“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Just imagine how much love we would all find if never, not even once, those thoughts slithered into our minds telling us how people don't like us and how we're not good enough and how we're never going to get it right.
Imagine how much love there would be if there were no fear, no worries that we might get hurt if we put our hearts out there. That giving ourselves wholy to a someone didn't come with a possibility that they might not return our love; that pursuing a friend without anything in return does not make us seem desperate, that picking up that tragic looking hitch hiker did not come with a chance they could rob us blind or slit our throats.
The truth is, all of those bad things could happen but the likelihood is so small. Still, we live our lives as if the odds are against us and in the process, deprive our hearts of love. Our poor hearts, they are slowly dying. Maybe we have a record number of people with heart disease because their hearts are without the one thing they need to survive: love. Love of self, love of others, love of life.
For me, it starts with loving God first and if I do that, it's almost reflexive to start loving myself a little bit more, it's somehow easier to love myself more. When viewed through God's lenses I can't help but see myself as perfectly made, not perfect in my actions but made in a particular way that is a work of art, like how someone might stare at Mount Rushmore and consider it a masterpiece despite the fact that it's incomplete. I am amazing. And in that moment of realization that I am wonderfully made, I treasure myself a little bit more and decide that I'm worthy of special care...of love; from others yes but most of all from myself.
We have an epidemic in our world, a disease of hate. We hate the people in the car next to us, we hate the terrorists, we hate the snotty woman at the checkout counter. We hate how our thighs look and how our boss seems to enjoy finding ways to make our lives miserable. If only we could inoculate ourselves with love every single day, maybe the hate would go away. If only there were no fear, no walls, no holding back. If only, like Rumi said, we would seek those barriers within ourselves that we've built up against love and then take a jack hammer to them.
Nat King Cole sang, "the greatest lesson you'll ever learn is to love and be loved in return." I think Cole was on to something and I see where he was going. It's not an easy thing to accept love, like the unbridled kind that makes us feel awkward and nervous.
When someone does something so big and unexpected without asking for anything in return, a love given freely, it startles us. We don't always know what to do with that kind of love because we are taught that we need to earn everything in this life and we somehow think that extends to love as well. We need to behave a certain way and look a certain way and believe a certain way in order to be loved and when someone comes along with a grace so big and unexplainable we don't always know what to do with that.
Giving love almost always comes easier so I would reverse what Cole said. I would say that the greatest lesson you'll ever learn is to be loved which in turn teaches us how to love, that receiving love is the hardest part and giving it comes naturally because when we are filled with love, it overflows and spills on the people around us.
I can't help but sit here and wonder, much like John Lennon did when he wrote the song, "Imagine", how wonderful it would be to live in a world drawn out in Lennon's imagination, a world with no greed or hunger, nothing to kill or die for, a brotherhood of man, living life in peace.
It almost seems like an unattainable goal because that kind of harmony is impossible in a world full of hate. I would love to see it be replaced with love in my lifetime but I'm not holding my breath.
I think that we don't reach that place until after we die, that death strips us of our humanity, that ugly, heavy shield that blocks the light from coming in and the love from flowing out and when it's removed, the love explodes and the light rushes in like some kind of supernova.
Our greatest lesson may be simply to learn how to lower our shield while we are living which inevitably makes us vulnerable and loveably, so that we may, even briefly, experience that explosion of peace and love and happiness in this life.