It’s a joke across my various networks of friends that I am a relentless and incessant inquirer into people’s souls, starting conversations with ridiculous Inquisition-like musings (“Tell me the 3 most important facts about yourself.”) that change every few weeks.
In November, the question became, “On what principle(s) do you think the universe operates?”
Cue bizarre looks, eyerolls and sheepishly uttered I-don’t-knows.
I’m still waiting for a few answers (you know who you are! It’s been a month and a half!), but I got everything from “randomness” to “science” to “contagious energies” to “humour.” Let me be clear in saying that this is not me asking for a profession of faith (though you could give a religious response if you wanted to); I was simply asking why people thought the world functioned the way it did day-to-day.
When the question was thrown back at me (as it so often is now…people are catching on!), I gave my go-to response: LOVE. I took a course on domestic violence my last semester at Loyola where we examined “love”– what it meant, where it came from and what its byproducts were. One thread of discussion led me to a conclusion that made so much sense to me: even the most destructive emotions and feelings (fear, anger, hatred, devastating sadness) are based on love. They are not opposites of love; they are derivatives. (The opposite, FYI, would be apathy and lack of any sort of passion or commitment.) We feel those other sentiments when we become so deeply devoted to a person, an idea, WHATEVER, that we cannot imagine our lives without it.
I just finished reading the newly released This I Believe: On Love and have been so touched by so many stories. (I am such a sap.) The one still resonating with me (read it all here) tells a story of a woman’s children who give so fully of themselves in so many ways—verbally, emotionally, physically—and their material kindness is, proportionally, is more than most of us ever consider to give.
With the holidays, I always feel deeply grateful for all I have (and could have) and simultaneously overwhelmed with how much I have that I don’t need/use. I always consider giving away so many of those things that are in excess in my life, and somehow another year always flies by before I ever ACTUALLY follow through.
That TIB story that touched me so deeply ends by saying, “If we all took the time to love as innocently as a child, what would come of this world? If we took the time to give someone our favorite doll or our tooth fairy money, what difference would that make to another?” and that made me think about how exactly the love of children differs from the love I try to practice in my daily life. I realized that, with children, there are no factors that limit their love. They are not worried about budgeting or maintaining their own quality of life or keeping what they earn; they see someone’s needs being unmet and they give part of what they have to ensure that those needs come closer to being met, even if only for a few hours, simply because they are a fellow person.
The story and my reflections led me to think about what is inhibiting how I love, who I love, and why I love certain people without fully loving all people. I think new year’s resolutions, if we make them at all, should be a goal set to put new practices and lifestyles into place that last all year long, even after the holiday glow has worn off from the rest of society. Mine just might be an investigation of what is holding me back from loving others as much as I am able to.
What is holding you back?
“Love is the only rational act.” –Stephen Levine
For more TIB essays/books or to write your own: This I Believe