On the Unbearable Light of Love
Love is unbearable. We fear it's light. It is so great, and all encompassing that we feel it might swallow us whole if we open up to it. Run...run for your life. It is not even metaphorical to say that it brightness causes a kind of dumb-found blindness. Or so we believe. It seems so scary in fact that we are far more likely to embrace hate and anger than we are to embrace love. Someone said love makes the world go round. Yet as we look at our history we can see ourselves caught in the clutches of hate time and time again. How easy it has been for our backwards species to fall into judgement. How easily we turn our fickle relationships with idols into wars of religion against each other. It is easy to hate. Most of us are naturally inclined towards hate in some sense. It's not really our fault because hate is born out of misunderstanding of self and boy do we ever misunderstand ourselves. We know that children are naturally more inclined to selfishness and self preservation than they are to sharing and social interest. I know this is a revolutionary comment to make but what i am saying of others, i would gladly say of myself. It is much easier for a child to throw a tantrum or a stone than it is to express true love. Showing love takes practice but anger seems relatively natural and unlearned. Anger is not hate, but it keeps you alive in some situations and hate is just the unbalanced and unchecked expression of anger. It is what happens when anger takes control of the entire psyche like a dictator. Hate is what happens when we give into anger's every whim. You may remember when the star wars episode when the emperor of the dark side urges Luke Skywalker to give into his anger as his friends are being killed. Luke refuses because he knows it is the first step towards hate and the dark side. One step past indifference and we are apathetic. One more step and we are angry. One step further and we find ourselves hating. When we are hating, our emotions are no longer contained within us but it is we who find ourselves contained within them. We can own our anger when we name it and examine it but hate owns us. Anger of course is a good thing if it is checked. It is a note-to-self that we need to be changing something in our lives. The greatest humanistic movements of our time are born out of anger. The civil rights movements and feminism can thank anger for for its role as the high octane fuel in a combustion engine of social change.
Hate could be seen as belonging to the limbic program of fight or flight. When we are fighting a foe or a predator, we are hating it and in some sense, we are hating it to death. Hate does not always lead to killing but it always leads to some form of death. When we are threatened, our survival instinct takes over and we lose or temporarily displace the empathy for that thing we must kill to in order to live. I love wolves but if it comes near me, i am killing it. When we are killing each other, we are hating. It is the only way you can kill someone. If you can't hate, you just can't do it. When we are loving, we are far more likely to employ the "flight" response. We seek love out everywhere because we crave it like a drug we were born to be dependent on. We seek it in the strangest of places. We look in brothels and we look in banks or in the glimmer of beauty and no matter how many times we come up empty, we return to those sites as though we might have missed something. When love is in front of you, there is no mistaking it. It is the meeting of one transponder and one receiver meeting again for the first time as they have done through all time. We don't want to kill what we love but we seem able to kill or die for it. Some say we will do anything for love. We will do anything for love of self, love of country and occasionally we can do brilliant things out of a selfless love. It seems we have difficulty in just being with love though. We get confused. When i was about 15, i thought i loved a girl and when she slept with my best friend, i spent two days asleep in a kind of wound licking coma. Love confuses us even though it is the essence of happiness. When we catch a glimpse of it, usually in our own hearts, we are terrified. We take a tiny sip and this usually leads us to the most extreme forms of Narcissistic intoxication. When we catch it reflected to us in a pond, it's essence is so strong that we fall for the mere reflection of it.
