Published in The National Catholic Reporter, 10 April 1968, p. 7-8.
This was published as The Challenge to Love in Nouwen, Henri J.M., Intimacy: Essays in Pastoral Psychology, Notre Dame, Indiana, Fides Publishing, 1970.

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Note

Also available as an offprint (located with item in file).
This item is hole-punched on both sides and has 2 sets of felt pen marks on each side at the top.
There is a head shot photo of a Sculpture by Auguste Rodin: The Kiss.

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Accession Number

2000 02

Location

Box 294

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