“Remember who you are.”
This is a great quote from The Lion King (a movie I’ve seen more times than I can count, thanks to little people who live with me). The son of the deceased king hears the deep, resonant voice of his father speak these words in a moment of discouragement and perceived impotency. He hears, and remembers. He is strong. He is, in fact, King. He had forgotten who he was, forgotten his birthright, his higher calling, and in that forgetting he was in danger of being overwhelmed by the forces of evil surrounding him.
I thought of this line during dinner with friends. We were discussing world affairs and all feeling like the young lion; discouraged and powerless. It’s disheartening to acknowledge how much suffering there is in the world, how we’re using up our resources and the glaciers are melting and people are dying in suicide bombings and how many orphans there are and how many animals being euthanized and nuclear treaties that leave us with just as much capacity to destroy the world fifty times over as before. It all starts to feel not a little futile.
But as my friend put her head on the table in mock (and real) despair, it occurred to me that we were forgetting an integral piece of the story. We were forgetting who we are, what we are. Missing from our discussion was the impact that consciousness – which I believe is synonymous with love – can have on world affairs. Love can change anything.
“Write about that in your column,” my friend said (and this from a man who has spent most of his life in corporate America). “Write about love.”
So I went home and asked my six-year-old what he thinks love is. He thought quietly and then replied, “Love is something that makes you feel good inside.” Succinct, and correct. By this definition anything not imbued with love would make you feel bad, therefore war is not love, indifference is not love, feeling stupid, inadequate, fearful, jealous – not love. It’s a pretty simple measure, really.
Love is the creative, expansive energy of the universe. The absence of love (or the perceived absence of it, a point I will get to presently) contracts: it contracts the heart, creating a sense of lack and fear and separation. Psychiatrist Scott Peck writes in The Road Less Traveled that, “Love is the willingness to extend one’s self for one’s own or another’s personal growth.” The act of loving is anything which nurtures, grows, expands or benefits.
Love always implies sacrifice, which means “to make sacred.” When you love something or someone you are making it sacred. You are recognizing the divine in it and you are acting from the divine within you. Love is the re-cognizing that we are all one. It is re-membering: putting us all back together in one piece. Everything and everyone is a note in the single melody of the Universe, a word that means “one song.”
When we forget this connectedness, when we forget that we are all fractal aspects of the One –whole unto ourselves yet irreplaceable elements to an even larger song – we begin to contract. We begin to protect ourselves and to imagine a world of “us” and “them” or “me” and “it.” We take our planet for granted, as though it were a lifeless thing rather than a living, breathing expression of ourselves. We hoard, we compete, we defend, we attack, we fear.
Love has not disappeared in these cases: it has simply been forgotten. When we begin to believe the fiction that we are separate from others, different or better than others, we contract and pull away from the life force of Love. We panic, as though we are alone in a dark room, forgetting to turn on the light, forgetting that the familiar is still there, even in the dark. Love is always there. It’s everywhere. It’s in all things. It’s in you. It is you.
Love is not a sentimental feeling or an idealistic notion: Love is the core of reality. It is both noun and verb. In grade school we learn that a verb is “an action word.” Loves acts. The love of Chilean mothers for their children who were kidnapped and murdered by the Pinochet regime helped form the uprising against that government. The flower children helped to bring about the end of the Vietnam conflict. Love enabled a tiny, poor nun in India to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work serving of the “untouchables” in Calcutta. Love is not separate from world affairs, not incidental to politics or business. Love is political.
Our collective amnesia of the interrelatedness of all things is what creates the destruction and despair in our world. But governments and politics and suffering are all mutable; nothing is beyond the influence of love. Centuries ago Lao-Tzu wrote that, “the softest thing in the universe overcomes the hardest thing … That without substance can enter where there is no room.”
It’s not who or what you love that matters; it is that you can and do love, actively, freely, fiercely. Remember who you are: you are strong, you are infinitely powerful. You are love.