Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Love and Law

Wayne Jacobsen wrote a little blurb about law and love and what he learned about them. About how love is supposed to be the code to live by but, if we don't love, then the written law will be the one we'll have to get by with. If you ask me, I'd rather have the love standard, both to act and to be acted upon me.
Wayne Jacobsen is also the co-author of an online book I liked called So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore.
You can read it online. I found not great literature but very helpful and refreshing.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Surprise! You are Loved

What would surprise and delight you more than anything? For me it would be to learn I am loved. For to be loved gives me a solid place to stand. It affirms from the outside what my self-love affirms from the inside. It lets me feel life is worth living. But more often than not I do not feel loved.
Most of the time we travel in an environment that seems without love. The lack of love we perceive becomes, to one degree or another, the very foundation of our lives.
Here's how it starts. From early childhood many of our experiences suggest to us there is no love, at least not for us. Then because we are human souls, not machines, we internalize this information and store it in our memory with all the meta data (physical, emotional and psychic pain and shame) that accompanies it. Then we proceed to confirm it experimentally. Because we assume a biased posture for the no-love issue our experiments and their results become skewed toward the no-love result. When it comes to the issue of Love or No-love, we are not good scientists. Neither are we good historians. We are fraudulent and the results are wrong. Not only that but we rarely stop to re-examine them. Instead, something unconscious and automatic takes place.
The wrong information from our fraudulent life-experiments go directly into our actions without evaluation. The no-love belief system publishes itself in our spiritual, moral and ethical lives.
Now, mind you, I am not talking about me not-loving others. I'm sure I will write about that another time, but now I am talking about me not believing I am loved by others.
If you can't relate I'm not going to try to convince you. If you feel a tug you may examine your own heart. I hope you do.
But if you can relate, then surely you are thinking about re-evaluating this belief system. If we were biased historians or fraudulent bio-chemical researchers we would have to go public with our dishonesty and take our lumps. If our offenses were serious enough our professional careers might not even survive this attempted turn-around. We might have to find a new line of work.
But not so with the Love or No-love problem. We open our eyes, turn and see what we refused to see in the past—that there was love in the past, and there might be love around us now trying to touch us. We go back in our memories and look with unjaundiced eyes. I'm not speaking of a small change. It would be a big change. A new world-view. A re-birth actually.
In the professional, ethical, legal world we have to take our lumps when we want to turn over a new leaf. Not so with love. Love does not stab us in the back or kick us in the stomach. Love doesn't levy fines or probationary periods. It does not assign penance or punishment. Love opens its arms and welcomes.
Surprise! You are loved. Can you believe it?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Faith, the Proper Response to Love

Here's a little story about love and faith:
Eleven year old Jerry has arrived at summer camp. After lunch he looks across the compound and sees Soleil. Their eyes meet and he comes over to speak. He feels accepted as Soleil expresses an interest in him. After a few minutes the girls are called away and Jerry is left standing there with the boys. Jerry experiences a brand new feeling; it's the feeling that it is good that girls exist, and that it is really great that this particular girl, named Soleil exists. Soleil experiences the same feelings about boys and about Jerry in particular.
Now, each one likes the other but if that were all, they wouldn't become friends. In order to become friends each one must believe he or she is liked by the other. Now my story is about pre-teen children and puppy love, but it's true for the larger world as well.
Being loved alone isn't enough for a relationship—one must respond to that love with faith. I believe you love me and so faith completes love. You see that I believe and your love grows stronger.
You believe I love you and you show your faith by asking, expecting and encouraging. We both grow in love.
Love affirms the being of another while faith believes and accepts that love.

Monday, February 19, 2007

When Does Love Stop Loving?

Does love stop loving? No. But lovers stop loving because they stop believing.
Sometimes I see snatches of the daytime court programs on the television and half the cases are former friends or lovers trying to get paid for what amounts to lost love. Typically they get down and display all the dirty laundry in front of the camera and the tv judge and it's obvious.
It's either like this:
"You kicked me out of your wedding and I want my money back for the bridesmaid dress I already bought."

Or this:
"I paid for his cell phone and he ran up a big bill talking to his new girl friend who he ended up moving in with."

And really it's like this:
"I loved him and he shafted me. He promised me love and he owed me. Now I'll take whatever pound of flesh I can get."

