LIFE IS FOR LOVING
by Eric Butterworth
Order in Adobe PDF eBook or printed form for $6.95 (+ printing charge)
"Another book about love! What more is there to say?" My answer to that is: With all the personal conflicts and frustrations and the world's wars and rumors of war, we obviously haven't had enough to say about love. Or perhaps we simply haven't understood what love is.
Has the word "love" become for most of us simply a meaningless cliché? We preach about love, we read love stories, and today there are dozens of "love" posters using formats that vary from the sensitive to the pornographic. But what does the word "love" mean? Semanticists tell us that no word has meaning — only people have meaning when they use the word. What, then, do we mean when we use the word "love"?
I have discovered a strange phenomenon in the words we use most often. Note the many words we use to describe a state of personal fullness: joyful, peaceful, beautiful, careful, cheerful, insightful, faithful, grateful, healthful, plentiful, successful, etc. If "love" is really the "greatest thing in the world," why have we never felt impelled to coin the word "loveful" (full of love)? Could this mean that we have never thought of the reality of love as an inner power — or of the possibility of being truly fulfilled in love?
After reading Life Is for Loving, you may conclude that the word "loveful" should be a valid term. Perhaps you will even begin to use the term in salutations such as "Have a loveful day!" or, in a more meaningful way, in describing a person as being "beautiful and loveful." But, most important to our thesis, you will want to work for a self-evaluation that implies that you are full of the power of love — "I am a loveful person."
Let me warn you, Life Is for Loving will be extremely repetitious, for I am building on the theme that "love" is the very Genesis of the creation and the nature of the creative process in man. I have taken seriously the Scriptural text, "God is love," and that "man is created in the image-likeness of God." It must logically follow, then, that man is created in and of love. Love is man's true nature, whether he knows it or releases it or not.
Despite the weight of psychological teaching or human belief, love is not an emotion or sensual experience. It is not the plaything of human volition. Love is the action of a totally transcendent power and process within you. Therefore, love does not begin in you and end in the one you love. It begins in a Cosmic Source, flows out through you, and goes on without end. This is not a concept that will come easily to your consciousness. It may take much meditation and serious study — which is the very reason why it will appear again and again throughout the book as an ever-recurring theme.
Most importantly: life is not for existing or "making do." Life is for loving and living abundantly, for you are, innately, a loveful person.
Love is the foundation of the creative process, the root of the reality of the universe, and the very nature of the Infinite Power and Presence we call God. All things begin with love. Genesis says, "In the beginning God... "But then John says, "God is love!" The Word is Love. Thus, paraphrasing John, "In the beginning was Love, and Love was with God, and Love was God." "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." This image-likeness is the transcendent nature of creative love. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him." Thus it is that man is created in and of love. No matter how far he may stray from the root of reality into the circumference of living, it is always true in principle ("in the beginning...") that he is rooted and grounded in the allness of love. The chief work of man's life is always to "Call to remembrance" his true nature, which is created in the image and likeness of God who is love, and to get on with the business of life — which is for loving.
From Love to Loving
If we are honest, we will admit that "love" has become a grand cliché. It has been called "a many splendored thing," but most of these splendors are abstract ideals, or even popular slogans such as, "Love makes the world go round." There is no word in the language that is used with more meanings than love, and most of them are unconsciously insincere in that they hide the true under-lying motives and feelings. The brutal frankness of Charlie Brown is hilarious because it is so true to life: "I love all mankind — it's people I can't stand."
How easily we parrot the words, "Love will bring peace to the world and solve all problems of racial discrimination." However, as a word or concept, love cannot solve anything. The statement, "What the world needs now is love," is normally followed by a lengthy dissertation on the theme. But the world doesn't need sermons on love. It needs, rather, a new commitment to the activity of loving. We know how important do not reveal love, but its complete absence.
William Butler Yeats comments on man's loss of freedom. He says it is because we have turned the table of values upside down, believing that the root of reality is not in the center but somewhere in the whirling circumference. Life for most persons is almost completely exterior-oriented. We have been conditioned to believe that we come into life empty and go forth into the world to be filled. We go to school to get knowledge. We go to church to get religion. We go into the marketplace to get money and security. And we look to certain special people for love. Thus, love is outer-centered and other-motivated. It is thought of as an object rather than a faculty. If someone gives us love, then we will be able to love. Love comes natural to us when we find the right person to love, or to be loved by. Or so we reason.
Life for most persons is a long quest for love, which becomes a quest for objects of love. The most sordid and depraved lives are really crying out, "Won't someone please love me?" And yet, intuitively we know that love is an inner power and not an object, and that our need is to love and not just to find someone to love us. Within every person is a hunger and thirst to be love, to express love, to let the Infinite Power of Love flow through him.
