Love: Simple and Practical

July 9, 2012 Leave a comment

We spend a lot of time at IISC thinking about how to talk about and practice love as a force for social change. Mike Edwards claimed in 2003 that “that the future of our world depends on how successful we are in developing and applying a new social science of love… applied in and through the systems that are essential to the functioning of all successful societies…[This kind of love is best illuminated by Rev. Dr.] Martin Luther King’s philosophy of the “love that does justice”, signifying the deliberate cultivation of mutually-reinforcing cycles of personal and systemic change…

Only by operating from the space where we are joined together in some deep sense are we likely to find true common ground in facing up to the collective problems that confront us.”

Sounds complicated! So, what does that actually look like? I got some practical illustrations yesterday while I was teaching an elementary school Sunday School lesson about love. Our curriculum defines love simply: “choosing to give someone your time and friendship no matter what.” The “no matter what” clause turns out to be essential—no matter what the others think about you, do to you, or want for you; no matter what they have or what you have; no matter who’s in charge or whether the rules are fair; no matter what might happen to you as a result of this love.

It’s remarkable how easily the children came up with examples of extending themselves to and on behalf of others and also choosing not to retaliate when someone had wronged them. Soon enough, they will start to understand the other side of the equation: making sure the rules are fair for everyone, that no one can take advantage of anyone else,  that everyone has the same chance of living a good life, that everyone is included and that we take care of one another and our planet.

How can I live today in a way that demonstrates this kind of hands-on love? I think it’s about doing our personal and spiritual work so that we have the strength and inclination to get past narrow self-interest to a deep concern for others.  And, it’s about really seeing the world around us so that we can’t miss the injustices around us and we can’t imagine letting people experience them any longer.

What would be possible in our workplaces, communities and homes if we all lived more of this kind of simple, practical love? And, what kind of personal and collective transformation will it take for us to live this way?

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  • Gibran says:

    Beautiful reflection Cynthia. Thank you! I like the drive to the practical. What are the practices of love that can be brought into the spaces in which we work and strive for justice?

    Is there an ethos of “showing up” for others? Is there a practice of accountability? Is there room for expressions of appreciation? How much of our humanness can bring into this work? The more of that, the more the opportunities for love.

  • Amen, sister. Great post. Continuing on with the questions Gibran raises: How do we forgive and extend largess when we are wronged? What are the elements and virtues that make that possible? Are there healthy and fair ways to work out conflict? What about laughter and levity and how do they create space for “no matter what” to emerge? No wonder Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of God”. We have much to learn from the hearts of children on the journey towards love!

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    Amen to your amen! Laughter and levity are essential to making beautiful, loving space (and they are waaaaay to easy for me to forget, I’m afraid!).

    I’ve also been thinking that the “how to” has to begin with laying down my conceptions of what I deserve. If I proceed as if nothing is expected or owed, then everything is a gift. Then, when things that would have been an expectation don’t happen or things I don’t “deserve” do happen, I can more easily extend forgiveness. And, I can more easily concentrate on the other rather than myself.

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