Editor’s Note: This article was written for Valentine’s Day in 2011 but its message of love continues to be relevant today and everyday….
Today, the topic is love. Given our title, you probably know where I’m going – all we need is love, what the world needs now is love sweet love, can’t we all just love one another – that kind of thing – and ultimately you’re right but I would, uh, “love it” if you would play along!
Valentine’s Day Is Here!
But do you ever stop to wonder where it came from? Here are some basic facts from Wikipedia – the day was created and named after an early Christian martyr named Saint Valentine around 500 CE. There are questions as to whether this name represents one person or many martyrs. One of these martyrs named Valentine died on February 14, hence our celebration on this date.
Ironically, the early honoring of Valentine had nothing to do with romantic love – the earliest records of linking love to Valentine’s Day is found in the writings Chaucer in the late 1300s. Some historians believe the link derived from ancient Roman fertility celebrations that went on around the same time. Over the centuries, many people were called to strengthen this connection between love and holiday – and in the 19th century, the tradition of writing notes to one another grew into the 20th and 21st century big business of the greeting card companies!
What were your earliest memories of Valentine’s Day? For me, I can still see my elementary school room where we had taped up decorated bags with our names on them to the chalk trays under the room’s blackboards. The night before at home I had prepared all my Valentine cards to be delivered to my classmates. This was a big deal to me. At my mother’s urging, I prepared a card for everyone in my class. The choicest cards from the box my mother had bought me were selected for the prettiest girls. The absolute best card generally went to the girl that I had a secret crush on! This was my one time of the year that I could safely profess my love, even if in a very subtle way.
At the chosen moment, our teacher would have us go around and deliver our Valentines into the other kid’s bags. Later we retrieved our little mailboxes, retreated to our desk and opened our love notes. I carefully read the cards from the pretty girls, especially “that one girl”, to decipher any clues that my affection was returned. I carefully noted who in the class had not given me a card. My worth, my lovable-ness, all being determined by the count cards and the subtle messages they contained. Oh how these early messages became ingrained in us and gave us fodder for healing later!
As I grew up, Valentine’s Day got locked into a day to get gifts for my one girlfriend and eventually my wife. Cards, flowers, candy and meals out were all purchased with the intention to say “I love you”. At least, we hope that that intention is there! I’ve talked to a lot of men where it sounded that their actions were more out of obligation than an intention of expressing love. I have no doubt I probably slipped into this trap somewhere earlier in life, too.
What Is Love?
What exactly is this thing love which we claim to be professing? So much has been said, written and sung about this topic – it has captivated us as long as there has been an “us”. But I’m going to keep it simple here.
Most of us equate love with a human emotion somehow linked to desire for some person, thing or experience. Most of us recognize there are different “levels” to our love. I may love hot Apple pie, walking around Paris or a good movie. Yet somehow that love is different than the love I feel for my dog, Harmony; my wife, Mary; my grown children – Melanie, Julie, Matthew, Glen, and Christian; or my grandchildren – Amelie, Cayla and Zoe.
I thought at the time that I loved that pretty little girl in my elementary school class. I remember my first serious girlfriend and that intense out of control sense of love. Along the path of life, I have felt “love” for many people. That feeling has tended to mature a bit along the way. The “life or death” intensity of “I love you, please love me or I am heartbroken” has shifted into a deeper care and concern over your happiness and the quality of your life. I may still “want you to love” me, but I’m not going to die if you don’t and I can still care about you. Bottom line is our sense of the experience of love shifts for most of us as we walk life’s path—it “evolves”.
Every once in a while, I bump into these people who exude a warmth and love that seems to extend from them out to everyone. When I encounter these people, I want to be around them! In fact, something in me wants to feel and exude the love that they do. Something calls me to expand my feeling of love to more and more people. Their experience of love seems to be the next step in how the maturing of my experience of it is moving. Somehow love itself is calling me to love everyone.
Expanding Our Circle
I’ve written about this before – the natural progression of expanding our circle of care and concern to a broader number of people – moving from being egocentric (caring only about myself) to ethnocentric (caring about a widening circle of people who are like me – family, friends, share the same religion, share the same ethnicity, share the same country) to world centric (caring about everyone everywhere). This is our evolutionary path ultimately. We can deny it. We can fight it. We can avoid claiming it in this lifetime. Yet I’m convinced this is where humanity is ultimately headed.
