Tuesday, November 17, 2009

language of love

I met with my dear friend Chris today and she recommended that I write down some of the ideas that we chatted about. It's strange, I really enjoy conversing about some of these ideas but when it comes time to put them down into the written word I am resistant. For that reason, I"m just going to write without self editing at all. Later, if I want to expand or detail any of the ideas I'll dig in. Thanks Chris for the inspiration.

The conversation in which most of modern culture is engaged is a language of fear and greed (and though I put those as two separate ideas, frankly I believe greed to be an offshoot of fear). Most of our news, advertisement, etc. draws upon the language of fear in order to communicate. This spills over into everyday communication so that our baseline reactions to many of life's challenges is one of fear.

In the rare times where love is used as a tool, it is usually used to sell something, i.e. a McDonalds billboard of a cheeseburger telling us "Go to your happy place". However, I believe that it is possible for us to change the language by which we communicate with society. I believe that it is possible to begin to speak inside the context of the language of love. Imagine what it would be like if our baseline reactions to something new, or challenging were based on love rather than distrust and fear? This isn't to say that fear will disappear from our vocabulary, it will simply not be the first response. This is not an utopian ideal where all life is always perfect. To be honest, our lives will get easier in many ways because a great deal of our anxieties are not the deep issues we deal with as much as they are the fear of the issues we deal with.

I'll roughly paraphrase one of my favorite Sufi stories as an example:

A merchant is traveling into the city of Pompeii. About a day's journey away from town he meets another man on the road. He greets the man and says "Hello sir, are you heading into Pompeii?"

"Indeed I am." the other man replies.

"So am I!" the merchant exclaims, he is happy to have found a traveling companion for the remainder of his journey. "I'm a merchant and I'm going into town to sell some silk from my cart. What's your business in town?"

"Ah, you see I am death and I am going into Pompeii to bring a plague that is going to kill 200 people."

The merchant is thoroughly shocked by this news. "A plague? My God, I've never heard such a story!" The merchant laughs off the man's words as the delusions of a fellow who had seen too much time on the road.

However, once the merchant does reach town a horrible plague does indeed descend on the city. Over the course of the week that the merchant spends in town over 1000 people die of this plague.

Lo and behold, as the merchant finishes his business and leaves Pompeii who should he see on the road other the Death. The merchant calls Death over to him.

"You sure fed me a line. Oh, it's true enough that you brought a plague with you into town, but you told me that it would kill 200 people. Over 1000 people died of this horrible disease. What do you have to say for yourself?"

Death smiled his cold smile. "Oh no, you're mistaken dear merchant. The plague I brought to Pompeii did indeed kill only 200 people. It was their fear of the plague that killed the other 800."

That's what happens now to people trapped in the language of fear. It multiplies their woes by a multiple of five and causes untold misery in their lives. Once we learn to set aside fear, our load will get lighter. I suspect that in the same way that fear multiplies are woes so too does love, to an equal degree, multiply our joys. What would life look like when lived inside of joy?

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