Why I'm Sick and Tired of LOVE

I love you.
I love ice cream.
I love my kids.
I love Ed Harris. (Squeal!)
I love my parents.
I love purple.

“Love” is a catch phase we slap on anything we like, enjoy, feel obligated to, or care about. We walk out of a movie and say, “I loved that!” We think of our favorite famous person and say, “I love him” when we’ve never even met him. We turn to our significant other and say “I love you so much.” This word is so convoluted we may not understand its true meaning. Lately, I’m asking “What is love anyway?” 

According to many spiritual traditions, the highest level of human capacity is love. But, how can we attain love when we don’t know what it really is? So I charge you, dear reader…what the heck is it?

Is it caring deeply about someone or something? Is it being nice even when you don’t want to be? Is love equal to patience, allowing others to be who they are and accepting them no matter what? Is love the same as peace? Is love serving others, even when you’re exhausted? Is it being the best parent you can be to your child? Is it letting someone go when you know it’s time? 

Language fails us when it comes to love. 

It’s like trying to see air. We know it’s there. We know we experience it, but defining it is like grasping water. So we’re left with dumb analogies to describe it. 

Is love a feeling? Or is it an action, something we do? We can love someone that we dislike. We can perform a loving action when we are angry or hurt. So apparently the feeling and the action don’t need to match. The Bible tells us love is patient, kind, and does not boast. But what about “tough love?” Also, sometimes love hurts like a sword through the heart. So…wtf?

Love is like the Eastern concept of the Tao.
“The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao.” Anytime we try to define it, it eludes us. However, we toss the word around like it’s no big deal. 

“Love” has become synonymous with anything that makes us feel good: junk food, sex, a hot musician, a place, a person, a book, a new outfit. OMG, I am so confused! We have a lot of things and emotions disguised as love. Maybe they point toward love, but they still aren’t love itself. 

I’ve grown suspicious of this word. If someone says they love me that can mean ten different things. It might make better sense to say, “I care about you.” Instead of “I love chocolate”, how about “Chocolate brings me pleasure!”

If we look beyond the human notions of love, we can sorta grasp that love is the force of creation. It’s the energy that runs the universe. But if that’s the case, why can’t we just use the word creation? Also, this gets hairy because if love is the essence of the universe, mustn’t we also admit a huge part of that is destruction? But it seems incorrect to equate love with destruction. Creation and destruction are two sides of the same coin. Maybe love is the space that holds this coin. If so, love is still responsible for destruction. Maybe destruction isn’t a bad thing then. Perhaps destruction is merely transformation. If that’s the case then we should “love” death, hurricanes, and wars. Sigh.

Love is sometimes promoted as something to be earned or bought when we know damn well it’s neither. Marriage can’t be equated to love. Sex is not love. We love someone but later fall out of love. That doesn’t seem like true love then, does it? Or we say “I love him, but I had to let him go.” How can we love someone that is no longer a part of our reality? What we really mean is “I love the memory of him.” Again, it points to love, nothing more.

I prefer never to utter the words “I love you.”

First, the plainness dilutes the profound feeling of fondness. I’d certainly feel offended if you addressed your esteem and attachment to me in those barely attired terms; doesn’t our relationship deserve a better-dressed expression?

Second, “I love you” are not your words! They belong to millions of people before you. Why borrow such a hackneyed expression dulled by universal habit?

Choose a more personal verbal assembly-something that expresses your personality or, more to the point, your complex appreciation for the one you love.   

 –Philippe Petit, Creativity, the Perfect Crime

I understand words like care and peace. But, I do not know what “love” really means. I can only savor the occasional moments I experience it, laying down my desire to grasp it or define it.


The New Explorers

The year is 1856. There are no cars. No internet. No phones. In the name of England you’ve been sent to a giant land mass which your map simply labels “unknown”.  Your mission? To locate the source of the world’s longest river. 

After a four-week ship ride you arrive and your journey begins. You are greeted with mosquitoes that sow the seed of malaria into your bloodstream. You encounter a king who force feeds his daughters beef drippings and cream to make them obese as a symbol of his wealth, control, and power. You tarry on. Weeks turn into months. The sun beats ruthlessly upon you day after wicked day. Dysentery rakes your intestines.  Botflies crawl under your epidermis, laying their eggs there to stay warm and be hatched just below the surface of your physical boundary. Your porters constantly steal your supplies and abandon you. Yet each day you wake up and put one dusty boot in front of the other. 

At times the weather is so uncooperative you must stay put for months at a time, fighting unknowable loneliness and boredom. You write letters to your family to be received one year hence. You keep a journal of your travels, but the humidity rots the pages, reminding you of your own impermanence. These are just a few of the typical scenarios explorers faced as they traversed undocumented areas of this large rock we call Earth.

Gone are the days of real explorers. 

