I have determined the gender of love. The world gathers round. Some pray tearfully, Some joyfully, Some don't pray at all. Watching sun descend, I set the heavy book on altar. It's two hands are weak Against sensations held within. She's there! Rising out of written words On decaying paper she dances. Converting ancient language to newborn song, Telling of her longing. Her gently luscious voice Is the vibrations of the world. Waves of us Fall to our knees, But right before we propose ourselves and the world She stills and shifts to He. A stone who grows in height. And in his flight Turns his head. Left and pausing Right and pausing. Then looks down, and bends to page And with a pen Records her song again. Adding in how all will be achieved Loyalty to life. His instructive words Are the math of the world. Waves of us Fall to our knees, But right before we propose ourselves and the world He stills and shifts to She. Some pray tearfully, Some joyfully. (September 2021)
I’d assume being me would be the easiest thing to be. Trees, birds, everything in nature appears so gracefully itself. Couldn’t I just decide to be me in a moment, and to remain me for the rest of my life. Sure life would still send challenges, but they’d be sent to me. I’d be someone. I could pause and reflect at any time and know how I felt and what actions I want to take. Yet years have passed in this journey back to “me”, and what I’ve learned is I have no idea who I am. Or maybe, I am a mix of contradictory parts. And many of those parts are passionate. So I am chaotic. Maybe too chaotic for the stability inner peace or daily life requires.
I have lost the (likely unhealthy and false) grounding of self I had before I started this journey. And though I have faith, I’m journeying down a truer path now, I have come to fear this path. Where will it take me? What will it reveal to me about myself? About others? About life? Am I strong enough? Am I going too fast? Will it hurt others? Will it hurt myself? Should I put it on pause while my kids are little? Is this selfish?
Me and Antidepressant
At the beginning of November, my therapist suggested I try antidepressants. She felt I was going through a very difficult point in my journey, and antidepressants may help take the edge off my emotional lows.The plan would be to take them for a couple of months, not long term.
This may sound like a simple and logical step. However, I have always been passionately opposed to taking medicine to alter my brain. If I tried to articulate why I feel this way – I’d say my brain is me. Sacred space. The complex and delicate systems of the brain and body are not well understood, and therefore the many effects of the medicine are not well understood. To release such a powerful but uncertain chemical influence into my brain feels very dangerous and unloving towards me. (When I was growing up my father strongly expressed his negative feelings about these sorts of medicines too. I am unsure how much that influenced my own feelings.) I was actually prescribed antidepressants in college. I picked the bottle of pills up from the pharmacy, but I never took them.
But this time when my current therapist suggested antidepressants, it felt slightly different. Fleeting ideas of maybe trying some sort of medication had been passing through my mind for weeks, though I had never mentioned this to my therapist. I had done no research into the options, until she brought the topic up. That night, after our session, I researched the options online, watched videos of people sharing their experiences, and read about how antidepressants work in the brain. The next morning I scheduled an appointment with my family doctor to get his opinion and the prescription. He assured me they were safe and agreed I should try them (which is no surprise considering he is the doctor who first prescribed them to me almost 10 years ago). He wrote me a prescription for the generic form of Lexapro. That night, feeling a mix of verbally loud and verbally quiet emotions, I took the first pill.
That was during the first week of November. So I am about 5 weeks into taking antidepressants now. I would like to and will try to share the experiences and feelings which led me to this step, and how I feel now that I am on antidepressants. It has been a lot to process, and has led me to reflect on my past.
“Man is a mystery: if you spend your entire life trying to puzzle it out, then do not say that you have wasted your time. I occupy myself with this mystery, because I want to be a man.”
“Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, but it’s worth the effort”
“Why do you run scattershot
begging for answers
when you are the essence
of all meaning?”Rumi
“A human being is a spatially and temporally limited piece of the whole, what we call the “Universe”. He experiences himself and his feelings as separate from the rest, an optical illusion of his consciousness. The quest for liberation from this bondage is the only object of true religion. Not nurturing the illusion but only overcoming it gives us the attainable measure of inner peace.”Einstein
“What is essential is invisible to the eye.”“The Little Prince”, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,Rumi
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond”
“We are never confronted with a task that denies us our free will.”Rumi
“In every one of us this morning, there’s a war going on. It’s a civil war. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care where you live, there is a civil war going on in your life. And every time you set out to be good, there’s something pulling on you, telling you to be evil. It’s going on in your life. Every time you set out to love, something keeps pulling on you, trying to get you to hate. Every time you set out to be kind and say nice things about people, something is pulling on you to be jealous and envious and to spread evil gossip about them. There’s a civil war going on. There is a schizophrenia, as the psychologists or the psychiatrists would call it, going on within all of us. And there are times that all of us know somehow that there is a Mr. Hyde and a Dr. Jekyll in us. And we end up having to cry out with Ovid, the Latin poet, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.” We end up having to agree with Plato that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions. Or sometimes we even have to end up crying out with Saint Augustine as he said in his Confessions, “Lord, make me pure, but not yet.” We end up crying out with the Apostle Paul, “The good that I would I do not: And the evil that I would not, that I do.” Or we end up having to say with Goethe that “there’s enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue.” There’s a tension at the heart of human nature. And whenever we set out to dream our dreams and to build our temples, we must be honest enough to recognize it.”“Unfulfilled Dreams” Sermon, Martin Luther King Jr.
” The human shape is a ghost
made of distraction and pain.
Sometimes pure light, sometimes cruel,
trying wildly to open,
this image tightly held within itself”Rumi
“Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know they are loved and capable of loving.”Fred Rogers
“We are all so much alike… and yet we’re all so different! I find myself rejoicing at the endless variety of human beings, and that’s partly, I know, because your differences from one another tell me that it’s all right for me to be different in many ways, too.”Fred Rogers
Share in the comments any quotes about being human that speak to you. I’d love to read them.
My kids have been enjoying I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde. It’s a short children’s book with a beautiful message.
I will share some of Susan Verde’s empowering words below.
This is the author’s dedication at the start:
“This book is my love letter to the world, as each one of us is worthy of love in all its forms and expressions, and we are ALL capable of adding light to the world when we listen to our hearts and choose love”.
The story begins as follow:
“When I see someone going through a storm of hurt and unfairness, of anger and sadness when the sun disappears and the skies grow dark….and I see there is fear…I ask myself, “What can I do to help let the light back in?” I put my hands on my heart and listen. And that is where I find the answer: I have compassion. I act with tenderness. I am love.”
The sweetly illustrated book then lists actions of love, what love is. These are some of the examples given in the book –
– “I can listen and not say a word. I can be there. Love is being present.”
– “I can speak softly and choose my words and actions carefully. Love is gentle.”
– “I can keep my mind and body safe and healthy. Love is taking care of me.”
– “I can express what’s important to me. Love is creative.”
What a wonderful, simple, practical, and empowering message for kids and adults! After a few reading sessions I discovered the author’s notes in the back of the book –
“Love is everywhere! It is inside of us and all around us, and there are so many ways it can be shared and expressed. But sometimes things happen in life that make us feel afraid, sad, frightened, or helpless, and our ability to find that love can get lost. “I am Love” is an exploration of the many ways love exists, and an affirmation of how – once we listen to our hearts and find the love within ourselves- we can share it with the world and find connection and compassion. My hope is that this book will inspire conversations with our children about love in all its expressions, and about how we are not helpless but in fact have the power to make the world more beautiful when we come from a place of love.”
I am seeing beacons of love, like Susan Lorde’s I Am Love: A Book of Compassion, everywhere. I often wonder how I remained unaware of all this beauty for so long. It sometimes feels like a riddle I “need” to solve. As if the answer could empower me to better support others in finding love again, or convince me I have security within this new world of experiencing love.
Though I guess, like described so wonderfully by Susan Lorde, it was hurt and fear that caused me to lose sight of my ability to love for so long. And what reawoke me to my ability to love? LOVE. What will keep me from falling so deeply back into the old fears and hurts? LOVE. How can I support others wherever they are on their journey? LOVE.
How powerful, how beautiful, how good, love is! How simple the equation, how simple the philosophy of love. But how difficult to stay on the path of love…yet it always remains in all its beauty and power within us and around us. Welcoming us back, with open arms, a smile, and celebration. Healing. To be lost and found over and over again.
This path like nature of love vs. a destination is something I have been pondering recently. It seems I always have farther to go, more to learn, more growth. I so often, unknowingly, wander off the path of love. And have to seek love’s path again.
