When I was 3 years old, I stopped a murder. I literally placed my body between two people who were killing each other: my parents. I remember it vividly; someone would have died that night had I cowered in my room. The most common mistake people make when they see me going on about love and themes of compassion and joy is that my ideas come from an idealistic, unchallenged place of fluff and fairies where no actual strife exists. But I grew up in violence with distress spewing from all directions – parents, grandparents, aunts uncles cousins – bipolar, personality disorder, alcoholic madness confounded by cancers that made frequent guest appearances.
In March 1968, at the peak of dark insanity and bright potential in the Civil Rights movement and the war in Vietnam, I chose to be born in Memphis, TN to two people who had no business being married to each other. My mother used to tell me the story of how the nurse working to help her recover from the cesarean ran screaming from the house when she heard Martin Luther King had just been shot a few miles away. She ran screaming into the street, believing the world was coming to an end – it was. We had a freak snowfall that spring, and a few months later Bobby Kennedy was also killed.
I arrived in a world of extremes and violence and leading edge growth on both macro and microcosmic scales.
When my parents divorced, I was 4 and relieved to experience a house without fighting. That peace was short-lived, though because my grandparents were melting down, too. At 5 years old, it was Gran and Grandaddy I had to stand between, blood on his face, weapon in her hand. After that, it was my mother and grandmother – verbal brutalities escalated over decades of low self-esteem and anger. I was an only child and sole grandchild inside a system of rage and mixed messages. Through all of their storms, I was the eye in the middle. When someone’s sobbing echoed through the house at 2am, I was the one who stood and soothed.
I can keep layering details (there’s so much more), but you get the picture. These things are all past, not because I’ve forgotten but because I no longer identify with that story. I moved to the desert, I gazed at the big horizon, I endured the sweat lodge, worked 30 different jobs, lived in 5 countries, practiced Qi Gong, read and studied, became a Reiki master, burned through ink and keyboards, wrote thousands of pages and taught fearlessly all I know and keep learning more. And I let the injuries go. All of them. When I say things like “love is more powerful than hate, more resilient than fear” I know what I’m talking about. It’s not a hallmark card; it’s a gritty truth. Love is stamina. Love is relief. Love is potency. Love is vibrancy. Love is courage, underscored and elevated.
Love is sanity.
Raising a daughter now, I’m most grateful to have the perspective I’ve earned. Our home is a conflict-free haven – not because we lack difficulties or frustrations, and not because we’re freakishly perfect (ha! so very not), but because love is the assumed priority here and 99% of the time we let love make the call. When we slip, we catch ourselves quickly and return without hesitation.
When you look at the world and see things you don’t like or behaviors you disapprove of or fear, you’re really on to something. How you respond is key. You can point a finger in disgust, or you can inspire by example. You can add violence to the storm, or you can become the eye.
“Hate the sin, love the sinner.” ―Mahatma Gandhi
You can shame people into hearing your message OR you can empower them to see things in new light, to see their options with a more soulfully-enriching perspective. One approach reinforces separation; the other encourages community. One perpetuates distress, intolerance and judgment; the other fosters creative action and compassion.
One mindset feels riveting-yet-raunchy as it courses through you; the other feels nourishing and uplifting – you know the difference.
“Becoming the eye” doesn’t mean submitting to a life martyrdom or codependency. It means filling up with light and allowing that light to radiate from and carry you. Light is never passive. It’s the real deal: how you think impacts the world; the light of your perspective is your first ripple in the stream. Love one another. Solutions depend on it.
Cynicism stems from a feeling of disempowerment, yet all people are innately powerful in a way that cannot be diminished by even the most extreme brutality. Love is how you turn the key to access that power and move forward.
In high school, I marched in peace rallies, protested “white trains” with my math teacher, became an autodidactic expert on the conflict in the Middle East, wrote my congressmen and had pen pals in the war zone. It’s only in retrospect that I can see it as a metaphor for what was happening at home.
The world at first appears to be much too big for one person to impact, but the world is in you, not separate and out there. Loving and forgiving and transcending what is immediately active in your daily life is the essential step toward enlightening all the rest.
“I can’t change the world, but I can change the world in me.” -U2 (my campaign slogan in 1985)
Love is an all or nothing deal.
If you don’t love them, you can’t love yourself. If you haven’t learned to love yourself, you can’t handle them. Love YOU first, just as you are. Love every seed of possibility, know who you aim to be, then walk your talk, lovingly. Love the oppressor and the darkness, too, for they are the players who need it most, emerging from the mulch of great awakening.