In the past few days I’ve seen this phrase, a lot. And each time it makes me smile. I’m struck by feelings of joy on many levels: for my friends and family that have been afforded new rights, for a society that is able to shift its thinking, for a government that takes a stand for love and equality even amidst great controversy, for the very idea that love can win.
Because imagine that world: where every single instance of hate, every moment of fear…was met and overcome by love.
Aren’t we all struggling to love? Ourselves, our partners, our children, our mothers.
Yet we throw love away all the time. When someone says something we don’t like, when they disagree with us, when they have a belief we don’t understand, when they cut us off in traffic.
We throw love away in bigger ways. We put ourselves down, we lie, we don’t keep our commitments, we get jealous.
And we do it for a very simple reason: protection. Michael Singer explains this eloquently in his book The Untethered Soul.
During eons of evolution, from the simplest of living forms to the most complex, there has always been the day-to-day struggle to protect oneself. In our highly evolved cooperative social structures, this survival instinct has gone through evolutionary changes. Many of us no longer lack food, water, clothing, or shelter; nor do we regularly face life-threatening physical danger. As a result, the protective energies have adapted toward defending the individual psychologically, rather than physiologically. We now experience the daily need to defend our self-concepts rather than our bodies. Our major struggles end up being with our own inner fears, insecurities, and destructive behavior patterns, and not with outside forces.
Yesterday’s Supreme Court Decision represented giving up the false notion of protection. Your idea of marriage cannot be destroyed by another’s notion of it. There is nothing to fear. The decision represents the letting go of an outdated model to accommodate a more expansive one. This is also our task. That archaic protection mechanism built into us centuries ago is no longer useful. It has us being stingy with something that is free, the very something that is an ultimate solution.
Love is all around us, it really is, but more than that…it’s in us. I know that the news doesn’t feature it; I know that typical bar stool conversation doesn’t acknowledge it. But think about it. For every high profile act of hate, how many millions of people lived that same day in love? How many people kissed their children good night, called their father, held the hand of their lover? Take count. How much did you love today? How much did you fear? How many times did you open your heart? How many times did you close it tight when it really wasn’t necessary to survive? Did you love more than you hated today?
It’s true that I’m in love. The mad, deep, curl your toes, close your eyes, change your world kind that can happen between one person and another (or maybe sometimes a few) and when you’re lucky involves all of life’s pleasures like moonlit walks and flares of passion, like new understandings about life and conversations that keep you into the night and start right back again when you both open your eyes, like fresh songs, unfamiliar foods, new places and hope…mostly hope.
But that’s not the only kind of love that wins. I loved a hitchhiker wanting to head North (sorry Dad) that I picked up in Milton, Florida and dropped off four exits later because a cop had been hassling him at his last set-up. I loved a woman at the nail parlor, with 67 years, whom while having her first ever pedicure could simply not stop laughing. “Are you ticklish?” I asked her. “Lord, honey, no,” she said, the words Southern on her tongue. “These crusty things couldn’t feel a thing. But I’m tickled pink!” She couldn’t believe that she, of all people, was sitting having her “feet worked on.” And I couldn’t believe how wide open someone can open your heart in a matter of minutes.
I visited Ken recently (a best friend of mine) and around a low lit table topped with Mediterranean dishes I looked from him, to his girlfriend, to the super sweet waiter and I felt full of it: love. I asked my sister to borrow some money and didn’t even finish my explanation of why I needed it before she’d transferred it to my account. Annie Maier and I figured out our whole lives in a three hour phone call. There are so many kinds.
Like when I spent a few weeks with my four and ½ year old niece and one bedtime when our pre-sleep conversations stretched from why water falls…to if babies can choose not to come out…to why we have toenails…she decided to make up a song that went like this:
When the night comes out
and the light bulbs are low
and the world is expressed
I want you to stay.
When the sun is bright
and you’re eyes are glittering
your lips get rainbowed.
Have you ever felt so much love that it’s hard to stay inside your skin?
Let’s not hold it in anymore. Let’s expose ourselves. Let’s be brave enough to put our love on our outsides, and give it away with abandon. Not only will we “survive”…we might just start living.
There are far too many people that have said it better than I. Here are a few of them.
Philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell says, “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.”
Honoré de Balzac, in Physiologie Du Mariage: “The more one judges, the less one loves.”
And Kurt Vonnegut himself said “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”