Over the years I’ve done a lot plumbing around the house, and years ago I decided—for hydraulic reasons few would care about—that if water flooded sufficiently from the creek, I would need to temporarily block the flow of several four-inch PVC pipes draining water away from the foundation of the house.
The traditional way of blocking pipe is to glue on a cap, but because these pipes barely peeked out of the heavily compacted ground, that would have been very difficult. Four-inch PVC doesn’t easily bend to allow placement of a cap whose outside diameter is larger than that of the pipes. Other structural problems also existed with the “cap solution,” so I went looking for something else, and I discovered a miraculous little device called the Oatey PVC Test Plug. It did exactly what I wanted, without the bother of moving dirt, spreading relatively inflexible four-inch PVC, or cutting pipe. I was delirious, purchased four of the plugs, and put them in a location I usually reserve for the less common PVC fittings.
Every few years I survey the backyard, considering problems that could potentially occur during flood conditions, and this year Donna was helping me to locate the equipment I would need. I described to her the exact location and description of the PVC caps, but she reported that they weren’t there. I went to the outbuilding myself—hobbling painfully on a recently replaced hip, but still I couldn’t find them.
And then it occurred to me that I was looking for the first solution that had occurred to me years ago: the caps. My brain had fixated on that solution and forgotten about the plugs I’d found, because I had used a great many more caps than plugs around the yard. I went back to the exact location where both of us had looked for the caps, and there were the plugs. No wonder I hadn’t seen them. No wonder Donna didn’t find them. The caps were cylindrical, symmetrical, and white—just as I told her—while the plugs looked like Oreo cookies, with red on the outside, black on the inside, and a silver thumbscrew holding it all together.
I was amused to consider what a beautiful metaphor this was for how nearly all of us search for happiness. We want Real Love, whether we know it or not, but we do not know what it looks like. The pain of its absence motivates us to settle for a great variety of substitutes. Once we learn that we’re looking for a red, black, and Oreo cookie, we can’t see it even if it were sitting directly in front of us, because all we’ve ever known is a white plug.
We must learn that Real Love exists—and what it looks and feels like—and then do whatever it takes to find it, embrace it, and share it. And then we won’t be confused by power, pleasure, sex, anger, lying, and more, all designed to be poor substitutes for what we really need. Sitting right here in the comfort of my writing chair I can tell you exactly where the Oatey Test Plugs are—even which ones are lying flat and which are lying on the thumbscrew at an angle. My vision of those plugs is that vivid because I resolved never again to forget, so I feel secure now that with a flood I would know exactly where to find what I needed.
We need to do that with Real Love every day. We need to read about it, find it, remember it, practice sharing it, and feeling it, so that we’ll always have what we need. It’s so much easier to find the truth right now when we’ve already practiced over and over learning the difference between the truth and the lies that surround us everywhere.
Those of us who have seen and experienced Real Love can be an example of that love to the people who have never seen it clearly. We can be a light in the darkness, leading them to even more sources of this love—both human and divine.