I’m not alone in that belief. Many mystics and individuals who have combined spirituality and evolution have seen that truth including Ernest Holmes, Sri Aurobindo and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. This path is also frequently referenced by philosopher Ken Wilber and integral theory.
One of my favorite quotes by de Chardin is “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” If you’ve read Conscious Bridge for very long, you have probably heard me reference this quote before.
Upon first reading it, we may think that he is saying that if we could somehow hook electrodes up to humans and capture this power source called love, then we could somehow break our dependence on foreign oil and bring down our CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. But that’s not exactly what he means.
In my opinion, de Chardin is reaching back into our past when humanity crossed a critical threshold in its evolution. When we discovered fire is also when we discovered our ability to think and reason – we recognized that we were thinking – and with that ability came the power to manipulate the physical world. We’ve been getting better at that ever sense as we “master the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity”. Now we’re ready to kick it up a notch.
By turning inward, and harnessing this emotion that we call love, de Chardin is pointing us towards our next great leap in our collective evolution. If somehow we can consciously direct our love rather than see it as an emotion which controls us, then we are “harnessing it”. And, de Chardin reminds us we are harnessing this power “for God”– but please keep in mind that the God he describes is not the old myth of a bearded man sitting on a throne in the sky which is still fairly prevalent in our consciousness, but rather a God that is an energy, a power, a vast intelligence –”God” is in everything and everything is a part of “God”.
As we consciously choose to direct our love more and more, we let go of our sense of separation from one another and begin experiencing our unity, our oneness – in other words by our “harnessing our love” we expand our awareness of the fact that we are all part of “God”. The more we can grow in that consciousness, the more we will be like those loving people I keep bumping into – if I can see beyond the veil of your story of your humanness from your time here on planet Earth and into your truth that you are this spiritual consciousness evolving in the same flowing ocean that I am, then how can I not love you! In spite of outward appearances and our different earthly stories, we are the same!
Harnessing the Evolutionary Force of Love
Ultimately love at its highest level is not this emotion we feel, but an evolutionary force driving us to our highest potential. De Chardin said, “Love alone can unite living beings so as to complete and fulfill them… for it alone joins them by what is deepest in themselves. All we need is to imagine our ability to love developing until it embraces the totality of men and the earth.”
Ernest Holmes said that love “is the great transforming Power, which brings everything into harmony. It is the unifying Principle, the creative element, the motivating Power of all that is fine and noble in life.” Aurobindo wrote, ” Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation.” In were we not taught as kids that “God is love”?
So somehow each of us is called to journey in our awareness from an early learned sense of love being an emotion that simply arises inside us that is outside our personal control – to a new sense of love being a power that we can harness as we evolve, a power returns us into unity with spirit or God. So how do we make that shift? Here are some simple, but not necessarily easy steps:
- Recognize that giving love is not dependent on receiving love. I can still choose to love the little girl in my elementary class whether she gives me a card or not. I can choose to love you no matter who you are and what you believe. I don’t have to condone your behavior nor allow you to walk all over me, I can have healthy boundaries and disagree with your actions but still love you.
- Recognize that I can always create an intention to love, it’s within my conscious choice. Why are you and I giving those Valentine’s Day gifts? The energy behind an intention of obligation tends to foster separation, an intention to express love moves us into unity.
- Recognize that not only can I expand my circle of love to include more and more people – something inside me pushes me in that direction. Most people regardless of their political or religious beliefs feel something in their hearts open towards people much different from themselves at certain moments. Consider the Indian Ocean tsunami of a few years ago, the Haitian earthquake last year or the shooting in Arizona last month. Much of the world’s attention has been focused on the events in Egypt these past couple of weeks. Something inside of us connected the passion and excitement of Egyptians as they took steps to create a government that is responsive to their needs. Our hearts opened as we watched their happiness unfold and celebrations erupt on the streets. Forget politics for a moment – focus on that feeling within you that connected you with the Egyptians excitement. That feeling can be controlled and expanded. It is an evolutionary force connecting you with others!
So on this Valentine’s Day, make each of us be reminded to shift a little bit in our perception of love. May we see the gift that this emotion has given us throughout our lives, how we may gain conscious control of this emotion and harness it for our personal growth, and how we may expand our love to encompass all – may we see the world as our Valentine.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Be Love!
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!