Reflections on Thriving: The Shocking Shape of Love

By Ian DeWeese-Boyd, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy and Education 

Like a plant turning its leaves toward the sun, sinking its roots deep, we yearn for what it takes to grow, to thrive.
We strive constantly for the energy and elements thatwill make our lives glisten with the verdant splendor of a
well-tended vine. We develop our minds, our portfolios, our profiles. We want comfort, health and pleasure. We don’t mind working hard to obtain these things if that’s what it takes to have a life worth living.

But is that all it takes? Philosophers like Socrates acknowledged the goodness of these things but saw that none of them can be the sun or the source of real thriving. Pursued as ends, each will wither you. Turning toward these dark suns, sinking your roots in such sterile sands, will leave your life rotting on the vine.

Philosophers and prophets alike insist that serious scrutiny of our lives individually and collectively enables us to see through the glittering good life—to see the poverty of wealth, the weakness of power, the emptiness of reputation—and to glimpse the beauty of being just. More than that, to see that the true source of justice can only be love; it alone is the sun and soil we need to thrive. God’s great love for us— recognized, received and reflected—animates every aspect of true human flourishing.

Jesus’ life epitomized this thriving, and his beatitudes describe the shocking shape it must take in the lives who live by this love. Acquainted with sorrows, they mourn; sensible of their poverty, they long for justice; suffering injustice, they are merciful; feeling the burn of conflict, they work for peace; persecuted, they persist; pure of heart, they see their beloved in the hungry, thirsty, unhoused, unwell and imprisoned. These are the thriving.