With the exception of the deep ocean, everything on Earth has been discovered. There is no New Frontier on Earth anymore. You could argue that space is the new frontier, but it’s not the same. Not any ol’ Joe Schmoe can cruise up to space. Only a select few can. Back in the day, anyone could pack up their family, toss their possessions into a covered wagon, and journey west in search of adventure, and a better life. Nowadays it’s difficult to get past airport security to visit a nearby city. 

I’ve always been obsessed with historical explorers. Who were these crazy people? Why did they do it? Now that every inch of Earth has been seen, where is the explorer spirit? Have we turned to inventing things? Curing diseases? Still, this isn’t the same as traveling inhospitable landscapes, facing extreme hardship, and never knowing what danger lies beyond the next bush. 

Now, I’ll let you in on my little secret… I want to be an explorer! (Okay, I’ll opt out on the botflies.) But I want to discover new terrains. I want to look challenge in the face and step closer. I want to see what’s on the other side of discovery. Vasco de Gama, teach me your ways! 

The New Face of Exploration

The age of classic exploration is over. In a culture that grinds routine and busyness into every moment of our day, and obligation into every thought, how can we be modern day explorers?

There is one uncharted territory left, one you have easy access to. You don’t need a ship to get there. You don’t need Queen Isabella to fund your journey. You don’t need to stake your claim in the name of any country. Best of all, you needn’t worry about a hostile tribe licking their chops with hunger when they see you approaching.

The New Final Frontier

My friends, the final frontier is our own human potential. The modern age of exploration demands that we journey internally rather than to foreign lands. Inside each of us is a vast and largely uncharted landscape. There are lakes of memories, mountain ranges of hope, and caves of fear. There is that large massive island labeled “unknown.” 

Famous explorers’ names splash across the pages of history books everywhere. To us, their achievements are incredible. However, they hardly found themselves remarkable. They were just doing what needed to be done, day after day. They walked and stumbled through hardship and challenges. Sure, we may never experience the same kind of trauma these men and women faced. But don’t we also stumble through hardship, face challenges, and put one dusty boot in front of the other each day? 

We all have an inner “explorer.” When a friend mentions something new she wants to try, I see the twinkle of the explorer in her eye. Our daily lives can be viewed as a quest through the inner wilderness. Some of us are daredevils, jumping out of airplanes for fun. Some of us are entrepreneurs, building businesses from nothing. Some of us are philanthropists, serving others in amazing ways. Some of us are teachers or philosophers. Some of us are raising the next generation of little explorers. We all face adversity in life: the diagnosis of a devastating illness, being up all night with a sick child, reaching out to a friend in need. 

Each day we chart new paths, make decisions that affect our route, and each day we distance ourselves a bit more from past tragedies. Our lives may appear small on the surface, but inside each of us is a vast frontier that unfolds without a map to guide us. Each day we take another step and see what lies beyond. At times, like the great explorers, we are hopelessly lost. Sometimes the inner storms are so huge that we must stop and be still for several months. Like the great explorers of history, it is only by getting lost, trudging forward, and doing what must be done each day that we come to know ourselves and the mysterious place within us called “unknown.”

Additional resources for curious minds:


Living on the Bell Curve

Emotions pretty much run our lives and nearly always outwit logic when it comes to making life choices. There is a wide array of emotions we can experience during our lifetime. I think the range of emotions a person can feel can be visualized by the traditional bell curve. A few times in our lives we may experience deep sorrow. A few times we may be lucky enough to experience ecstatic bliss. Most of the time we're somewhere in the middle.

With the exception of a couple twisted folks out there, most people dislike pain. In fact, most people will do nearly anything to avoid it and its other negative cohorts. On our bell curve these "negative" emotions are represented on the far left side of the bell curve. We want to limit the experience of these kinds of emotions. We tend to shy away from activities that will result in a painful outcome. We in essence try to cut off the far left side of the bell curve of the human experience.  What we fail to realize however is that when we do that, we also cut off the far right side of the bell curve thus limiting our access to the deepest joys, the most profound beauties, and the moments that defy explanation. We spend the bulk of our lives in the center of the curve, mediocre and numb.

We don't take that big career risk or relationship risk because it might end badly and give us pain. We practically forget these very things could also bring the highest elation, freedom, and happiness. In so doing we settle. We stop asking for what we really want and we live in the center.

Are we willing to expand the bell curve and allow ourselves to experience the wildest bliss AND the deepest sorrow? Can we embrace both sides openly without judgment? (I think so!)


Ramblings on the Nature of "Group Think"

I have a confession to make. I was a big metal head in high school. Back in the late 80's it was an interesting sub-culture. The guys were expected to wear ripped jeans, Metallica T-shirts and long hair. They were expected to drink beer, smoke pot and generally act like immature womanizers. The ladies were expected to wear mini skirts and other sluttish clothing and flaunt over the headbanger guys. This is when I first became aware of a concept I call "group think".