To kill something, you must run towards it, but when we are loving, it seems we are more likely to be running away. We men have grown to be more afraid of love than we are of hate. Hate is a behaviour which requires no learning. If you are angry enough you might hit or throw something instinctively but when you love someone, expressing that is a little more tricky. It seems that being horrible people comes naturally to us whereas enlightenment and kindness require our hardest work. Selfishness is instinctual because we are all driven towards the prime directive of self preservation. The cardinal rule of self preservation is that you must be the one to survive. How does one survive? Well, one survives by hoarding food and shelter for rainy days. One survives by knocking the neighbour on the head and taking his wife as your own so that your genes can get out there. In a sense, the christian bible kind of warns us to check our Darwinian instincts by being kind, by not coveting thy neighbour's wife and by not killing. Sharing is counter intuitive and it is a behaviour which must be learned. How often do we tell one sibling to share with the other? Each sibling seems to be happy to let the other starve to death from privation of affection or food because he believes these resources to be finite. But love is not finite. It is infinite. There is as much of it as you can stand to muster. It can be shared, amplified, expanded. Many of us take a lifetime to realize this if we are lucky. Most of us never realize it. So we compete for love. We fight for it. We kill and die to get it or we squander it on idols - often in the name of god. I once head of Hitler's fascism referred to as "extreme love of self". The idea goes that one could love oneself so much that one could be driven to exterminate anything which appears to threaten that self love. Interesting to think about Hitler's movement as an expression of extreme self love. Before you get your antisemite detector on to high alert, think for a second. Hitler must have loved something. He must have felt some kind of love when looking at a newborn German child. It was narcissistic, fascist, individualistic love but still, somewhere, it is a kind of love of self in the extreme. That is how dangerous love can be. Misguided and misunderstood, love can lead you to hate.
On television and in mainstream media, it is nearly impossible to find two men hugging each other unless we are looking at homosexual content. Fathers can hug sons but two grown men, two brothers can not. Two women can be found holding each other, expressing closeness and affection well beyond the realm of pornography. It strikes me as a cruel injustice that women can show those things when we men can not. Somewhere in our social evolution, we learned that affection among men was to be avoided. We have done a good job at learning this lesson as men who allow their son's to believe that they can only be strong, secure, noble and righteous. We know that a soldier who cries on the battlefield is no good to anyone. If he wants to confide in someone about his feelings of regret for the horrible job he must do then let him have a psychologist hear it in a private room but please, let's not air all that out here where children are present! His boot camp will kick the empathy out of him or commandeer it for the cause. When training is over, his empathy is no longer his to do with as he sees fit. What's often left of a returning veteran is a man who has even less of a clue what to do with his feelings than he did before he served. If your empathy is bought, your ability to love in the most profound and honest way is broken. Taken further, i believe that our entire economic and political system begins to dissolve from the moment our love is unleashed. True love between all people would lead to sharing and doing things for free. There just isn't any money there, sorry. Without getting too hippie on you, a number of notable people thought of love as the most powerful force in the universe. Atomic energy is way down on the list of powerful energy sources because without love, atomic power can only destroy.
Love is a dangerous thing indeed. Perhaps we men harbour the fear that to love one another might make us gay. Perhaps we fear it would detract from our manliness to express our love for one another openly. If manliness is what we see in mainstream imagery, and throughout the warring history of western civilization, then those fears are fair and appropriate. Love will destroy manliness if that is what manliness is. As i write this, it occurs to me that as LGBT lifestyles become increasingly integrated and accepted within mainstream culture, gender roles for heterosexual men and women will also gain freedom. What i am saying is that it is for the greater freedom for all people that LGBT lifestyles become more fully integrated into ''normal'' culture because when social walls come down in one area, walls are weakened in others. I am ready for walls to come down. I am ready to put down my weapons. It is the next step in our masculine evolution. The fighting, money hoarding, womanizing man is just one kind of man so how come he takes dominates the entire discourse on male experience? His hockey fights, his wrestling matches and his battle scars bore me.I am tired of seeing them.
One thing is for sure: we can't keep loving the way we have been doing it so far. It's no longer good enough to love your brother so long as he is Christian. It is no longer good enough to love your brother simply because he is Muslim and because he sits, eats and thinks as you do. Our love must be greater than this. It must be stronger. It must be more masculine and show no fear of failure. It must be confident, bold and assertive. It must never fail. The love we people have learned to give, fails more often than succeeds in the long run. We build families half as strong as they could be and intimate relationships which are intimately superficial. Our current kind of love fails us all the time. Every war on this planet, past and future is a case in point. We humans are only on the cusp of learning the lessons. It has taken us this long and we still don't have it.
