I’m exploring the topic of LOVE for Coach Dian’s blog challenge. Everyone has been invited to discuss in any way at all one of the twelve subjects this particular art installation (click on “art installation” to find out what it is) addresses, plus a thirteenth added by Dian. The art installation itself is from a Burning Man festival, and asks us to what do we pledge allegiance, learning to see with new eyes and act with new vision in the web of life. The theory is that if enough people turn their attention to one or another of these qualities, maybe change can be effected. So far I’ve talked about courage and intention, and for another blog challenge, bliss. Now for love.
The Beetles said, “All you need is love.” Were they right? If you listen to the lyrics of almost any pop or country song, love – especially unrequited love or lost love – is all there is to sing about. It’s like every song is the same song. The same is true of books – every book is the same book about life, just expressed in different settings with different characters and plot development. In fact, instead of “all you need is love,” it seems like love, while desirable, messes things up – at least love as we commonly view it.
It must say something about the importance of understanding life and love that we listen to music and read books that can be boiled down, at their essence, to almost the same topic. I suppose because there are endless variations on love and life, and they both involve each of us, we are endlessly interested. There’s a variation of love going on right outside my window at this very moment. Froggie love. Our backyard pond is outside my window and a frog is croaking; then there seems to be a corresponding “plopping” sound, as well as croaks that might fit a category of desire. Of course I can’t go outside to look because it would ruin everything. Although my husband and I did go out earlier to find frogs, and we saw this cute little guy heading for the bushes, I hope to eat lots of insects. Now I’m hoping for lots of tadpoles.
Can love be distilled down to a universal truth? Are the longing, mournful, sad, or happy, joyous and euphoric lyrics about love as universal truth? I don’t think so. They are about longing, desire, sex, the idea that the next thing that happens will be the one that sets your life to rights.
Just yesterday, I attended two events that I think define love as it should be, love as a concept that we can pledge allegiance to, and love that can change the world. Because love isn’t reproduction, infatuation, sex, romance, and it’s not that tingling feeling you get right down to your fingertips when you have physical contact with that one desirable person. Those are all lovely things, but love is broader than all that. The first event, a graduation, describes it perfectly.
My dear friend Michael, whom I love deeply, was graduating from a two-year intensive program to be a practitioner at Agape International Spirit Center. Agape is the Greek word for unconditional love. Through intense self-examination, many essays, and weekly classes, Michael, as a practitioner, can now engage in prayer sessions with people who request that service. In essence, it’s counseling through self-examination and love. So Mark and I drove to Los Angeles for his graduation. This is what we saw.
We saw a sanctuary with walls covered with spiritual images – from Jesus to mandalas to Buddha, from images of Judaism and Hinduism to pictures of nature. In other words, we had entered an inclusive environment. Love is inclusive. Love doesn’t have the energy to waste on exclusion. We heard Reverend Michael speak, and he referenced God – or “whatever it is you call God, or the universal spirit, ” etc. – in other words, inclusive of beliefs from the traditional to spiritual to any notion you might have of a unifying force.
My Michael had been elected by his class to speak. As he approached the stage, the spotlight shone on him as if he was a heavenly creature of some sort. It was just the spotlight – but it created an image of love.
He was received with love. Love for who he is, happiness that he was speaking – and if there was any jealously or resentment that he was the speaker, it was not evident. He gave a wonderful speech with just the right mix of humor, reverence, thankfulness, and love.
Reverend Michael approached his own remarks without negativity. He spoke of what graduates had discovered about their strengths and their opportunities for improvement – not their weaknesses. That may be a small thing – but really, it’s not, because negativity drains us of creativeness, forward movement, and love. Wouldn’t you rather have an opportunity for improvement than a weakness?
Now, I’m not getting all sappy or anything. I wasn’t amongst perfect people who float through the week leaving love and peace in their wake. It’s just interesting to be in an environment where everyone is aiming for that ideal; to be in a place whose very premise is love and peace and inclusion among all faiths, races, nationalities, political leanings – in other words, a place where everyone just gets along. That doesn’t seem too much to ask, does it? Couldn’t we call that love?
If we could all pledge our allegiance to that kind of love – a peaceful, accepting, inclusive love, and go about our business in that vein – imagine the change we could bring about.
I took a picture of Michael afterwards with Reverend Michael, and when my daughter saw it she said, “I know that guy. I saw him on Oprah. I really liked him.” Apparently he was on Oprah talking about Proposition 8, the California initiative that banned gay marriage. Which, of course, he thought was a very bad idea – a very divisive, exclusionary, hateful proposition. He spoke about all the ways the Bible does not ostracize or speak against homosexuality. But Prop 8 passed. I have to say, personally, that I don’t understand why anyone would meddle in anyone’s private life. That is definitely not about love.
This next picture is of Michael with the Practitioner who helped him through his studies. This is what love should be – just sincere joy and pleasure with and in the other person.
The graduation certainly set the stage for thinking about love as it should be – love as inclusion and peace. That’s doesn’t mean we have to like everyone, but it would sure make life easier if we didn’t waste effort on not liking someone.
Graduation over, we drove back up to Bakersfield (takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours) for our oldest granddaughter’s Sweet 16 birthday party.
All nine of my grandchildren are equally special and amazing individuals, all with distinct personalities. But I’ll just talk about Ali, the oldest, because it was her birthday and that, together with the graduation, tied in so well to love as it should be.
Ali is beautiful and brilliant. She is also a person who doesn’t know how to exclude anyone. Who truly does not have a mean, spiteful, jealous bone in her body. She must have been born that way, but I know she has deep insights for her age on human nature and has spent enough time observing to form her character in the direction she chooses.
Watching Ali open her gifts was an atypical gift-opening experience. She took the time to read, enjoy and appreciate every single card – and there were dozens of them – and gift. She looked at and thanked each person. She was equally as joyful at finding her favorite gum as she was at finding substantial cash.
You can see the kindness in her face.
This exhibited to me what love is and should be – just like the morning’s graduation: inclusiveness, joy with every effort, gift or accomplishment, kindness. How could this kind of behavior fail to spread peace among all peoples and be the true nature of love?
This pure happiness is love. Ali is holding up a picture Jackson sent for her birthday (or Jackson’s mom, my daughter Karen sent). Apparently it is a dinosaur brain. Jackson’s almost five, and dinosaurs are very much on his mind, so what more precious drawing could he make?
I’ve probably run on enough about this. The Beetles are right. All you need is love. Love that embraces, includes, celebrates everyone. Behavior that leads to peace. It would be hard to kill someone whom you celebrated, wouldn’t it? War might disappear. Don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon, but the more of us that join the positive force, the sooner it will happen. For me, that’s love.