Though, so far, my experience has been that I do not get as deeply lost as I was before all this change within me. Before all this change within me, I had deeply lost track of my ability to love (so much so I didn’t even believe in the existence of a purer love) yet I was searching for love again. Whereas now I often, unknowingly, wander away from love’s path. But usually rather quickly recognize I have left love’s path and somewhat smoothly redirect myself back towards love. I seem to know where my love is better now, and how to get back to it.
At first I felt this wandering and returning was a “problem” so to say. A sign of an underdeveloped area within me, an area that needed to learn and grow. But I am starting to feel this unknowing journeying away from love’s path, realizing of having journeyed, and then reorienting myself back to love’s path will continue. Maybe it is simply part of being human. Part of the nature of a free being who is living, learning, creating, and growing empowered by love.
A new relationship has been forming between me and the internal things (thoughts and feelings) within me. I see them more clearly as distinct things which exist outside of my real center of self/consciousness. They are all around me within my internal world, but they are not within ME. In this more detached state, there is less fear of what I see and with less fear more freedom. Freedom to observe these mental things (thoughts and feelings) with more curiosity and to study them more deeply.
Sometimes as I sit with and study a familiar thought or feeling around me internally a completely unfamiliar thoughts or feeling, seemingly connected to the familiar one, arises. I often feel the urge to leave these unfamiliar thoughts unstudied. I’ll think “How could they be relevant to my life if I have never used them consciously in decision making?”. Even more, not only are these thoughts totally unfamiliar, they often appear inaccurate and illogical to me (ex. “If someone isn’t being loving to me, then it must be the case I do not deserve their love. Therefore I should change my behavior until I can be lovable to them.). My thinking mind considers these thoughts to be ridiculous. It would never use them in any decision making process. Therefore my thinking mind forcefully declares these thoughts are irrelevant to me and my life.
Yet if I stick with my study of these unfamiliar and illogical thoughts, and especially if I try to speak to someone else about them, sometimes strong and uncontrollable emotions will instantly pour out of me. I breakdown in tears. The tears surprise me. They often embarrass me. I believe I am simply trying to study or discuss untrue and illogical thoughts I do not hold. If I try to introspect and determine what within me is causing the tears, I don’t recognize any emotion or thought within me that could explain the tears. I feel fine.
But this contrast between how I feel and how I am acting confuses and frustrates me. I do not have that uniquely personal ability to introspect/to see what is within this mind who is crying. It is as if someone else’s mind has gained control over my external emotional expressions. Though I know this is not true. Rather it must be that I have completely lost introspective touch with a part of my emotional brain. Though clearly that part has not lost touch/control over my body. I suspect this lost part of my emotional mind is part of my unconscious mind. I have always believed in the unconscious mind, but never before have I experienced a mindful awareness that I am witnessing it’s effects acting through me.
In order to know what is within this part of my unconscious, I must use my reasoning abilities. I first collect information by observing how my body is acting (crying). Then I reason that within my internal but unconscious world there must be some feeling of sadness, emotional pain, or hurt.
It appears that my calmer and freer introspection/observation of my familiar internal world is allowing me to see for the first time some of the unconscious (“unfamiliar and illogical”) thoughts and feelings which are fueling these more familiar thoughts and feelings. That would explain why these unfamiliar thoughts are suddenly appearing internally around me now that I am more deeply studying my familiar thoughts and feelings. It may also help explain why they often appear to me to be illogical or inaccurate thoughts. They were learned/formed by a much younger me’s knowledge, perspective, and freedom. A me in a different world.
But before I go more into the origin of these beliefs, I find it important to add I have tried to study how frequently unconscious/invisible thoughts may be influencing my actual choices and behavior. I took one of these newly conscious/visible “unfamiliar and illogical thoughts” and looked back to see if there was any evidence of its influence in my past choices, actions, understanding of other people and myself, etc. I found evidence of its influence EVERYWHERE. It was a missing variable. It helped explain some of my most puzzling habitual choices and behaviors. Even more I realized other people had seen my actions and suggested maybe I had this thought/feeling. I couldn’t introspect it within me, so I had never believed that I did hold such a thought/feeling. But now I infer it was unconsciously fueling many of my past choices and behaviors.
