Friday, September 01, 2006

Love At Its Most Magnificent

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.
– The Gospel According to Saint Matthew

This is love at its most magnificent. In order to love like this, we cannot be attached to ourselves. It is because we think so much about ourselves that we strike back, show resentment, speak harshly, move away.

Jesus’ words do not mean agreeing with everything people say or supporting whatever they do. We sometimes have to oppose people we love. Yet, if we do it tenderly, it is not likely that it will cost us a single friend. In fact, that person might say, “I’ve found a friend who will support me and stand beside me always.”
--Eknath Easwaran

When I write or talk about wanting to love everyone, I'm sure some people think I'm out of my mind. Love the guy who messes all over your blog? Love the boss who denigrates you in front of your co-workers? Love John Mark Karr? Love Osama bin Laden?

It is probably as difficult for me to do this as it is for anyone else. Until I'm able to understand, if only for a moment, that these individuals are instantiations of the divine unity of Ultimate Reality and that their acts--however frustrating, maddening, repulsive, or infuriating--are also manifestations of that same Reality that also includes myself and everyone else.

The better and longer I'm able to understand this, the easier it is for me to look with compassion, if not lovingkindness, on those who do me or others harm. Karr and bin Laden don't know me from proverbial Adam and could probably care less how I feel about them even if they did know me. Yet there are people in my life, in all our lives, who DO know us and who DO care how we feel about them. What would happen if we could go on loving them no matter what they believed or how they acted? What difference would it make in their lives to know that even when we disagree with them about religion or politics or the way they conduct their personal affairs, we will never stop caring about them and never truly abandon them? And what difference would it make in our lives if we had more people who felt the same way about us and treated us accordingly?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Disaster on earth. Only babies are properly entitled to unconditional love. For adults it is spiritually and psychologically disastrous, because it reduces love to a meaningless emotion detached from qualites such as goodness and beauty. God is love, but not only love. For example, he is also justice.

Nagarjuna said...

I believe that most if not all of the great saints and sages throughout history would disagree with you about that. I believe they would say that our loving everyone unconditionally would not only make this life heaven on Earth for us, but would likely help to make it more heavenly for others as well, especially if enough of us did it. I'm inclined to agree.

A prominent blogger says what you do, even though he also praises the saints as being divinely inspired and exemplary beyond compare. I repeatedly asked him why it's wrong to love everyone unconditionally if this was what the saints he so greatly admires did and exhorted us to do. He never answered. He just deleted my questions and called me an insane and idiotic troll for asking them.

I don't know what you think about the saints. If you admire them, why do you disagree with them on universal, unconditional love? If you don't admire them, could you explain why you think it would be "psychologically disastrous" to follow their loving example? That is, what do you think would happen if we loved everyone unconditionally, and why?

I agree with you that there needs to be justice as well as love. But I don't understand why the two need to exclude one another. Why can't we love someone unconditionally and still subject him to the justice he deserves? And is it not distinctly possible that if enough of us loved everyone unconditionally, there would be far less of a need to exact punitive justice?

Counter Mag said...

Dear Pollyanus,

Go hug an Islamist such as Bin Ladin unconditionally and get back to me.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. Anyone who doesn't understand the context of spiritual teachings is a fool. Theology--let alone mysticism--is not political science, any more than it is economics, medicine, or psychology.

Nagarjuna said...

Why can't one can love others unconditionally without hugging them? Why can't one love others unconditionally and still bring them to justice for their wrongdoing? And why can't one can love others unconditionally and be an effective political scientist, economist, physician, or psychologist?

Finding Fair Hope said...

I'm with you on this, Steve. People who look at God as punitive and, when he doesn't punish who they want punished give themselves permission to do so, are all over the world today, including on the blog where you yourself sought answers recently.

To understand love and God is to ignore this. You are beginning to articulate a wiser path for yourself.

Jess said...

Ah, the unconditional love conversation. I have often wondered what this is. Is it love that knows no bounds or is it love with some boundaries. Reason I ask, I absolutely have great distaste for the people that gave me life biologically, but I love them because they allowed me to grow with the best parents imaginable. So in one regard I love them for that but on the other hand dislike them for what they did to me. Nevermind, I just answered my own question I think. At any rate got a jumping off point for a conversation with myself. Oh and I said YES by the way.

Anonymous said...

"People who look at God as punitive and, when he doesn't punish who they want punished give themselves permission to do so, are all over the world today, including on the blog where you yourself sought answers recently."

Keeping the barbarians from your gates saving you from having your throat cut or if you're lucky being enslaved and in a burkah so that you have the freedom to live in the "unconditional" fantasy world you've created.
If not for the people you reference above, the world would be a very dark place.

Nagarjuna said...

Anonymous, how are the people on that blog and their almost daily preachings of contempt and hatred keeping the barbarians from the gates, my friend?

Nagarjuna said...

Jess, I tend to think of unconditional love as knowing or wanting to know someone so well that one is filed with the overriding desire help them to become genuinely happy without expecting anything from them in return. I believe that this can stem from deeply seeing others as glorious manifestations of the same divine essence or unity of which we too are manifestations.

FFH, I fail to understand the reasoning of those who praise the saints but rail against loving one's enemies. Were the saints exhorting only other saints and monastics to "love your enemies" and to "love and do what you will," or were they talking to ALL of us? And why can't one love and still defend oneself against those who would harm us and bring justice to those who do harm us?

Anonymous said...

Anon the world is indeed a dark place, precisely because of the people you mention that scare you into thinking everyone is out to get you.