“Let the disciples cultivate love without measure towards all beings.
Let them cultivate towards the whole world, above, below and around
a heart of love unstinted….For in all the world this state of heart is the best”
Many years ago I was watching a TV discussion programme with great interest. Its focus was on crime and the street gangs of America. On the stage was a young girl who was unashamedly speaking, in detail, about her criminal activities within the context of a New York gang. When she finished speaking a woman arose from her seat, at the back of the studio audience and said: “ Honey, you’re looking for love in all the wrong places, ” then promptly sat down again. I remember vividly how this statement affected me. It carried so much weight and clarity I couldn’t help but share it with friends afterwards. I think the insight gained from this simple message is very profound. The young girl was indeed in the wrong place, seeking recognition and acceptance from the wrong people – violent gang members. She felt a part of something bigger than herself – the collective group and in this she could get lost along with her responsibilities to behave in a positive way. She sought affirmation and validation from others who accepted the role of hurting people. What the woman in the studio audience said, in a very succinct and clear way, is we all need love and we should all be looking for that love in the right places. Not side tracked for misplaced acceptance, not selling out for peer group approval, not allowing ourselves to grab at imitations, but going after the real thing – a love that embraces and unifies every living soul. All that we engage with in life ( our thoughts, actions and communication ) is either an expression of love or a cry for help ( which is also an expression of love ). Anger, rage, hostility and resentment are, at a deeper level, all wanting acknowledgement and attention – they are all pleas to be understood. All bad behaviour can be seen as an ineffective response to unmet, often deep-seated psychological needs and at the very core of this ‘ acting out ‘ is the desire for love.
THE LOVE OF POWER OR THE POWER OF LOVE?
The mythical dwarf Alberich, in Wagner’s Das Rheingold, abandons the quest for love in favour of power. He seeks out the forces of control and darkness ( the love of power ) to that of union and light ( the power of love ). Our young, female gang member made similar choices. She had discarded a life of positive self expression, that could have helped people, to adopt behaviour that hurt them.
But in a turbulent, unsettling world where we struggle to find meaning, where we can be emotionally stripped bare to expose our raw vulnerabilities, would we always make the right choices? If we are made to tremble before our own projected, negative feelings of low self esteem and unworthiness, would we necessarily make the right decisions?
A true, authentic spiritual life must recognize and acknowledge that something outside of ourselves needs to be served. It must call us to embrace the diversity of humanity, with all its shortcomings and faults, in a universal fellowship of love and compassion. There is no other way. It is the very life where we must surrender ourselves, our judgements and opinions, in order to be made ready for greater understanding, empathy and sympathy. Thus the mind that cannot expand to hold these greater qualities, to grow within their light, is the mind that is still separated and divided.
LOVE IS POTENTIALLY EVERYWHERE
Love lays waiting ready to be awakened, broken open in every moment, in every human encounter, in every human heart. It comes from a higher, spiritual realm, beyond our narrow selves, and speaks to us all in a collective voice of mutual sharing and bonding. It is a gift to others and very much a gift to ourselves. That is the reward, because the more we give love away the more we will receive it back – a spiritual reality of such magnitude and profundity that it can quite take our breath away….
It’s easy for us to love the loveable ( our family and friends ) but the real challenge, and the greatest rewards come from loving the un-loveable. The people who have lost their way in life and who find it difficult to act in positive ways, these are the people that need our love and we must love them until they start to love themselves…..
“ Love is the law of life. All love is expansion, all selfishness is contraction. Love is the only law of life…… Therefore, love for love’s sake, because it is the law of life, just as you breathe to live.”