You see, I was something of an anomaly in heavy metal culture. I was a girl, but I worn the ripped jean and Metallica shirt. I wasn't a druggie. I guess some of the guys were hot but what I really loved was the music. I wanted to discuss the merits of Kirk Hammett's guitar playing to Dave Mustaine's. Who was the better guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne? Was it Zakk or Jake or Randy? Very few people in the scene could hold a decent conversation about the music itself. The people enjoyed the roles of the sub-culture, but knew very little about the actual music behind it all.

A similar thing occurs in other sub-cultures. I recently found myself surrounded by a clan of devout followers of a certain religion. Being the outsider, I immediately noticed they all dressed, talked and acted exactly the same. I felt like I'd stumbled onto the movie set for "The Steppford Wives". Creepy.

The same thing occurs in racial cultures. Are there not clothing stores, music and products that cater to specifically to a certain race?

I even see this in blog culture. All the blogs I used to enjoy now all sound the same, touting the same message. Have they influenced each other so much that they have succumbed to group think? Is the need to belong so strong that we must stop thinking for ourselves and start dressing, talking, behaving and believing like the others in our favorite subculture?

Maybe group think it's a bad thing. But when folks tell me they chose a certain religion because it was what they were raised with or that someone they admire chose it I feel concerned. I've even had people tell me that just in case Hell IS in fact a real place, they want to know they are safe when they die. They don't necessarily choose a belief system based on the belief system itself.

I'm sure I'm not immune, but I gotta ask... should we be more capable and more willing to think for ourselves? Is the urge to belong so strong that it over-rides the true essence of the underlying sub-culture? Do we like having a set of prescribed rules given to us so we don't have to think about anything? Are we afraid of ridicule of being different?

I'm thinking about this a lot lately.What if an African American wanted to enjoy country western music? Would he keep it to himself for fear of being ostracized? Or would the thought even occur to him to enjoy something so far-removed from his own culture? A few married people I know choose to not be monogamous. A lot of people dislike them for breaking the rules of traditional marriage. And we occasionally hear the story about the scientist or the religious leader who suddenly stands up and goes, "Hey this isn't right. Why are we playing by these rules?"

When Thomas Edison invited his scientific colleagues to come view his new form of light, no one came. They did not believe what he was saying because it simply didn't fit into their groups way of thinking.

I often wonder what I am blind to because of my own belief system and sub-cultures that I enjoy. It's nearly impossible to see when you are blind.


Our Greatest Tool

I certainly know when life gets overly busy. The blog is the first thing to go. So much for my anticipated discipline of posting twice a week. All the "build your blog audience" sites drill home the point that you must post often and consistently. Then it occurred to me that I don't much care about building an audience right now, so that's one less pressure I need to worry about. I'm gonna post when I want when I feel moved to. There, I feel better already! Now on to today's topic.

I've been writing a lot about ego lately. During the last months I've been experimenting with some concepts around ego. It seems that people have two parts to them. The identity part, the part that is the story we tell about ourselves; and the part of us that lies "behind" our identity which I call the Authentic Self. We spend most our waking hours living in our identity/ego. We only occasionally slip into operating from the Authentic Self. We've all had the experience of being "in the zone", or having an intuitive flash about something, or doing something that comes effortlessly. We can also find this place while engaged in activities that totally turn off our mind chatter. Meditation, yoga, free dancing, or listening to music are a few things that do it for me.

Yet we cling to our ego. We truly believe we ARE our identity. I think we do this because we spend most of our time identifying with our identity! Yet, I also know that living from that ego place invokes a place of constant distress. We suffer from "not good enough" disease. "I want more" or "I want something else". The ego is never satisfied for long. Like a hungry savage dog, it constantly needs fed more meat. It does this so it can survive and continue to be needed by us.

Some traditions teach that the ego is something that should be overcome, or that it is a total illusion. I disagree. The ego is very real and in fact I believe we do need it to function in the world. Without an identity we would walk around like cattle. We wouldn't be able to function in the world and create stuff. We wouldn't be able to communicate with each other because for the most part we still communicate through our physical bodies. We relate to others based on their identity. ie "She is a female" or "He is a child" or "He doesn't like me", or whatever. However, we are only being our true self when we are in the ego-less state of  Authentic Self. So what's a person to do about this dilemma?

I think it would serve us well to change the way we view the ego. Ego is not the enemy, nor is it something we should get lost in. The ego is a TOOL. In fact it is our greatest tool to express the Authentic Self in the world. If we can view ego as merely a tool it suddenly becomes easy to be detached from it and everything it does. It also causes me to want to honor that ego. It is only through "her" that I am able to experience this amazing thing called life. It is only with her capacities that I can create things in the world using her particular set of talents. And through this amazing "tool" I can experience and relate to other people who are merely other expressions of Authentic Self. Suddenly my ego becomes a beautiful and amazing thing and the most precious tool I currently own. Although I realize it is only "on loan" to me for a rather short period of time. I must enjoy her and "use" her as much as I can while I have access to this amazing thing called EGO.