(originally published in Tumbleweird February 2019)
by Ted Miller
I’m a believer in love. I believe in the power of love.
But what does that mean? When I sat down to write this column, I wanted to write a concise definition of what love means to me, but I didn’t know where to start.
Millions of words have been written to try to describe love. Stories about love have been told in every language since humans first developed the ability to communicate. We all experience love, yet every experience of love is different.
The capacity to love is fundamental to our human experience. In fact, love is essential to childhood development and to our physical and mental well-being.
Love binds us together. It is love that makes us care for each other. A mother loves her child unconditionally from before birth. Parents care for their children without an expectation of anything in return. Love keeps families together through generations. Love among friends and within a community leads us to pool resources together for the common good. Love is the thing that ensures our species survives. And love for our fellow humans can lift us all and make the world a better place.
Every major religion teaches about the importance of love, especially love for those who are less fortunate, those who are strangers, even those who are our enemies.
In Buddhism, the Dhammapada, 1:5 says, “For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an ancient and eternal rule.”
In Judaism, Leviticus 19:34 says, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
In the Christian bible, John 15:12, Jesus says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
In Islam, Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Number 72, “None of you has faith until he loves for his brother or his neighbor what he loves for himself.”
Other religions have similar teachings. All are variations on the golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. Or more simply, love each other like you love yourself.
When I think about the power of love, I remember Aesop’s story of the North Wind and the Sun. The Sun bets the North Wind that he can get the traveler remove his coat. The North Wind, thinking he is more powerful, accepts the challenge. But the stronger the North Wind blows, the tighter the traveler closes his coat. The Sun then comes out. The Sun’s warmth soon encourages the man to loosen and then remove his coat. The moral: warmth and kindness wins. To me, this story is a metaphor that means love is stronger than hate.
I’m not naïve enough to think evil doesn’t exist in the world. Humans have a terrible capacity for divisiveness and hatred. The daily news is full of stories of racism, homophobia, and misogyny. War, genocide, and slavery exist today. Although we have the resources and capacity to feed and clothe the world, millions of humans suffer in poverty and hunger every day.
All too often, people who don’t look like us, talk like us, worship like us, or think like us are not treated as one of us. The partisan division in this country is worse than at any time in my life. The hate I see on social media makes me wonder if we can ever come together as a country, let alone continue the long road towards justice and peace for all. Where is the love?
There are times I feel hopeless and want to just retreat from the world. But I refuse to give in to the darkness. I refuse to give up hope. I still believe we are capable of seeing the good in each other.
We can value the dignity of every human being and treat everyone with love and respect while at the same time protecting ourselves from those that would do us harm. We can work together to help those less fortunate than us. We can speak up for the oppressed. We can demand a government that works for the common good. We can remember the golden rule and choose love.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
I believe in love. The alternative is too much to bear.