Returning back to why the beliefs I become conscious of from the unconscious would appear to me as illogical and untrue, I assume this is because the unconscious largely learned what it knows during my childhood. Therefore within a child’s knowledge, perspective and freedom it solidified the code of best action for thriving in “the world” including what is dangerous for me. I left childhood – I acquired more knowledge, more perspectives, more power, and more freedom. But what happened to everything I had learned, my code of life? What is the relationship between the child’s old and deeply practiced knowledge of the world and how best to thrive in it and all the adult’s new and ever growing knowledge, perspectives, and freedoms. How did/do they interact?
I am not sure. But I suspect I have long lived as a feeling and thinking learning machine struggling in perpetual confusion. A feeling and thinking learning machine that can only be and live in the present, but through my memory code can get lost in “the past”. I can fiercely battle to defend myself and life from long gone but now unconsciously self-empowered demons. A feeling and thinking learning machine that can only be and live in the present, but through my imagination code can get lost in “the future”. I can imagine “what is” could be better (more beautiful, happier, etc, ) and this imagining of possibilities clouds my vision of the real “what is” before me. “What is” becomes seen as not enough. It could be more good therefore is is not yet good (it is bad), it could be more beautiful therefore is is not yet beautiful( it is ugly), it could be more happy therefore is not yet happy (it is sad).
I am a feeling and thinking learning machines who knows that I have the power and am free to update my code, and therefore expects to look out and see my true self in how I show up in the world. Yet so often I look out and see I act drastically out of step with how I code/will myself to act. This can lead me to doubt my very nature, doubt whether I am beautiful and good on the inside. If I am, wouldn’t I see that beautiful and good self in my actions? Or it leads me to doubt my power and freedom to truly update my code. Who or what controls my actions then? There can be no peace for a learning machine made for living life (action), but in a state of perpetual confusion about the internal world and external one.
Yet, there is hope! Clarity. For maybe it is true that I have the power and freedom to update/modernize my code, maybe that’s never been lacking. Maybe what has been lacking is the ability to see/access the old code, and even more the acceptance that such an unconscious/invisible code exists. How can one change what one can not see? But now I know through experience such an unconscious mind/code is within me and can (without my awareness) be the fuel of my thoughts and feelings and therefore actions. Even more I have experienced that if I can study my conscious thoughts and feelings in a detached state, once unconscious thoughts and feelings sometimes arise before my consciousness. I can see code that was once invisible to me, so maybe now I can start to change/update it.
And it does seem that once my thinking mind reasons an unfamiliar thought or feeling explains some of my past actions and makes sense as being learned from my childhood, it becomes understood and accepted as existing within an unconscious part of my mind. This understanding and acceptance integrates the unconscious part back into my conscious mind- back into the internal world around me I can see/introspect.
With this ability to see/introspect the once unconscious thought in real time as it is triggered in my day to day life, I have the freedom to reason whether the thought is accurately capturing the truth within me or in the world. I have the freedom to gather more information to determine it’s accuracy or test out a different thought. When I cultivate more accurate/true thoughts than I see myself and the external world more accurately/true. This changes my thoughts and actions. I look within and without into the external world and more often see the beautiful, good, and true world and the beautiful, good, and true me actually showing up in it.
The transcript below is from: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/ I removed parts of the transcript, which I felt weren’t crucial, to make it a slightly shorter read. I find this a beautiful and insightful description of the nature and power of love.
His sermon follows:
“So I want to turn your attention to this subject: “Loving Your Enemies.” It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation: the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.
Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.
Now first let us deal with this question, which is the practical question: How do you go about loving your enemies? I think the first thing is this: In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing self. And I’m sure that seems strange to you, that I start out telling you this morning that you love your enemies by beginning with a look at self. It seems to me that that is the first and foremost way to come to an adequate discovery to the how of this situation. Now, I’m aware of the fact that some people will not like you, not because of something you have done to them, but they just won’t like you. I’m quite aware of that. Some people aren’t going to like the way you walk; some people aren’t going to like the way you talk. Some people aren’t going to like you because you can do your job better than they can do theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because other people like you, and because you’re popular, and because you’re well-liked, they aren’t going to like you. Some people aren’t going to like you because your hair is a little shorter than theirs or your hair is a little longer than theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little brighter than theirs; and others aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little darker than theirs. So that some people aren’t going to like you. They’re going to dislike you, not because of something that you’ve done to them, but because of various jealous reactions and other reactions that are so prevalent in human nature.
