as a whirl wind swoops upon a oak,
love shakes my heart.”
Our topic in this four-part series is Love, with a capital L. Ironically, love and logic share the same first letter; their only similarity!
Click play to hear a brain balancing audio enhancement as you read.
We’ve been discussing love the noun vs love the verb. Our culture almost completely embraces the verb, positioning love as a relational experience and elevating it to such an exalted level (in songs about loving until the end of time and novels where the earth moves) that disillusionment is inevitable.
“In promoting expectations of unending bliss and security, the dream of love sets us up for shock and disillusionment when we come down to earth and encounter the pain and difficulty involved in creating a satisfying relationship. When these expectations are not fulfilled, it is easy to become bitter and discouraged, with oneself, with the opposite sex, or with love itself.” 1
So wrote John Welwood in Journey of the Heart. All of us have been disappointed in love. How could we not be; there’s no instruction! Imagine trying to drive on the freeway without any driving lessons. Yet, the very idea of needing to learn how to love sounds immediately foreign and strange.
Our parents and teachers did the best they could to prepare us for adult life, but they themselves received no guidance about love. They, like us, learned how to make a living, not how to live. And to live without love… how intolerable! Indeed, suicide (The World Health organization reported that 20 million people attempt suicide every year and one million succeed, which represents 1.5 million annual suicides — and numbers are on a sharp increase 2 ), is inevitably connected to a loveless life, to convictions of unworthiness, even in the hearts of the rich and famous.
Here in the 21st century we forage in a wilderness of human futility where Love has been traded for love, where the connection to the Divine that we were born with has withered under the unrelenting pressure of consumerism where we are told that we can buy what we want and fulfillment will result, right? Not so much.
Love, with a capital L, remains ever present and unfailing, even if it is out marketed by clever salesmen hawking pallid substitutes. In fact, Love is a reality, not a human invention. As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in Love Letter to the Earth: “I don’t think God is an old man with a white beard sitting in the sky. God is not outside of creation. I think God is on Earth, inside every living being. What we call “the divine,” is none other than the energy of awakening, of peace, of understanding, and of love, which is to be found not only in every human being, but in every species on Earth.” 3
This is where we live, not just on the earth but embraced in the fullness of Love, which contains the earth and us and everything/everyone else. Surely an extraterrestrial visitor would marvel that we humans manage to somehow avoid this experience so consistently! The devastation that living without conscious, deep experience of Love wreaks in human lives and in human society is impossible to accurately calculate because the impact accrues generation after generation. Now we flock to cities and crowd together, yet we remain alone.
Brene Brown quotes Jean Baker Miller and Irene Stiver in her book, Daring Greatly: “We believe that the most terrifying and destructive feeling that a person can experience is psychological isolation. This is not the same as being alone. It is a feeling that one is locked out of the possibility of human connection and of being powerless to change the situation. In the extreme, psychological isolation can lead to a sense of hopelessness and desperation. People will do almost anything to escape this combination of condemned isolation and powerlessness.” 4
Sadly, isolation has become a cultural norm for many, profiled for their faith and/or how they look, until they become alienated within their home neighborhoods. Some lash out in desperation; we call them terrorists. The real terrorism is the seeping virus of disconnection with the Divine, with Love as the joyful power that creates and sustains us.
So stated, learning how to love becomes an imperative for sane living and a pre-requisite both for individual fulfillment and species survival.
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1. Journey of the Heart – John Welwood, Page 76
3. Love Letter to the Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh, Page 18
4. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, Page 140