Of course the money won't bring back love and respect. And the notoriety won't bring satisfaction. The abyss of broken love will still be there, unbridged. But does it have to be this way?
The flow of love stops when one or both turn from the belief that the other loves him. The other feels it; nothing need be said. She thinks, he doesn't believe I love him anymore. And she turns away. On and on, each in turn, just as natural as can be—soon each believes the other has no love. And if they believe it they very naturally cause their beliefs to come to fruition.
"Now I see she never loved me," he says. And she says, "He was only using me all along." But if one had only reminded himself that he must believe in the other—the the other has a heart of love and that love has been turned toward him in a special way.
Kierkegaard said in order to build up love the one who loves should presuppose the other loves. Even though that love might be temporarily covered or masked by hurt or shame, it is there. It is always there, but it must not be manipulated or demanded; it must be believed in.
Love is the greatest thing but it doesn't stand alone. It must have faith to go with it.
If I remember my faith and believe you love me I will be at rest and it will be much easier for you to show me you care for me. If I believe you don't love me—for whatever reason—I will "count the ways" and dwell on them and it will be impossible for love to flow either way.
Let's keep the faith and keep love alive.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Agape and Eros: Mortal Enemies — or not?

When I was a youth I was taught that the highest and purest form of love—the kind that came from God was called agape and was to be considered to be in opposition to the low, the crude, the needy form of love, which was known as eros. I was taught this doctrine by way of inference and implication. I was to internalize this concept and make it a life-style.
Now, mind you, this was not a monolithic force in my life. Not all my life-teachers went by this doctrine. But some very influential and timely ones did and I was certainly influenced by them. And I would have stuck by it probably if I hadn't learned, the hard way, that it just doesn't work.
I tried. I tried to love faithfully without regard to my own needs—reckoning my needs to be irrelevant at the very least, or wickedly malevolent at the worst.
To shore up this kind of thinking, we were taught the empty conduit theory of God's working. The individual Christian worker is to be nothing but a pipe through which the love of God flows. And any part of our own individual personality that we allow to stay in the pipe gets in the way of God's love, making it ineffective or blocking it altogether. So we had to get out of the way and "make ourselves scarce," if such a thing were possible.
Now, I will be the first to say there is a validity in the metaphor of the vessel, or instrument of God. The gospel was entrusted to the apostles, who referred to themselves as "earthen vessels." And St. Francis prayed, "Make me an instrument of thy peace." But these don't make us invisible; they don't negate our being itself. We exist as creatures—as persons created in God's image.
So what is eros and is it as evil as we have thought? The different ways the word has been used range from "self-interested desire" to "biological life-force" to "unbridled lust." The latter results from the popularization of the word-form erotic, referring to the sexual. But while eros might be often flavored by gender ("la difference"), sex is not eros and hardly relevant to our meaning here, except as a distraction.
In 1986, Josef Pieper, a German philosopher and theologian published, in English translation, a long-awaited book, Faith Hope Love. He draws on scripture, as well as Christian authorities from Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to C.S. Lewis. In discussing Eros and Agape he wrote:
But such need-love, whose goal is its own fulfillment, is also the nucleus and the beginning in all our loving. It is simply the elemental dynamics of our being itself, set in motion by the act that created us. Hence it is fundamentally impossible for us to control it, let alone to annul it. It is the "yes" that we ourselves are before we are consciously able to say "yes" (or even "no").
And so we are reconciled to the ever-present, never-to-be-denied need-love, the eros that makes us feel so uncomfortable. It remains an indestructible attribute of our eternal souls. and because we are made this way we are capable of two-way, multifaceted love. We are not empty pipes. We are living souls. We are full of needs—thirsty to the nth degree—crying out desperately in the wilderness, "Give us something to drink." But because we love ourselves, accepting our need-love humanity, we come to know how to love others. Because we see and accept our eros factor, the untamed life-force in us, we accept it in others and affirm their existence and hope, pray and act for their well-being. And others do the same for us and we live together and we love.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Love is Everything

