How are we to learn the art of love? How are we to muster feelings if we do not already have them? When we try to love, we are putting on a mask, but if the feelings are not there, we are only acting like we love. What is the secret of the great lovers of humankind?

The Apostle Paul taught that Love begins as faith. For this to make sense, especially to a nonreligious person, it is important to realize that faith is not the same thing as “belief”. Even the word “trust” does not quite capture what is meant by “faith”. When Paul talks about “faith” “hope” and “love” he can be heard as describing the circle of life.

” Faith” is like the roots of a plant. To feed the plant, the roots must be open to whatever soil they find themselves in. This openness begins a chain reaction with the soil. The dirt no longer consists of inert clods, but is now a nurturing home. Faith is a willingness to be open to and informed by our experience. When we are open to life, something happens that we do not quite understand. There is a chain reaction between our bodies and the world. We cannot command this process. Faith, then, is a willingness to be open to our experience.

If “faith” is like roots, “hope” is like the stirring of the plant to come to life and to grow. “Hope” is not the same thing as a wish. “Hope” in the spiritual sense has no specific object. Hope is like the plant’s impulse to blossom and to manifest the “word” that is written in it. Our hope is not that life will happen as we wish, but that we will manifest our true nature no matter what. Like the plant, we are hoping to manifest something we cannot possibly know until it blossoms.

“Love” is the fruit of this process. At times, it may seem that much of the fruit has been wasted. The fruit may fall from the tree and lie untaken on the ground. The plant gives its fruit anyway because that is its nature. It is not a question of whether others are worthy of the gift, or even whether they will receive it. Even if no hand ever finds it, there are seeds hidden in the fruit. The soil will receive those seeds and begin life anew. Love is the intrinsic generosity of the seed to give itself back to the soil. The secret is in the seeds.