There are certain things I can’t relate to. For instance, I can’t relate to growing up in a war torn country. Nor can I relate to living in an occupied country. Mari can. She spent the first 32 years of her life living in Estonia, which was under Russian occupation at the time. I also can’t relate to living in a communist country or one ruled by a fascist dictator. I can relate to living in a country where the government seems more intent on serving itself than the people it was democratically elected to serve, but this isn’t nearly as bad.
If there is one person on this planet I could have met, it was Nelson Mandela. He was a great man with even greater ideals! Unfortunately, the closest I got was reading his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom. All I can do now is be what he wanted everyone to be … kind!
No matter who you are or what your lot in life, you can bet your boots that at some point, you’re going to be faced with adversity. This condition is part of the experience … part of the flow of life,
I recently started reading Conversations with God for Teens, by Neale Donald Walsch. While reading the book, I thought about the questions I would want to ask God if I was having a conversation with him or her and the first question that came to mind was, ‘why are so many people struggling to get ahead in this world?’
A great deal of our suffering stems from how we choose to deal with our experiences. We can dwell on them (oh, whoa is me), we can label them (this was good, this was bad), we can pass judgment on those involved (he was a bastard, I was an idiot) and we can hold on to the guilt, shame, grief, bitterness, anger and hatred. Or we can choose to let go.
And that we should!
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The future depends on what you do today.”
“Why do you say that?” my friend inquired.
“This morning I had to deal with a snarly clerk at the post office,” I replied, taking a sip from my water bottle.
From time to time, people come along in our lives who really inspire us. This notion was captured very poignantly in the movie, As Good As It Gets, when Jack Nicholson said to Helen Hunt ‘you make me want to be a better man.’ They motivate us to be better people.
“I Love You!”
“Pardon?” I said, somewhat surprised at his sudden declaration.
“Three words that can transform the world,” he replied.
“I guess,” I agreed tentatively, not quite knowing where he was going with this, particularly given that we were in the middle of moving his sofa, which I have to admit, was quite heavy.
“Are there three words, when put together, that are more powerful? More important to speak? More beautiful to hear?” he asked.
“What about, ‘you won the lottery?'” I countered, not taking him seriously. Wait, that’s four words! Damn!
“Je t’aime (French). Te amo (Spanish). Ti amo (Italian). Is breá liom tú (Irish). Ma armastan sind (Estonian). Nakupenda (Swahili). Sounds beautiful in any language, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” I agreed, thankful that he had missed my lottery gaffe, although I was wondering what the Tibetan translation for I love you would be.
“When a child says, I love you, Daddy or I love you, Mommy, it instantly melts your heart!”
“It sure does,” I concurred, a broad smile creeping across my face. I couldn’t help but think about the times my children had said those very words and how good it felt. Even now, as adults, I love it when they tell me they love me!
“When a man says it to a woman, or vice versa, a dark day suddenly brightens!” he went on. “Troubles melt away. Squabbles become irrelevant.”
“Yep … ”
“I love you, spoken to a child, is the foundation of a healthy self image,” he continued before I had a chance to expand on my response. “Three words that are oh so crucial in helping children to feel good about themselves.”
I knew what he said was really important, but I kind of lost focus thinking about where we were going with the sofa. My muscles were beginning to burn.
“When you get right down to it,” he continued. “At the root of all suffering and inappropriate behaviour is a lack of self love.”
“That makes a lot of sense,” I said, as my mind came back into focus.
“If you are suffering in any way … physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, in your relationships or career … chances are, a lack of self love is at the root of it,” he added.
“I guess the same is true for when we mistreat another being. We do so because we lack self love … we don’t feel good about ourself.”
“Without a doubt. When we don’t love ourselves we feel inferior, powerless, unworthy and inadequate and in a misguided attempt to compensate for these feelings, we behave inappropriately. We do things to ourselves and other people that are very destructive.”
“Why don’t we do loving things to overcome our lack of self love?”
“Sometimes we do, but I think we do it more so in an attempt to receive love in return.”
“And I guess if we don’t receive that love, we feel even more hurt.”
“Yes, inevitably we do.”
“It seems like parents play an important role in the development of a sense of self love.”
“Absolutely. Parents role is critical. Not only is it important that they give their children unconditional love, but it is equally important that they teach them to love themselves.”
“So, if I understand this correctly, most, if not all, of the destructive behaviour on the planet stems from a lack of self love, and this is mostly the result of a toxic parent-child relationship.” For the moment, I was completely engrossed in the conversation and had forgotten that my arms were about to fall off.
“Yes, it is. But we can change the experience. We can recapture the self love that was not ingrained in us growing up.”
“What can we do?” I asked.
“Here’s how each of us can do it. Stand in front of the mirror every day, look into your eyes and simply say, ‘I love you.'”
“Is that it?” I inquired. It seemed too simple.
“You can also sit beneath a tree, close your eyes and say I love you, or sit beside a lake, look out into the water and say it, or sit in a meadow, look up into the sky and say it.”
“I guess you can pick pretty much any setting.”
“Pretty much,” he agreed. “The key is to keep saying it.”
I thought about his suggestions for a few moments. It sounded doable enough. I knew there were studies that had been done that demonstrated how positive affirmations could change your faulty beliefs and even your DNA. I imagined myself standing in front of my bathroom mirror, repeating those three words. I could see myself doing it, but I had doubts about other people. “What about the dictators, hardened criminals, terrorists, psychopaths, child molesters and the people who are destroying the planet in the name of profits? Even some of my friends. How do we change them?”
“Lead by example,” he replied. “You can’t change them forcibly. You cannot exert your will on them. They have to want to change themselves. Show them love and send them loving thoughts. Overwhelm them with love and let them change willingly.”
