I’ve been thinking about this commandment all day and about what I’d like to post about it tonight. As a result, I’ve had two things running through my head all day. First is Peter Cook as the “Impressive Clergyman” from The Princess Bride (“And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva…”). Second is Van Morrison singing “Crazy Love,” which always morphs into “There’ll Be Days Like This” when I sing it. Neither of these has helped me at all in writing this post.
I get warm fuzzies when I feel love. And I feel happy and strong whether I express the love or not. Back soon after 9/11 when there was the passage of the Patriot Act and the first talk of going to war in Iraq, I started sending out loving vibes to George W. Bush. I don’t remember where I first got this idea. It may have been the Unitarian Universalist congregation of which I was a member at that time. At any rate, when I was feeling apprehensive about the happenings on the world stage and worried that our president was going to make a poor decision, I dedicated a couple of moments of each evening before bed to send peace and love and clarity to President Bush. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine, she said, “Why are you wasting your time and energy on that? I don’t want to give that guy any help at all.” But really, I wasn’t doing it for him. I was doing it for myself. I could sit and stew and worry and pick apart every little action by the administration, or I could accept that I had severely limited control over anything that was happening and just feel peace and love towards the man who held the fate of so many people in his hands. And if he happened to get some of the peace and love and clarity I was sending, then all the better; those things would likely be very helpful to him while he was trying to make such difficult decisions. I don’t think one can often go wrong feeling peace and love.
Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly misanthropic, I try to imagine every adult I encounter as the tiny little newborn they must have started out as. I’ve found it’s much easier to feel love and empathy towards someone who used to be a wee baby than it is to feel peaceful and positive things about someone who just ran to get in front of me in the checkout line. Although I don’t rule out the possibility that the “vibes” might actually be felt in some subtle way by the receiving party, I realize that this practice is unlikely to have any direct effect on the person at which the loving thoughts are directed. But if I focus on feeling loving, I feel calmer, happier, and more inclined to do good works for others I encounter as I go about my day.
Love is not always my reaction in these situations. Love isn’t even always my reaction with those I love most in my life. Too often, I notice an attitude of scarcity in myself. It causes me to hoard love for fear of running out. I remember speaking with a mom who had just given birth to her third child. My daughter was about two years old at the time, and I told this other mom that I was thinking of not having any more children because I was already overwhelmed trying to meet the needs of one child; I couldn’t imagine trying to meet the needs of two or more. “I worried about the same thing,” she told me. “My first was very needy, and I feared I wouldn’t have enough to be the kind of mom I wanted to be to more than one child at a time. But what I found was that the love just grows. It’s not just me doing the loving. The baby’s brother and sister love the baby and the baby loves his siblings, and the love just gets bigger and bigger.”
The thing I forget is that love isn’t a finite resource. It grows through feeling it and sharing it. The purpose of the Love commandment is to help remind me to step back, take a breath, and just love, secure in the knowledge that by spending love freely, I’m increasing my stores of it.