But after looking at these things and admitting these things, we must face the fact that an individual might dislike us because of something that we’ve done deep down in the past, some personality attribute that we possess, something that we’ve done deep down in the past and we’ve forgotten about it; but it was that something that aroused the hate response within the individual. That is why I say, begin with yourself. There might be something within you that arouses the tragic hate response in the other individual.
……….. King discusses political systems and how self analysis is helpful there too.
And this is what Jesus means when he said: “How is it that you can see the mote in your brother’s eye and not see the beam in your own eye?” Or to put it in Moffatt’s translation: “How is it that you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?” And this is one of the tragedies of human nature. So we begin to love our enemies and love those persons that hate us whether in collective life or individual life by looking at ourselves.
A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and every time you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points. I’ve said to you on many occasions that each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul. And there is this continual struggle within the very structure of every individual life. There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Ovid, the Latin poet, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.” There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Plato that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions. There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Goethe, “There is enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue.” There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Apostle Paul: “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.”
So somehow the “isness” of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts us. And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never slough off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.
Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.
………………. King discusses the Greek language’s 3 types of Love (Eros, Philia, and Agape)
The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape, and agape is more than eros. Agape is more than philia. Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.
And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, “Love your enemy.” And it’s significant that he does not say, “Like your enemy.” Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.
Now for the few moments left, let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.
I think I mentioned before that sometime ago my brother and I were driving one evening to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Atlanta. He was driving the car. And for some reason the drivers were very discourteous that night. They didn’t dim their lights; hardly any driver that passed by dimmed his lights. And I remember very vividly, my brother A. D. looked over and in a tone of anger said: “I know what I’m going to do. The next car that comes along here and refuses to dim the lights, I’m going to fail to dim mine and pour them on in all of their power.” And I looked at him right quick and said: “Oh no, don’t do that. There’d be too much light on this highway, and it will end up in mutual destruction for all. Somebody got to have some sense on this highway.”
Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn’t it? That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs. And Toynbee tells that out of the twenty-two civilizations that have risen up, all but about seven have found themselves in the junkheap of destruction. It is because civilizations fail to have sense enough to dim the lights. And if somebody doesn’t have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful and powerful lights of love in this world, the whole of our civilization will be plunged into the abyss of destruction. And we will all end up destroyed because nobody had any sense on the highway of history. Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.
There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.
And this is why Jesus says hate, that you want to be integrated with yourself, and the way to be integrated with yourself is be sure that you meet every situation of life with an abounding love. Never hate, because it ends up in tragic, neurotic responses. Psychologists and psychiatrists are telling us today that the more we hate, the more we develop guilt feelings and we begin to subconsciously repress or consciously suppress certain emotions, and they all stack up in our subconscious selves and make for tragic, neurotic responses. And may this not be the neuroses of many individuals as they confront life that that is an element of hate there. And modern psychology is calling on us now to love. But long before modern psychology came into being, the world’s greatest psychologist who walked around the hills of Galilee told us to love. He looked at men and said: “Love your enemies; don’t hate anybody.” It’s not enough for us to hate your friends because—to to love your friends—because when you start hating anybody, it destroys the very center of your creative response to life and the universe; so love everybody. Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.
Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. “love your enemies.”
….King gives example of Abraham Lincoln and Stanton.
That’s it. There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.”
And oh this morning, as I think of the fact that our world is in transition now. Our whole world is facing a revolution. Our nation is facing a revolution, our nation. One of the things that concerns me most is that in the midst of the revolution of the world and the midst of the revolution of this nation, that we will discover the meaning of Jesus’ words. History unfortunately leaves some people oppressed and some people oppressors. And there are three ways that individuals who are oppressed can deal with their oppression. One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh this isn’t the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves. And I’ve said, in so many instances, that as the Negro, in particular, and colored peoples all over the world struggle for freedom, if they succumb to the temptation of using violence in their struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way.
Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. Some people do that. They discover the difficulties of the wilderness moving into the promised land, and they would rather go back to the despots of Egypt because it’s difficult to get in the promised land. And so they resign themselves to the fate of oppression; they somehow acquiesce to this thing. But that too isn’t the way because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
But there is another way. And that is to organize mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love. It seems to me that this is the only way as our eyes look to the future. As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that.