About seven years ago, maybe eight, I went to a coffeehouse to hear some songwriters. Mark Gershmel was there and he sang a song that touched me deeply. I must have been primed and ready to receive this song because it still stands out in my memory.
"so bring everything that your heart can bear
live your life like a holy prayer
before your gaze comes to rest
on an empty chair...
Love is everything."
That's the last verse. Mark said he wrote it in response to his father's passing. It's a good song for grieving. I was in a grief process at the time I heard him sing it.
But the song is much more than that. It says love is everything and it says it very well. I already knew that was true, of course, and I was glad to see Mark knew it too and was saying so beautifully.
The song is on the Whiteheart album, Redemption. Mark was in the group for fifteen years and that's their last album.
Here are the words.
And here's a sample of the song. It not the whole thing but it's the best I could find.
So thanks Mark Gershmel and Whiteheart for the song. And God bless you.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Love is First

Love is first, last and everywhere in between. Love is our business, our pleasure, our arts and sciences, our dream and reality. If we do not have enough love we usually look for more. If we think we have less love now than we did before we go seeking where we think we lost it.
Sometimes we get bitter and disillusioned. But disillusionment is not really about love; it is about our illusions of love. The bitterness is always about the illusions. But love is not an illusion; love is the reality. Illusions are images which draw on parts and pieces of reality but are put together in a distorted way. Love without illusions is always there but we don’t always see it. And often we avoid it on purpose.
God is love but we don’t always see Him.
What does it mean to say that God is love? I don’t know exactly. Does it mean God is equal to love or love is equal to God? Does it mean God is full of love or love is full of God? I don’t know, I would guess both.
I do know that love is more than we think it is, as God is more than we think He is.
Love is more important than we think it is. I think love is all-important. I think it is infinitely important. Once I heard Mark Gershmel sing a song called “Love is Everything.” It touched me deeply. I don’t even remember any of the words but that one phrase—that’s enough.

*This is an edited encore of a piece I wrote on my other weblog a year ago. JWP

Monday, February 12, 2007

Cold Hard Love?

It's been said that you don't have to feel anything to show love. A corollary to that is you don't have to like someone to behave in a loving way toward them. I think the influence of that kind of teaching has done a lot of harm.
Here's how it would play out at street level. The loving one would grit his teeth, steel his nerves and commit love upon his neighbor. He believes it is his duty to love the unlovable and so he prays for strength and does his duty. As if love were a one-way stream that flows from a higher person to a lower one.
In reality when we talk about loving the unlovable we are talking about comparing one person with another. Us and them. It's an old story. "You are less lovable than I am, but I'm going to prove to you I am big enough to love you anyway."
But how can a person created by God be unlovable? And even if they were how would I know I am the more lovable? The fact is a human being, made in God's image, can only be called unlovable if he is viewed through the eyes of judgment. How do I know this? Because I have done it. I have a lifetime of experience doing it. I habitually view people through half-closed eyes, not seeing. Then I try to calculate and map out a strategy of well-doing toward this one or that one—all the while negating, out of fear, any possibility of real relationship.
So what am I proposing? It's hard to put into words so here's a little story.
About a year ago I was having a conflict with a new friend that involved some misunderstandings and some hurt feelings. After I was forgiven and had some time to mull it over I realized there came a point in time when I saw her for the first time, as it were. Prior to that time I had seen her, if you will, as a kind of character in a docudrama I was writing in my head. Does that sound crazy? Well, it was crazy.
But I realized that's the way my head worked. (Do I hear any co-confessions?) I rarely stopped to see who the person really was but instead made up stories in my head, based on pre-conceived notions, to fill in the gaps. Maybe that's more interesting, but it's certainly not more loving.
So how shall I see the person who is standing there right in front of me? How shall I see him or her with a view that will foster warm, human God-filled two-way love? That's not a question easily answered but maybe this would do for a start.
Realize we are standing on the same ground.
And God is just as far—and just as close to each as to the other.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Dark Side