Think about this for a second if you are a man: kicking and screaming are so much easier to do than holding and whispering to your brother how much you love him. I think we men want to do it but we just don't know how because our history has not taught us. Of course we allow brotherly love to manifest and that is a good thing because the entire world would be at war if we did not. But i think it is important to name it sometimes and if nothing else, this post does that. Even fathers are prevented by socialization from showing love to their sons because they have never learned how. We want to show it but we don't even know we want to show it because we have no vocabulary and no experience for perceiving and conveying those things. I don't know too well about other religions but i do know that our forefathers, for all of their patriarchal ignorance did teach us some valuable lessons in the bible. The Christian bible did lay out for us, some basic principles for how to love and live and i think these are as valid today as they ever were. Remember, i am an atheist but i know a good thing when i see it because i look for diamonds in the ruff. The part about not judging each other, doing unto others and not casting stones is pretty good stuff. I haven't read it but i'm pretty sure the Koran also represents a people's best efforts to make some sense out of the confusion that loving each other seems to cause us. In spite of everything that creating religion did for us, we seem just about reactionary enough to reject it completely from our consciousness. The truth is that when we shut faith out of consciousness, we lose part of ourselves. So i am advocating that we not throw out the baby with the bath water but that instead, take a long look at religious teachings and take for ourselves what is salvageable. Within ancient knowledge there is something very raw, something very archetypal and universally significant to the process of knowing ourselves. Still, with all of these centuries of valuable contributions to the difficult work of learning to love, it seems we are still struggling. Part of our function on this earth may be to find some way to grow more comfortably into the greatness of our being which is expressed when we love. I suppose that coming into that being means spending a fair bit of time lost and confused. The surest path into this greatness teaches us how to love well.
My dad once said something to me which blew my mind and i repeat it often like a little parrot. He said that it is "more important to love than to be loved". At first, i thought he was playing a mind game as fathers sometimes do with their sons but then i realized that he was serious. I asked him what he meant and he said something to the effect of: "When you are loving you are contributing to the good of the world around you and doing your best to affect positive change. Yet, when you are being loved, you always have to come up with some excuse for why might not deserve it" When we concern ourselves with being loved we are controlled by our desires. Look at us on facebook: we wait with anticipation in the hopes that someone will "like" us or become our friend. We are all preoccupied with being loved at some point. Children are extremely preoccupied with it. We love them as much as we possibly can and we do it for just a smile. We realize how much our love is contributing to our children's growth when their smiles feed back to us that we are doing a good job.
People who preach the power of love are often killed. Lennon, Kennedy, King and i might just start checking over our shoulders right about now...
Talking about the importance of love is cute when you write about it in your little blog post, but when we start actually restructuring our environments and our behaviour towards making love a priority, we realize that the road is long. When we are loving, we are sharing things like education and mental health care. We are called pirates when we do this. When we are loving, we are getting together and protesting against things which get in the way of our loving each other. When we are loving, we are doing things for each other "no charge" simply because we want to. We say "it's not personal, it's business" anytime an excuse is needed to explain why we hurt each other. When we are loving, "it's not business, it's personal". This is where the feminist slogan ''the personal is political'' reminds us again, just how much acting locally can influence thinking globally. Our world here in Montreal seems focused on differences of culture and language. Our politics are focused on making education a privilege rather that a right for which we might all be equal. Here in Quebec, we are concerned with what our country will do for us and not what we might do for our country. Any time we are looking at what we can do for our country, we are scratching our heads for creative ways to love. Yet, when we see each other as a means of producing income or sources of revenue, we are temporarily obscuring our very humanity. We are blocking a part of our empathy off, wrapping it in cloth and throwing it in a lake with concrete blocks attached. We obscure our names and faces with numbers and we use math and statistics in ways which define us as we never really are. Insurance companies and banks are known for their ability to view all of humanity through the lens of reductionist equation. That lens is how they make their money. They short sell us, betting that we will fail, and making money at every turn. They give us privileges with the expectation and forehand knowledge that we will default on our loans and credit card payments. These huge powerful corporations place themselves as middlemen in a polluted stream making profit no matter which way the current runs. Loving us would be too difficult. There is no money in a system where everyone is working together for a common good. A corporation does not love us, it only wants our love. When you are that powerful, apathy is an act of war. It is not good enough to stand by, you must take action when you have the force and will to do so. It is called corporate citizenship and if corporations are to be our economic fathers than let us demand our due love from them. Love must be done.
