I invite you to suspend disbelief for a few minutes and follow me on a radical thought experiment, or better yet, a radical heart experiment.
First, if you don’t already share this assumption, I ask you to allow the possibility that there is an unnameable Love/Divinity/Oneness/<your word here> that precedes and transcends everything. And further, that the whole point of the Universe is to manifest this … let’s call it Oneness for now … into the physical world. And counter to this unchanging, undifferentiated Oneness, that the physical world is always changing and all about evolving relationships between separate “parts’.
Are you with me so far? Okay, good…
If we accept these assumptions and step back from our personal, cultural, and even genetic narratives, then wouldn’t our ultimate purpose as “spiritual beings having human experiences” be to love as deeply and as often as possible?
I’m not talking about a superficial, “Sure, I love everybody!” or “Yes, we’re all children of God” kind of love. I’m talking about that soul-to-soul connection you may feel with a parent, a child, a lover. The kind of deep and permanent bond you can always access, regardless of circumstance or proximity. The great loves we carry with us on our deathbeds and perhaps beyond. The type of love we reserve for a select few in our “inner heart circle”.
What if we didn’t reserve this love? What if — and here comes the radical part — What if, over the course of a lifetime, we develop 100, 500, 1,000 love relationships where we touch each other from the core of our beings? What if we all got so good at expressing our own and regarding others’ unique selves and vulnerabilities that we could fall deeply in love at the drop of a hat — with a stranger we meet at an office party, with a colleague we have a 5-minute breakout session with on Zoom, with the cashier ringing up our groceries? What if we were continually open to a depth of love that we repeatedly come away from the briefest of encounters feeling our souls will be connected forever?
Okay, I’m imagining at this point, you’re saying something like “Dream on Art! That may sound well and good, but we live in the real world! You’re forgetting about those annoyances called ‘space’ and ‘time.’ Leaving aside sexual relationships, we don’t have enough hours in a day or the emotional bandwidth to create anywhere near the level of heart-to-heart relationships you’re talking about, much less maintain them! I mean, seriously! Imagine the unceasing longing we would feel for so many loved ones and the unfathomable grief with their inevitable passing!”
Good points! And so, here’s another radical idea…. What if, the fears and limitations we assume prevent us from loving more deeply and often, such as longing and grief, finite time and great distances — are actually less limiting and fixed than we thought?
Two examples to explain what I’m getting at… The first comes from Joanna Macy, the beloved Buddhist scholar, systems thinker and peace activist who has been such a passionate advocate for us waking up to our fundamental interbeingness and us leaning into a “Great Turning” towards a more ecological age. She has also been a pioneer in facilitating despair and empowerment work to help many thousands process and release their deep feelings of grief and anger with the current and likely future state of the world. According to Joanna…
The anguish we feel for what is happening to our world is inevitable … and normal … and even healthy. Pain is very useful. Just don’t be afraid of it. Because if we are afraid, we won’t feel where it comes from. And where it comes from … is love. Our love for this world, that is what is going to pull us through.
Might we also apply this perspective to our loved ones that are far away or have passed on? Might this be a skill we can develop? Might we learn to use “negative” emotions like longing and grief as beacons in the night that can help us navigate back to a sense of gratitude and fulfillment in the love that lies just beneath the surface?
This was confirmed for me personally when my wife (now separated) proposed we open our marriage way back in 1992. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to deal with all the associated fears and jealousies. Over several weeks and months I meditated on these emotions and, every day, would ask myself two questions. The first was “How am I feeling?” and the second was “Okay, how am I really feeling?” because I found it extremely difficult to separate how I was actually feeling from how I was supposed to feel.
To my great surprise, when I followed these feelings to their source, I discovered a wellspring of love for my wife and a deep desire for her happiness. Over time, my fears and jealousies, while never disappearing completely, took a backseat to a new feeling of compersion — empathic joy in her finding happiness with other lovers.
This second example awoke me to the fact that all is not as it seems or as we have been told when it comes to emotions and love relationships. If feeling jealous was not as compelling and consuming as our cultural narratives have led us to believe, I began to wonder what other societal norms and beliefs are just … stories. I began to wonder what else might be possible in our conscious evolution towards manifesting Oneness into the physical world.
Which brings us back to where we started. Imagine a world in which we are open to love in every moment and learn to not restrict our hearts for fear of the longing, grief or jealousy that might ensue. We would still enjoy householding relationships, but we would not feel strapped to the “relationship escalator” where we find our “one and only” and progress from dating to marriage to death do us part. Could we embrace all forms of consensual relationships, both in partnership and in community, both proximally and virtually? Could we truly allow ourselves to experience both our essential uniqueness and our fundamental interbeingness with each other and everything? Could we sink into our collective purpose and live together like cells in a beating heart?
Humanity is at a fork in the road of our evolutionary journey. With climate change and social injustice coming to a head, we have a stark choice to make. If we continue along the path of fear and separation, of greed and ego, I am sadly certain we will go extinct as a species and likely take most life on the planet with us.
But if enough of us allow the coming crises to strip away our illusions of separation and ignite a passion to heal ourselves, each other and the planet, I am convinced we will not only make it through this bottleneck, but we will be a fundamentally changed species on the other side.
Sit for a minute and recall the most significant love you’ve experienced and imagine feeling this love — or even something deeper — not with just one or a few others, but with multitudes. And now imagine everyone you love also loving countless others. Imagine the joy, the connection and belonging, and collective purpose this would bring. Can you feel it?
This is where miracles happen. This is where everything changes. This is where our hearts connect and bring into being a global network of love, a web of intimacy, of both knowing and being known, so profound and alive that, by comparison, the internet and our vast halls of information will seem like handprints on a cave wall.
For years, I imagined the next step on our evolutionary journey as the development of our collective consciousness and a planetary “sphere of reason” akin to Teilhard de Chardin and Vladimir Vernadsky’s concept of the Noosphere — like the internet come alive. Now, my gut is saying this Great Turning will be driven less by our heads and more by our hearts — by expanding our capacity and willingness to fall in love with the divinity in each of us, wherever it appears, over and over again, and together birthing a new world.