Sorry about the title—it's a little dramatic. There really isn't a dark side to love. Not in any way. Nor do I believe there is an opposite to love. More later on that.
But there are dark things that keep us from love. To my mind the biggest one is judgment. That is, the very practice which Jesus said we must not do. I remember the old version best. "Judge not, that ye be not judged." I remember reciting it in Sunday school. One after the other around the table we recited it from memory.
Then the next sentence: "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged" That's pretty plain. And the inference is that it is God Himself who will judge us with the same kind of judgment we meted out to others.
But do we even need divine intervention to prove the point of this principle? I think it stands up on natural grounds. When we are harsh to others, meting out our own brands of private justice, then that action in effect places us in the hell of our own choosing. We choose sides and draw lines in the sand; we become enemy to our enemy plus any of our friends who also happen to be friends of our enemy. And yet any action has its equal and opposite reaction, especially with judgment.
Kierkegaard said that any father who disowns his son actually places himself in a prison, because he can think of nothing else but perpetually exonerating himself while he condemns his son. Add to that the fact that the father alienates all his friends with his constant harping. Then the father's misery is greater than the son's.
And so it goes on and on, what with every possible way one person and judge and be judged by others (or by oneself), our communities are filled with an infinite number of separate little sects—secular or religious—makes no difference. There exist an unlimited number of possible permutations, departmentalized into different life-sized containers. You might be my church friend but you are my political enemy. I might be your smiling next-door neighbor delivering garden vegetables to your back door, all the while believing you will burn in eternally hell because we are in mutually exclusive religious systems.
We may speak civilly to each other but we share no real love because of various degrees and types of judgmentalism. Nice is sham without love.
So how to turn the tide? Drop the charges.

As Yourself

Love says love your neighbor as yourself. Or, do unto others as you would like them to do to you.
Because we are the same.
How do I know what my neighbor wants from me? He or she is like me. And so I know. My neighbor's inner person is known to me, in a very real sense, because his or her inner person is like mine and I know (to some degree) what is inside me. So I adjust my behavior accordingly.
But there are some glitches. One is that I might not know my innards as well as I think I do. If I am prone to self-hatred I will quite naturally neglect the inspection of my inner person and so I will not know myself as well as I might (or at all), with the result that I do not have a clear idea of the other's innards either.
Another glitch is that I might believe that my neighbor and I are different in some fundamental way. I might consider myself to be a part of a group which is better (or worse) than the group my neighbor is in. Or I might consider myself to be a "party of one," supposing everyone else to be different from me. In either case my neighbor and I are exluded from one another.
Another common divider: I might base my notion that we are fundamentally different on behaviors I feel are mutually exclusive, like crimes or anti-social behavior. You and I could be on opposite sides of the law, one of us a law-abiding citizen and the other a law-breaking denizen. Another word for this attitude is judgment. To judge is to exclude the other—to reckon that we are different or incompatible. We then think we have good reason to withhold our love and respect from those others.
This cuts us off from the very life of love we wanted to have.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Love the One You're With - Revisited

I was clueless in the seventies. I thought all that love stuff in pop culture was really about love. After all Joni Mitchell was on the radio singing, "Come on people now smile on our brother..." That was about real love. So why not Crosby, Stills and their crew? Remember their harmonious voices singing:
If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with.
To me it was a little parable. It meant when you find yourself far away from the little neighborhood where you felt safe and comfortable, where you quite naturally love and feel loved, then you should look right in front of you and see that whoever is there is your neighbor and value them as such. It was a tonic for Dylan's depressing taunt: "How does it feel? To be all alone ... with no direction home." CSNY were to me a breath of fresh air. They reminded me I could carry my "heart's home" with me anywhere.
Does that make sense? Can you see how a bright-eyed youth could read that meaning into a lyric from a popular tune.
For me, at that point in my life I was uprooted. I went away to college and found a strange culture there. At home we were in a different place as well—in a new town with a new school and a new church. I had lived there only about five months before graduating high school. In my heart were memories of people and places that I couldn't get back to.
So, to me, the song expressed a wonderful truth. It was telling me to see the new people as neighbors and friends and start building relationships again. I think it helped me not to want to pine for the beloved past while avoiding the reality of present company. It was like a little reminder every time I heard it. And I got comfort from it because I knew it was right.
Then years later my friends told me the song was about free sex.
I'm glad I didn't know that then.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Love, the Kernel of Natural Law