Here we are tangled in this mess together. Art therapists, bankers, firefighters and poets alike. All must make money and the only way to make money is to make it from someone else. In that sense, we never actually make money so much as we take money. I think the bible said something about making money on each other's backs. If you believe that it is wrong to profit at the expense of others, then you pretty much undermine the very essence of capitalism. George Bush was a pretty hardcore capitalist and he said that we need Mexicans in the U.S because they are willing to do the jobs Americans aren't willing to do. That is akin to saying that Americans need human blood for fuel to burn in a bonfire of the vanities. If you have come with me this far and are still not appalled, you may want to start a private browsing session in firefox so nobody knows what you're reading...(nerd humour).
Are there economic practices put into place which might impede the sharing of love? Judging by the explosion of internet dating sites and social media and pornography, i would say there are definitely real barriers to human communication which the internet is trying desperately to compensate for. The internet is doing a good job and even surpassing our expectations in many regards but the only thing it can never do is replace human contact, human spirit, human soul. If the internet ever does that, then we will have become robots by definition for never the spirit and the man made machine shall meet.
Do we put obstacles in the way of our loving each other? What is going on when we withhold knowledge because our business depends on our ability to keep it secret. We keep from teaching a man to fish because it is our business to sell him fish. We keep from educating people because it suits our economic interests that they should be less educated. Educated people ask questions and when we start asking questions the whole thing starts to unravel. If third world countries had equal access to internet technology, i think they would be very angry once they learned how we live here in Canada or the U.S, or Europe. My brothers often tell me i think too much, ask too many questions. They often accuse me of playing the therapist and this is a fair critique in a world where girls just want to have fun. I often reply that i will stop acting like a therapist when the world stops acting crazy. It's just the way i am i suppose. I need to get it out of my system so much because there are so many forces trying to get it into my system. I honestly believe that we do put obstacles in the way of loving each other. Sometimes we do it unconsciously, sometimes very intentionally. There is power in silence and money in secrets. The courts of justice fulfill the function of secret management very well.
We have tried to put the money on the trail of love so that those who are on the path can get the money while those who hate cannot. This backfired because the ideas around acquisition, success and achievement supplanted the notions of generosity, doing one's best and caring for others. I am concerned about this question because it is one which can only be resolved from the bottom up and i consider myself to have more in common with those at the bottom than those on top. Believe me, when the trust bond shared between us has been completely dissolved, no government in the world will be able to help us. If that erosion continues to happen, this post will make increasing amounts of sense. When the notion of universal love has dissolved so thoroughly, leaving only individualistic love of self to rule, we are all going to be sorry. So how can one find a way to love? How many heartaches and heart attacks, how many wars and rejections must one live through before finding a way? There is, i believe a threshold beyond which one must courageously cross if one is to have any chance at all. The courage of which i am speaking can not be learned, it must be received. It can only be received from someone who loves us well. Think about what this means to people who have not had the privilege of being loved well. It means they can not learn the lessons. In this sense, it is truly true that love makes the world go round. When we fear the light, we close ourselves to it. Turning our backs to protect ourselves, we walk away. That first step in walking away is the moment of our undoing because we near apathy. But if we have faith, we find the courage to walk forward into our most illuminated selves. On that path, the light may be blinding, it is true but i have often heard that love is blind too. So fumbling in the dark, we may both yet find each other.