……Martin Luther King Jr. talks about military leaders realizing that love leads to more followers than force.
And our civilization must discover that. Individuals must discover that as they deal with other individuals. There is a little tree planted on a little hill and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.
So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.” And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.”Martin Luther King Jr.
I don’t have anything to add to those powerful words. I will share some of my thoughts and feelings when I first stumbled upon this sermon on Youtube. I was deeply moved. I hadn’t often (if ever) heard such a strong faith in and reasoned argument for the ultimate power of love. My whole self seemed to be in agreement that this sermon’s message was beautiful and the good. “Yes this path of radical love is beautiful and good. I love this!”. Yet similar to when I watched the Grace vs. Nature section from Tree of Life (I shared in past post), something inside of me rose up quickly to deny that I (or any human) could ever truly love their enemy. It was as if first there was a “Yes, yes, this is the Truth, the answer!” but quickly this more cynical voice arose and said “Sure, but how?” or “This isn’t possible” or became aggressive towards myself “You don’t/couldn’t live like this!” or maybe even doubted the speaker “I bet he doesn’t really feel/live like this.”.
When I first encountered this sermon I had begun my journey/struggle back to myself, so the cynical voice inside me didn’t capture as much of my attention. It had always kept me from diving into the truth of the philosophy of love, but it didn’t seem to have that strength anymore. This sermon hit hard, that cynical voice was still there but the voice saying “Yes, yes, this is the Truth, the answer” was louder now and was able to outlive the cynical one. I was left seeing that I was not currently aware of a feeling of “loving my enemy” but that I wanted that feeling. I believed it was possible. I felt Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus had both discovered and lived, to a large extent, in the state of that radical love for all. I wondered what would it take for me to experience the love for all they had experienced and to live more in that state? But I had doubts, I worried that maybe it wasn’t possible for the average person to truly love their enemy or maybe it just wasn’t possible for someone like me. These worries gave me a sense of hopelessness and guilt. But another notion rose up around these feelings of worry and guilt, and it wondered “Was the hope and striving towards loving all, even if I was never able to experience it or live in it, in itself beautiful and good?”.
I knew I wanted to hear everything I could about this philosophy of love. I searched for more Martin Luther King Jr. sermon’s. I found his sermon “Unfulfilled Dreams” which helped me find my answer to whether my hope and striving towards love of all was enough or whether I must reach this goal of love of all. In his sermon “Unfulfilled Dreams” Martin Luther King Jr. says
“And then we come to that passage over in the eighth chapter of First Kings, which reads, “And it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. And the Lord said unto David my father, ‘Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was within thine heart.’” And that’s really what I want to talk about this morning: it is well that it was within thine heart. As if to say, “David, you will not be able to finish the temple. You will not be able to build it. But I just want to bless you, because it was within thine heart. Your dream will not be fulfilled. The majestic hopes that guided your days will not be carried out in terms of an actual temple coming into being that you were able to build. But I bless you, David, because it was within thine heart. You had the desire to do it; you had the intention to do it; you tried to do it; you started to do it. And I bless you for having the desire and the intention in your heart. It is well that it was within thine heart.”
These words from Martin Luther King Jr. allowed me to understand and accept that my hope and striving for love of all (even my enemies) was good and beautiful in itself, even if the goal was never realized/lived.
This peace with where I was at, not yet aware of “loving my enemy” but striving for that state of love, was powerful. It freed me from guilt, which allowed me to drop some of my old defenses. Rather quickly, with those ego self defenses down, I was able to see there was no hate for “my enemy” in my heart. I didn’t see love. But recognizing there was no hate was a powerful early step in this journey to reconnect to myself/my child self/my real self, that self that lives in a state of love for all and everything.
In my lowest depths of being lost, a meaninglessness of life and myself weighed heavy on me. I felt emptied out, neither happy or sad, just nothing. Every task, every day big and small was an annoying little burden. Nothing felt particularly challenging or painful just meaningless. Effort in any direction felt like too much effort. “What’s the point?” was the common mood. But somehow lost within these dark thoughts and feelings my true self remained unconvinced. She was somewhat afraid and kept reminding me “something is wrong, these thoughts are not you”. She sensed how far astray I had wandered from myself, how attentively and deeply I was staring into darkness and delusions, into meaninglessness.
