“I don’t understand,” I said.
“Well,” said Father Payne, “I don’t believe that God says, ’This is my law, and you must obey it because I choose,” I believe He says, ’This is the law, for Me as well as for you, and you will not be happy till you obey it,’—Yes, I have got it, I believe—the essence of affection is equality. I don’t mean that you may not recognise superiorities in your friend, and he in you; but they must not come into the question of affection. Love makes equal, and when there is a real sense of equality, love can begin.”
“But,” I said, “the passion of lovers—isn’t that all based on the worship of something infinitely superior to oneself?”
“Yes,” said Father Payne, “but that means a sight of something beyond—of the thing which we all love—beauty. I don’t say that equality is the thing we love—it’s only the condition of loving. The lover can’t love, if he feels himself really unworthy of love. He must believe that at worst he can be loved, though he may be astonished at being loved; it is in love that it is possible to meet; it is love that brings beauty within your reach, or down, to your level. It is beauty that you love in your friend, not his right to improve you. He is what you want to be; and the comfort of being loved is the comfort of feeling that there is some touch of the same beauty in yourself. It is so easy to feel dreary, stupid, commonplace—and then someone appears, and you see in his glance and talk that there is, after all, some touch of the same thing in yourself which you love in him, some touch of the beauty which you love in God. But the glory of beauty is that it is concerned with being beautiful and becoming beautiful—not in mocking or despising or finding fault or improving. Love is the finding your friend beautiful in mind and heart, and the joy of being loved is the sense that you are beautiful to him—that you are equal in that! When you once know that, little quarrels and frictions do not matter—what does matter is the recognising of some ugly thing which the man whom you thought was your friend really clings to and worships. Faults do not matter if only the friend is aware of them, and ashamed of them: it is the self-conscious fault, proud of its power to wound, and using affection as the channel along which the envenomed stream may flow, which destroys affection and trust.”
“Then it comes to this,” I said, “that affection is a mutual recognition of beauty and a sense of equality?”
“It is that, more or less, I believe,” said Father Payne. “I don’t mean that friends need be aware of that—you need not philosophise about your friendships—but if you ask me, as an analyst, what it all consists in, I believe that those are the essential elements of it—and I believe that it holds good of the dog-and-man friendship as well!”