The other day, I received a text message from my staff Jhoann that had a lot of hearts and I Love You’s. It said Happy National I Love You Day. I thought it was cute. But I can name more than a handful of people who would scoff at it. Worse, maybe more than half the world thinks it is meaningless and petty. And maybe for many good reasons. I love you has become a fad, a meaningless phrase casually said with nary a thought.
I think we live in the time of the persecution of love. It has nothing to do with the dismissal of the National I Love You Day. I mean a real persecution of love and its very essence. Love has been relegated to the margins, looked down on in favour of material and professional success. Love has been shut out of many hearts. Proofs abound: wars, domestic violence, conflict at the workplace, destruction of the environment, factory farming, marginalization of basic sectors, climate change, religious intolerance, anger and cynicism. All of these and many others prove that love has been thrown out the door.
Why do people deride sayers of ‘I love You’? Shouldn’t love be the bar by which we measure the ultimate human (and non-human!) relationship and experience? Shouldn’t ‘I love you’ be something we say to each other every day, more and more, until it becomes deeper and more real?
Why do tree sitters get the flak? Why are people who go beyond themselves to serve called dreamers, idealists, crazies? Why are people who choose not to harm animals in their choice of food called arrogant and elitist? Why is it that when we choose to love fully we are called impractical, unrealistic, or just plain cuckoo?
We are also persecuting love by assigning its meaning mainly to a romantic experience. But John Muir’s and Rachel Carson’s love for nature were not in any way less of an ideal. Che Guevara and other revolutionaries were inspired by profound feelings of love for fellow humans. Pope Francis for all of creation. My cat Dewdrop who forgives all of my shortcomings just as easily as I add on to them.
Isn’t love also about listening, or being silent, or going the distance, sacrificing, and suffering for the good of another? Isn’t love also about selfless service, passionate work, exhilarating play, a dog’s affection for its human? Isn’t love also about composting, following traffic rules, a random act of kindness, or just being present for someone?
Why do we spend billions trying to kill each other and Mother Earth? Why have all consuming work and greed garnered more respect than their opposites? Why do we look at skin color and fail to see the soul in it? Why have money and status become so important even if they have made people numb?
We are persecuting love. When a man loves another, we call them immoral. When love happens outside of marriage, we call it scandalous. Why do we measure development by the amount of money being used to buy stuff that don’t really matter and not by the state of human relationships to fellow humans and non-human persons? Why do we decree laws that keep love from thriving?
Why do we not love at all? How can we not love at all? Shouldn’t love be the air we breathe, the water we drink, the everyday sustenance of our soul?
We keep on seeking for things that would satisfy the deepest desires of our heart with palliatives not knowing the thirst could only be quenched by the Infinite, the unending source of universal, cosmic love. That is what we should strive for. My dream is to be in a perennial state of love, to feel oneness with every blade of grass, animal, and human. But alas, the pit of apathy and blindness to the throbbing heart of the universe is more convenient to fall into, than being in a state of love.
But every moment, we can make a choice. Am I going to say I love you today? Will you be shy to express that overflowing love in your heart? Will you scoff at affection and attachment and be proud of pride? Are we going to persecute love today, or we going to start to try to understand it, feel it, and act on it? Are we going to be the love we want to see in the world?