In this state one of my favorite books, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, started popping into mind. Looking back, it seems my real self was trying to turn my attention to the light. Specifically it was the a character’s final realizations that kept arising within my mind: (Big Anna Karenina SPOILER below, so skip following quote if you want to avoid spoiler)
“but my life now, my whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no more meaningless, as it was before, but it has the positive meaning of goodness, which I have the power to put into it.”
When I had read Anna Karenina many years before those words, that character, Tolstoy, had caught my attention and showed me a glimpse of the beautiful and good meaning within me, within us all, and within the world. I had been too lost within delusions (of myself and the world) at the time to see any truth to Tolstoy’s words though. I recognized how profound it was, but couldn’t see how it had any relevance to my “real life”. So my attention quickly moved back to the many distractions of “true” life.
Yet my heart must have stored away Tolstoy’s words. For when the many delusions/darkness (which I had been staring into for as long as I can remember) started to feel meaningless, suddenly I was free to turn my attention elsewhere. I started encountering my real self more often. This idea from Tolstoy, my “power” to add even a small “positive meaning of goodness” to life, was one of the earliest beautiful and good ideas I kept encountering. Others followed as she poured out the beautiful and good (sacred even) thoughts, feelings, and dreams, etc. which I had gathered through life and protected away in my heart.
Finally I was back to myself and the world. For the first time in my adult life I was facing the beautiful and the good with enough freedom from delusions/darkness to have FAITH. Faith that there was truth in beauty and goodness It wasn’t a truth I could immediately see, but I was determined to no longer reject it outright as false. The old life long beliefs had finally shown their real face, paths of emptiness and meaninglessness to an empty and meaningless destination. They no longer had any appeal. I was determined to find and see the goodness and the beauty everywhere. It felt my heart already knew it was there (maybe it remembers what we can not from childhood). I started seeking out others’ visions and understandings throughout history on the beauty and the goodness (on that which they love).
Beautiful and clear description of the possibilities for each of us. 3 minutes to 7:40 in particular stand out.
I feel as if life before was a battle for my true freedom (which I already had). Well it felt like a battle, but it may have been more a learning of how to live that free will (how to realize that potential). I was full of dreams and wants, but so often when I saw my actions and the thoughts I was in they were not those that I loved. A Bible verse captures it well:
King James Bible: “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I”
These other versions of Bible lay it out even clearer:
New International Version: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”
New Living Translation: I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”
This seems like a communication from a “I am”/true self who is lost in that place so many of us seem to have fallen into some point before we can even remember. This “I am”/true self is still lost in misidentification, but it recognizes that something isn’t going quite right with the system. It knows it has a great power, and it knows it isn’t being harnessed properly yet. It knows what it wants, but it sees often what it does isn’t what it wants. When it finds itself, the observer within/”I am”/true self, it will gain that real freedom it knows it already has.
When it finds itself, it will start the process of living in harmony with its ego system. Out of that ego system the ego scripts (thoughts) will keep appearing before the “I am”/true self, but now the “I am”/true self will recognize those ego scripts are all stories/suggestions it can choose which one to flow into and give life (more thoughts and also external actions) or it can choose to flow into none of the offered suggestions in that moment. The “I am” is always at peace where it is. Without attention/energy/life from the “I am” the ego scripts fade, and the ego system sends more suggestions. There is learning within all this too it seems. The ego scripts which are given life/attention/energy to the ego system takes note in some way and then seems to suggest them to the “I am” more frequently. Ego scripts which get passed over over and over seem to be sent to stand before the “I am” less frequently.
A beautiful harmony seems to grow within this system. The “I am” being the observer who has the love, energy, calm, life within it which it can choose to flow into and give that life and energy to the ego scripts. Without the ego scripts it seems there would be no internal thoughts the “I am” would be locked in merely observing the actions of the body which would arise from some unconscious system within the body. It seems there would be no free will.
Without the “I am”, it is a hard state to imagine, but it seems that the body would be running like an unconscious machine of sorts, like a clock or the weather. Things happen, but no one wills it and their is no experiential state within it/no awareness/no consciousness/no “what it feels like to be a clock”. Whether this is true or not for the clock or weather I do not know. But it seems we often imagine it to be this way.
