THE BLOG
06/01/2010 11:21 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

What Is This Thing Called Love?

Chewing on the comments of HP readers to last week's post entitled "How Alive Is Your Love," I stepped into a cab, believing I would use the time to draft some notes I'd taken in response. I was wrong. So much for my little plan! There, in the front seat driving the taxi was a compelling young man known as Dereje.

On our way to the following event, I was reminded that love is not only "alive and well," but Dereje is one of its most radiant distributors. With a look of excitement on his face, I asked him what was the source of his happiness? He told me the following:

"I come from Ethiopia. This week, my parents, who never been here, are coming to see my 3-year-old daughter for first time. I so happy. They worked so hard, have struggled and have been best possible parents. (It is) my purpose, great honor and big joy to save my moneys so that I can bring them here for six months. What wonderful thing to be able to thank your parents who have given up so much so we have lives with more opportunity." Apparently, they will be here for the birth of Dereje's second born this June.

I could not help but compare his gratitude, along with Joey's and Fiona's last week, to the group of people in their early twenties standing in front of me at Starbucks earlier the same morning. Seemingly saddled by iPads, iPhones, PCs, and other various electronic gadgets and garb suggesting economic advantage, they complained about not yet having the latest iPhones -- apparently, light weight in the gratitude department. Ironic, that in the "land of plenty," there appears to be, so often, such spiritual poverty, whereas in places thought to be lacking, there can be such an abundance of inner wealth.

Albert Einstein once said: "Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, without knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of each other. Above all, for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy."

We are here for each other. The problem comes when we forget. Several hours later, a woman from India that I was to meet told the following story. It seems a group of soldiers gathered under the stars after a long day of battle. It was time to light a fire. Each had wood. One looked at the man across from him and thought: "This man is my enemy. I will not let him sit by my fire." The second soldier noticed that the man beside him had different political views. "No," thought he. "I would never share my wood with him." A third, noticing that the skin color of the other was different than his own, muttered to himself: "It would be foolish to let them benefit at my fire. They are inferior to me." The fourth recognized another soldier as one who stole from his village. "No way," thought he, "am I going to give him my campfire for nothing." And, so it went. The next morning all were found dead, because they would not share the warmth they had.

Our joy returns when we remember we are here for the sake of one another. Our joy returns when we are willing to share the warmth of our fire. So often this comes when we are fortunate enough to spend time with people like Dereje, Joey, Fiona and others who seem as kin, related by blood or not. Let me illustrate.

Some 20 years ago, in cities including Berkeley, CA and Seattle, WA, a handful of people gathered in modest living rooms to meet a small, humble woman from India. Today, when she speaks where she was born, in the Quilon district of Kerala, and nearby, more than 100,000 are in attendance, taking in every word, appreciating each gesture. This weekend, in greater Seattle, at the Bellevue Hyatt Hotel, more than 4,000 individuals dropped what they were doing on an early Friday morning, and came to experience the phenomenon. While others were packing picnics and leaving for a holiday, these men, women and children took off their shoes, and waited. During the next three days, it was standing room only in the upscale ballroom.

The ballroom was far and distant place from the small, impoverished fishing village where a little girl by the name of Parayakadavu was born on September 27, 1953. It is said that: "She came into this world not in tears as babies usually do, but with a beaming smile on her face, as if prophesying the joy and bliss she was to bring into the world."

By her 50th birthday, "Amma," as she is known internationally, was creating mystically informed music, which she describes, saying, "an unbroken stream of Love flows from me towards all beings in the cosmos. That is my inborn nature." Recognized at the United Nations and around the world, this mothering figure has hugged more than 36 million people to date. I've met those who have witnessed her absorbed in this practice without a break for over 26 hours. Apparently, her humanitarian inspired projects and activities are more than impressive. For a listing, see www.amma.org

What stood out for me, however, was the simplicity of her purpose, no less so than the taxicab drivers I've been describing these two weeks, or the elderly Sicilian woman working in a New York City restroom, people committed to bringing good into expression because it is their way. Simple, profound acts that illuminate the darkness in a world suffering everything from unrelenting oil spills to unending violence. What stood out for me was the unmistakable longing for what she embodies that the world finds missing: Eros, that sort which has to do with benevolent Mother Love. A love without strings, conditions, complication, criticism. A love that welcomes, rejoices at the return of its sons and daughters. A love that smiles, laughs, invites.

One need not be a "believer." One four-year-old child by the name of Lulu watched Amma with such complete delight that it prompted her to dance and sing aloud. I asked Lulu what made her so happy. "That grandma there," she said, pointing to Amma. "She smiles and I smile and dance. She's so happy." Another five-year-old girl was tending her three-year-old brother. The two of them were quietly playing on the floor, lost in their world of giggling. "You are having such a good time," I said. "What's so funny?" To which the older sister pointed to Amma, and the long line of people waiting for their hug. "Big people are nice here," she said. "You can play and play."

As I left, I came across Margarita, an 82-year-old woman leaning on two canes. To my question, "what brought you here?" she answered: "My heart gets too heavy in worry. I wanted to come so I could lay it down, and be free. My time is coming to an end. When Amma hugged me, I realize I am free to do the same thing for anyone who wants the same thing. What's it cost to give a hug? Nothing. Look what comes back: everything. Without this, you'll get old before your time. Young people spend too much time these days worrying. They just need to notice that everything they could ever want is right here in front of their nose."

I guess you could say it all gets down to love. Not that obligatory, Hallmark extravaganza of "to do's" on February 14th, but in the everyday here and now. It all gets down to love. It all gets down to noticing that goodness is in our midst. It all gets down to witnessing how simply a purpose may be lived out, if it is true. It all gets down to letting go the need for other people's approval, and just live out this life in whatever way leaves the place a bit better off for the fact that you and I've been here today, noticed the Greater Good in our midst, and celebrated what we've got, rather than cursed what's missing.

"Anything less than love in the heart of man creates tension and stress."
-Eric Butterworth

How I do adore you! I am so grateful that you are here, that I am here, that we are in the good company of one another. Let me hear from you and your musings on love, people who've inspired you, as well as your questions and comments. Please pass this on to others, re-tweet, and so on to those you know. The more, the merrier. I'm listening.

Become A Fan and be notified when updates are posted. For more material on this thing called love, please drop by for a visit to my personal blog and website where you will find The Love Project, and access to materials of interest. Thank you for bearing with me during the construction of this site!

For those who want a deeper homecoming with what matters to your heart and soul, stay tuned for the new program "Coming Home to Yourself." Consider yourself invited to a new teleconference series on this same subject after Labor Day, 2010.