I want to create something to promote and foster love between and among people.
Why? Because I like love a lot and want others to enjoy it and its fruits as much as I do.
I have personal relationships which are loving and I am very thankful for them. Honest, I don't find anything else in life as meaningful. Not possessions or money, not personal power. If I had (or could receive) the power to cause others to bend to my will in order to gain some benefit, I wouldn't enjoy it near as much as I enjoy seeking to know a person, learning to trust and be trusted, believing I am loved as much as I love. I would rather have love, than any kind of non-loving benefit (assuming there were any such things).
I think everyone feels that way, or longs to feel it if they can't.
Now, I am writing this in a weblog on the world wide web, and the reason I'm writing it here is because I believe so strongly in the web as an effective means of communication. People are searching the web for clues to meaning in life. Case in point: Hundreds of people hit my dad's Faith Hope Love web site each month after entering the phrase "faith hope love" in a search engine. They are looking for meaning, for spiritual nourishment. And there are lots more out there searching.
I think people already know a lot about love and believe it is a necessary good for personal fulfillment.
Our friend Ken Rideout was a teacher of God's love in Southeast Asia for many years. He tells how the children in the villages always knew, when questioned, about right and wrong and about the duty of all people to love and respect their neighbor. Ken says he would then turn to the grownups and ask who taught them this. "Not us," they would answer. But they knew it; children always know it. That is, until later childhood when they are forced into the loss of their innocence by the traditional wounds of family and society—the tried and true (but nonetheless cruel and terrible) wounds that are designed to equip them to live in the "real world" —a pseudonym, by the way, for an establishment that should more correctly be called the unreal world (but more on that another time).
So here we find ourselves, whatever our childhood experience, searching for meaning, for spiritual food and drink, for relationship, for love. I am searching too, or else I wouldn't be writing this. I am searching for connections, whether I find out who you are who are reading this or not, I will look at my logs and see it was clicked on and maybe looked at a few minutes before clicking away from it and I will hope and believe some love was shared. Or, more importantly, some love that was already in your heart was awakened and revived by some few words I put down here from my heart.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

An Open Source Operating System for Humanity

Love: the original operating system for all of humanity.
  • Enables each and every person to interface effectively with every other person, regardless of race, color or creed.
  • Provides a framework for the highest quality of life in this world and in any and all possible worlds.
  • Always was, is now, and always will be infinitely adaptable to all cultures in every geographical and cosmological location.
  • Infinitely configurable and scalable - no individual is too small and no corporate group of individuals is too large.
  • Documentation included - basic code, or kernel, written indelibly on the heart, of every person.
  • More instructions and advice available everywhere in written, oral and visual form in every language by poets, prophets, artists and sages from every epoch of history.
  • Still more documentation in the lives of users' friends, family, neighbors, mentors, associates, even enemies.
This universal operating system includes all necessary software, skins and modules, and is free and freely available to any member of the human race. You already have this OS installed, although it might need to be rebooted, refreshed, updated or healed. Many times users have found their software has been corrupted by ill treatment or abuse, sometimes by others, sometimes by self. But fear not - a fix is available. All users beyond the age of early childhood should assume they need the cure, which is freely downloadable at any time.
Special note: This download is a spiritual one and comes directly from the heavens, from the Creator of the heavens and the earth, although there are many symbolic links everywhere which remind us of the real thing.
And here's another plus: Unlike other systems which require a third party validation, this software and its operating environment is self-validating in the human heart. In other words, you'll know it's the real thing when you see it.
[Note: the following symbols and links are not actual sources for this download, but are resources which may point, to one degree or another, to the real source - which is a spiritual resource and comes from the heavens.]
Symbols and Links:

Scripture: John 3:16
Painting: Rembrandt painting - Descent from the Cross
Song: Sins of Billions (mp3 file)
Web Page: Loving and Being Loved

  • All you need is love. Lennon/McCartney
  • Love your neighbor as yourself. Moses and Jesus
  • Love makes the world go 'round. Ollie Jones - sung by Perry Como
  • Only one thing is required—Love. Madame Guyon
  • God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. John the apostle
Look around. Search your memory. Read your holy book. Reach out. Let someone love you. Love is open sourced and in the public domain. Try it today.

One more important feature: With every copy of the OS (one to each person) is included a pre-paid membership in an personally-inclusive, infinitely powerful distributed network of all souls who love, the whole world over. Participation in this network, as you might imagine, makes possible, in the here and now, an infinite number of connections/relationships - peer-to-peer. As well as (and particularly) an unmetered collaborative-connection to our Father in heaven. We have unlimited access to His assets and energies. All we can imagine and more.
No batteries required, no telephone, cable or wi-fi receiver necessary.