They were teenagers for a reason. Teenagers love with wild abandon. Had the lovers been older, they would have been more practical.
Slightly older Romeo: “I can still be a glove upon that hand even if thou marry another.”
Slightly older Juliet: “Indeed parting need not be such sweet sorrow.”
Of course, practical love doesn’t make for great art and it doesn’t make for great living.
“For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son” is quite different than “For God so loved the world but kept his only begotten son for himself.”
On this day of deepest love, it is wonderful to read Nipun Mehta’s “If You Want to Be a Rebel, Be Kind” in the Burning World issue of Parabola magazine. Mr. Mehta’s article about Pancho Ramos Stierle, a nonviolent activist that transformed Occupy Oakland by meditating in the Plaza, reminds us that love is a powerful force. As Pancho said, “If police are stepping up their violence, we need to step up our nonviolence.”
This kind of radical nonviolence is always founded on radical love. For in the face of a Bull Connor, the nonviolent activist must believe that love is the more powerful force. And this kind of radical love is different than other kinds of love. In mundane love, there are tremendous rewards in loving – the touch of a lover’s hands, the warmth of a mother’s loving embrace, the joy of a friend’s company. But to love regardless of benefit is to be a revolutionary lover – to love without exception, without distinction, without boundaries. Most of us are too afraid for this kind of love. We know the sacrifices that such love demands. Do we really want to give our only begotten son to a bunch of undeserving folk?
I do not pretend to be a Pancho. I am a moderately good person. I try to be kind and compassionate but sometimes my to-do list gets in the way and I find myself racing to complete my chores regardless of the causalities. But even though I am a moderately good person, I have a very good conscience. And so, after I’ve mowed down several people in the supermarket, I apologize for my haste and try to slow down.
But on this day of revolutionary love, I will share with you one brief story about how when we try to love unconditionally and without benefit, we sometimes get more than we ever could have imagined.
After a long day of work and family, I found myself in the laundry room of my apartment building. A woman entered the room and began to ask me rather intimate questions about a family member. Though she clearly knew my kin, I did not know her. Being in a hurry, I turned to her and said, “Excuse me but I don’t know you and these are rather intimate questions.” She looked stunned and being a moderately good person with a very good conscience, I realized how rude I had been. I quickly apologized. And then the most amazing thing happened.
I cast aside my to-do list and began to really listen to her. She told me about her son who had recently died from cancer. How as a small boy, he had a rare disease that left him blind and how he was supposed to die before his eighteenth birthday. And how he had lived until he was forty and had learned to ride horses and work as a computer specialist and even had the most amazing four-day party when she and her husband were out of town that classmates still remember to this day. She talked to me for about two hours and I shared her joys and her tears as if I had walked with her. And while I had started the conversation in a penitential sort of way for my rudeness, I finished the conversation having received a tremendous wisdom about how to live fully in an uncertain world.
So, on this day of deepest love, strive to be a revolutionary lover. Ask yourself what would Pancho do? Or Gandhi? Or the Dalai Lama? Or Rumi? Or the countless other good people who have loved without borders?
And even if you take the most tepid steps towards revolutionary love, take those steps knowing that love is a transformative power for the lover, for the receiver, for the world.