Another possibility is with no “I am” we would be in the state we often imagine animals to be in. There is an experience of what it is like to be a dog or a butterfly, but they are not aware of themselves as an “I”. They are conscious (experience/feel fear, joy,sadness, pain, etc.) but they don’t seem to observe self consciously. They do not experience this sense of “I am” happy/sad/afraid”, this feeling that they are a self experiencing something. They just are what they experience in the moment.
It might also be the case that without the “I am” the body would simply fail to move or have any thoughts within at all (or maybe ego scripts would still be sent but even that is hard to understand because they are empty without the “I Am”. Like scripts for a computer with no computer, what is that? Is it possible?). This state sounds like what death looks like. This line of thought about what the system would be/could be without an “I am” is interesting to me. I want to explore this more.
When the old ego scripts were failing to find contentment for me day after day. I was lost. I had identified with them for what seemed/seems like forever. I do not remember a time before them. Though I do suspect I remember, often in a wordless way, the original/real me (the “I am”) and maybe earlier ego scripts I’ve identified with.
Looking back it appears ego scripts have been suggested to my mind (ego system?) by people around me or people’s ego scripts expressed and preserved (through books, music, movies, video, etc.). Some ego scripts others showed me my “I am” loved, it wanted to flow into them/live them, but it didn’t know how. These beautiful, good, and true ego scripts were stored inside me (my ego system) in my memory. There was a vividness to them, a pull. Through life when they would pop up internally before my “I am” they never appeared ugly or bad, but my faith in the scripts being possible to be lived in for me or for anyone was always quite low. Quickly they would be deemed a beautiful, good, impossible dream and “I am” would turn attention to something else. When I look back those ego scripts I feel appeared before me very end goal laden. While my “I am” loved that end goal picture before me, my “I am” didn’t yet seem able to see any of that goal already before me in the present or any paths (steps) in the present moment that could be smoothly taken that would be a path to that end goal (while at the same time having the good and beauty of that goal already within it). This feels difficult to express. I am still learning how to express how my inner world seemed and is, and how I interacted and now interact with it.
It feels an important shift happened within me when my old ego scripts I had been flowing into/living (as opposed to just storing and sometimes studying) started commanding, it felt like, my “I am” to do things so powerfully against what the “I am” loves. It’s as if alarm bells went off. I couldn’t yet ground “I am” (couldn’t find myself), but I was staring into those ego scripts which I had picked up each morning and flowed into effortlessly for so long and the flow was suddenly being stopped as my “I am” seemed to be saying “NO” run it again this output (these actions) you suggest do not reflect who I know i am, run it again, and over and over ugly, un good, untrue outputs, run it again!. And exhaustion set it. My “I am” had no distance yet to understand what was happening. But the journey to that understanding was hitting a point, important times of accelerated growth were right ahead. Though in that time, in the moment, I felt I was in one of the darkest places of my life. It seems to have been the dark night of my soul. But within my ego system sending out the old ego scripts over and over(the one’s I had been choosing to flow into/live all my life), but outside my attention in the moment, lay the ego scripts “I am” loved. Their moment was near.
I saw Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life a couple of years ago. It spoke to me. But I didn’t understand how it related to real life, I felt something powerful was being expressed, something good and beautiful. But what truth did it have in it? I wasn’t sure.
In the midst of this journey/ growth/changing/returning to being comfortable with who I am, I searched for clips from the Tree of Life. There was a pull back to it since it had spoken to “I am” years before. I felt overwhelmed by this clip. It brought tears to my eyes. It was good, beautiful, and I felt a new sense of faith in it being TRUE. A new element of the experience was added. This increase in the truth experience, seemed to increase the sense of beauty and goodness too.
As time has passed, and I watch in now, the faith in the truth of it have increased to a recognition of sorts a “Yes, that describes it well”, a certainty. Parts of the clip (in particular the line “when all the world is shining around it, when love is smiling through all things” and her sense of faith and maybe even surrender in the line “I will be true to you, whatever comes”) which felt powerful to me a short time ago, where I guess a wish/remembering in my heart pulled me to a faith in that experience being possible/true, I now understand in a more experiential way. I want to rewatch this movie.