When I wrote last week about contact with the spirit horses, I was struck both about our inseparable connection with the natural world and the sense that all is in process, moving, changing. Yet this reality fails to be captured in language that is static. It calls to mind an intuition that I had years; that everything can be understood in terms of energy. Body and soul, as they are usually called can be understood in terms of different kinds of energy. The expansion of the universe, the radiating heat of the sun, running on a treadmill or through the woods, our inner thoughts and feelings–all these involve energy, though of quite different kinds.
I once asked a colleague who was a scholar of the philosopher/scientist, Teilhard de Chardin, what was the underlying force in the universe. His response was: love energy. A few years ago, I also came across a letter of scientist, Albert Einstein, to his daughter, which expressed similar thoughts. I’ll quote from that letter here.
“There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us. This universal force is LOVE. … This force explains everything and gives meaning to life. This is the variable that we have ignored for too long, maybe because we are afraid of love because it is the only energy in the universe that humans have not learned to drive at will.”
In a Winnie the Pooh story, Piglet asks Pooh: “How do you spell love. Pooh’s answer was: “You don’t spell it, you feel it.” A few other quotations are along the same line.
“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.”
“Sometimes the smallest things take the most room in your heart.”
“What day is it? asked Pooh. “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favourite day,”said Pooh.
“We’ll be friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet. “Even longer,” Pooh answered.
These simple words express for me the same thought that love is the most profound energy in the universe. It is a “today” reality, when we are living in the present. It is lasting or “forever” reality, if, perhaps, it is the energy we pour out into the universe when we live and when we die. It is in our heart, in the core of our being, which it expands infinitely, so to speak. And while the most inward reality, it calls for outward expression in our lives, our relationships, our world. The Greek root of the word energy means work, effort, or activity, something that is to be done.
Unfortunately, the word love has been romanticized in an unreal way, often taken as a superficial sentimentality, as something that simply happens to us, that we may fall into or out of, that may come and go without our involvement or decision. If we think in terms of love as energy that flows from within, it is an energy that we can receive, acknowledge, foster, channel, express, and offer beyond ourselves.
My wise seven-year-old godson asked how our love continues when we don’t. I tried to explain that the love we receive and share stays in our heart and passes on to others who pass it on in turn. He added that we breathe the same air and drink the same water as the dinosaurs did. I said that since everything that reaches our heart or core is passed on, it is important to receive and pass on what is good.
The late philosopher, John O’Donohue, has stressed the need to express outwardly what is within us, to make visible or tangible what is unseen within us. “In order to feel real,” he writes, “we need to bring that inner invisible world to expression. Every life needs the possibility of expression.”
I would add that it is essential to be in touch with and aware of what is within us, our deepest core. That core is often submerged beneath a variety of impressions and urges which require solitude and friendship in order to be seen by us. At the same time, we do experience the whole range of human thoughts and emotions, which include hurt, fear, and anger, as well as joy, trust, and peace. It is essential, therefore, to decide which one’s to express or refrain from expressing, and whether to entrust but not unleash certain negative feelings. There is also the matter of how we may express these, orally, in writing, or other forms. Here, too, the image, words, and stories of especially creative persons, the sounds of beautiful music, the images of beautiful paintings, and other works of art, can help us to name and express our own deepest experience.
As mentioned before, I have been particularly moved by the articulation of the meaning of love by psychologist, Erich Fromm. He stresses that love is an activity. He explains that this is not in the sense of external busyness, which can be merely a matter of being passively driven. Rather it is what proceeds freely from within the person. It is also, he says, a matter of giving. Again this is not in the common view of giving as giving up, which implies loss, but in the sense of an overflow of life within ourselves. It recalls the thought of educator, John Holt, who says that the social virtues are an overflow, that we have enough kindness for others only if we have enough kindness for ourselves.
Fromm goes on to say that such love involves caring for the growth of another, a respect for and response to who they truly are, and an increasing understanding of that person. Yet, he adds, it begins with a concern for the marginalized, for those who do not serve an obvious purpose in our lives. What is essential is to develop our very capacity to love, which we will then bring into practice in any life situation. There is a false tendency that to learn how to love is a matter of finding the right person. That is rather akin to thinking that we will be a great painter if only we find the right thing to paint. The issue is rather one of being or becoming the right person ourselves. To do so means to recognize our own basic worth, as well as that of others, to acknowledge and develop our particular gifts, and to share them with others in the right way and in response to our current life situation.
May you begin or more fully recognize the gifts that you have and the gift that you are, and learn more fully to share who you are and your gifts, and find fulfillment for yourself and others in this sharing.
Norman King, August 01, 2022
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