What he said made a lot of sense. “I guess all the hatred we’ve been sending each other hasn’t really worked, has it?”
“Nope! Quite the opposite actually.”
“And we’ve had lots of good role models to show us how to live lovingly, haven’t we?”
“We certainly have … from Abraham, Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad to Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, John Lennon and Nelson Mandela … although, most of them went through a period of transformation before love became their guiding light.”
I thought about all the people he had just mentioned and realized we had been given lots of excellent role models and a solid template for living in a loving way. “As John Lennon said, ‘all you need is love.'”
“Indeed. Even using just the first two words, I love, creates an entirely different feeling no matter what the situation or experience,” he added. “Words have energy and the way we use them creates an energy.”
“That’s true,” I agreed enthusiastically, thinking how I love teaching karate, how I love the summer, how I love swimming, and how I love my kids, and how I love the way it makes me feel saying it. “It’s sort of like the experiments conducted by Dr. Imoto, the Japanese scientist, who literally changed the molecular structure of water and ice crystals using words and feelings.”
“Exactly. And remember, human beings are 75% water. Love can change everything … loving thoughts, words and actions … and what better way to do it, than saying I love and I love you. As each of us discovers self-love, this loving energy transform the hatred, greed and fear that is suffocating the planet.”
“I love it when people treat each other with kindness,” I said cheerfully.
“I love democracy,” he replied.
“I love the idea of everyone living in abundance.”
“We could go on and on, couldn’t we?’ he asked.
“Absolutely!” I replied. “But what I’d love most right now, is to put this sofa down.”
“I love your suggestion,” he said with a devilish grin.
Have a lovingly awesome day!
“Psst,” he whispered.
“What?” I whispered back, wondering why I was whispering.
“Just watched the The Hunger Games.” He was still talking softly, but this time he looked left and right as if he wanted to make sure nobody was within earshot.
“Oh ya?” I replied. “Was it a good movie?”
“Fantastic! But we can’t let it happen.”
“Let what happen?”
He looked left and right again. “The apocalypse. Nuclear holocaust. Anarchy. The collapse of democracy!”
He was starting to scare me. Did he know something I didn’t? “What makes you think that might happen?”
“Not might, will.”
“Okay, what makes you think that will happen?”
“Have you seen, Capitalism: A Love Story?”
“Isn’t that a Michael Moore documentary?”
“Yes. And why are you answering my question with a question?”
“You did it to me first,” I replied defensively.
“Sorry, I guess I did.”
“No worries. And no, I haven’t seen the documentary or the movie,” I admitted, although I still didn’t understand the relevance.
“Let me explain,” he offered.
“That would be splendid.”
“Capitalism: A Love Story, is an indictment against … capitalism. It implies that government corruption and runaway greed which is so rampant in Western culture is leading to the very disintegration of society. This will eventually lead to anarchy and in combination with Mother Earth’s retribution for the way we have mistreated her … with over-development, global warming and the enormous production of garbage and pollution … will lead to the apocalypse. This in turn could potentially lead to a Hunger Game’s type of world … a communist-style society where people are pitted against each other in death games.”
“You must be a fatalist,” I said accusingly, ignoring the horror of what he had just described.
“A realist,” he replied in a steadfast tone that made me think his was a credible voice with genuine concern.
“What makes you think we could end up living in a Hunger Games world?”
“Russia, China, Cuba,” he replied. “Not to mention any number of African and Middle Eastern countries.”
“Good point.” I hadn’t thought about it before, but what he said made a lot of sense. People in those countries had risen up and revolted against repressive regimes only to have even more repressive regimes take their place. Stalin allegedly murdered over 20 million people, including Leon Trotsky, an important figure in the Russian revolution who advocated mass democracy.
“What can we do?” I asked sincerely.
“I have a solution,” he offered. “But it won’t be easy. People will have to behave differently. They will have to change their priorities. Parents will have to parent differently. Schools, government, corporations will have to change the way they operate.”
Before raining on his parade … I wanted to tell him that the likeliness of all these things happening is so remote, you couldn’t see it with high powered binoculars … I thought it best to humour him by inquiring about his miracle solution. “What do you have in mind?”
Whoa! Didn’t see that coming. I sat quietly for the longest time contemplating these two simple words. “I thought maybe you were going to suggest a different form of rebellion,” I said, finally breaking the silence.
“We’ve had lots of rebellions. Not many have worked.”
“What about South Africa,” I countered.
“Nelson Mandela advocated reconciliation,” he said. “And that comes from a place of self love.”
“I guess you’re right,” I had to admit.
“When people feel good about themselves,” he continued. “When they feel lovable, worthy, good enough and empowered, they don’t mistreat other beings. They don’t live in lack, so they’re not driven by greed. They live with compassion and they ensure there is abundance for all. They live in harmony with all that is.”
“Including the planet,” I added with a smile.
“Exactly,” he agreed approvingly, mirroring my smile.
“So we can save ourselves and the planet by learning how to feel good about ourselves … by learning to love ourselves.”
“I believe it’s the only way,” he said.
“I guess that’s a better alternative than a Hunger Games-type society, where people kill one another for entertainment.” I thought about I Am Legend, starring Will Smith and The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington, and wondered why it is that Hollywood always paints a very dark portrayal of post-apocalyptic life on the planet. Maybe they are being guided by sources of higher wisdom who are trying to tell us something.
“It certainly is,” he agreed. “Besides, I’m not good with a bow and arrow!”
“Pardon,” I exclaimed.
“Go see the movie,” he suggested, his caring smile returning.
Have a lovingly awesome day!