A little eight-year-old girl in a Pennsylvania orphanage was shy and unattractive. She was regarded as a problem by her teachers. The director was seeking some pretext for getting rid of her. They had an ironclad rule that any communication from a child in the institution had to be approved before it could be mailed. One day the little girl was observed stealing down to the main gate where she reached out through the bars and tucked a letter onto the branch of a low-hanging tree. The director hurried down to the gate. Sure enough, the note was clearly visible, a clear violation of the rules. She pounced upon it, tore open the envelope, and read: "To anybody who finds this: I love you."
Modern psychology has misled people with its insistence that "the greatest need of man is to be loved." We have been taught to think of love as a commodity rather than a divine process. We have supposed that our lives lack love because we have not been loved. How easy it is to conclude that all the problems of our life have come about because of a father who mistreated us, or a mother who did not love us.
We have accepted the Biblical statement, "God is love," as if love were a particular commodity that God sent down into life "from above." Actually, it is likely that the statement was more a description of what God is than what He does. Perhaps it was saying that God is like a diamond with a multitude of facets. Like saying: The sun is round. The sun is red. The sun is light. The sun is heat.
It may be said that God is Life, God is Intelligence, God is Power — and God is Love. But again, all this is simply abstract generalization unless and until we can say, "Whatever else God is, God is me. Not that I am all of God, but that I am that something that I call God as it is expressing itself as me. God is Life and I am that Life manifesting as my body temple. God is Intelligence, and I am that Intelligence in the form of the wisdom of my mind. God is Power, and I am that Power in the form of my strength and creativity to build and shape. God is Love, and I am that Love expressing in and through and as my loving heart." Thus, it is not "love" that is the great need in the life of persons — it is loving. We need to sing with St. Augustine, "I am in love with loving." We need occasionally to return from the circumference of our life to the root of our being where we remember that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him" (Gen. 1:27). Of course, this can become little more than a cliché. The need is to personalize it: "God created me in His image — and God is love." Note the logical implication of this. Each of us is created in and of love. God loves us. God is love in us. Each of us is the very activity of love. We have all the love we need to love everyone and everything, for everyone and everything are also created in and of love. To love someone is not giving him a commodity. It is simply saluting the reality of him, celebrating the unity of life. It is love within us uniting with love within him.
Goethe suggests that we would not be able to see the sun if the eye were not of a sunny nature. How could the Godlike delight us, he asks, if the power of God did not already exist within us? In other words, if we were not made in and of love, how could we have a yearning for love? If we have a feeling of love for another, it is because we have to that except through self-love.
Take a moment to reflect on this: You cannot give love to anyone, and no one can give love to you. You can be loving, which will create an environment in which others may find it easy to radiate and express love — and thus be loving to you. Love is not a commodity to give, but a process through which you touch and express your own deeper nature. Love, then, is not the plaything of the emotions or senses, but the action of divine law.
Our capacity to love is directly dependent upon our ability to love ourselves with a mature self-love. Love is not something to get from people or even from God. For we are already created in and of love. Nor is it something we can ever lack. "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3). Love is the reality of our total self, which we can frustrate or express. Unless we realize this truth, we may go on indulging in the romantic myth that "someday love will happen to me." Love has never "just happened" to anyone. People spend years of their lives trying to "find" love. But love is not to be found. It consists not in finding the right person, but in becoming the right person.
There has been much confusion in the Judaeo-Christian religion about the injunction, "Love thy neighbor." Because we have not really understood love or how to love a neighbor, this has been little more than a pious platitude or an impossible Utopian prescription for the millennial future, an inert truth mumbled by people on Sabbath days and then promptly put back into the "six-day closet of unconcern." There is a Hebrew construction that can only be rendered archaically in English as "love to your neighbor," which means, "act lovingly toward him." This is the intent of the commandment. Not love him, but be loving. To "love him" deals with something you give him or something you do to him. Being loving deals more with your attitude, your level of perception, the way you see him.
Jesus made the commandment more meaningful when He said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31). You cannot really know and love another person unless you know and love yourself. Loving yourself is knowing what you are and rejoicing in it. Loving your neighbor is accepting what he is, which is made possible only as you accept what you are.
When you love yourself, you are secure and "within-dependent." You can face the changes in the world without threat. If you do not love yourself, you are not centered in the reality of yourself, which is love. You are not letting yourself BE love. You are dependent for security on whether some other person acts lovingly toward you. In this consciousness, every change in people and every changing condition is a threat that triggers in you a reaction of hate or resistance.
While riding in an elevator in a Spokane hotel, Bayard Rustin was ordered by a white man to lace up his shoes. Without objection or hesitation, he did as he was ordered. The man then handed him a tip. Rustin refused, saying, "Oh, I didn't do it for money. I assumed you really needed help." The man was extremely embarrassed and then apologetic. He invited Rustin to come to his room where they had a meaningful exchange on the subject of human relations.
You may say, "But I could never act like that!" It is not easy. It takes great inner strength, which comes only from feelings of self-respect and mature self-love. The man obviously had a poor regard for himself, and that was the root of his discrimination. Rustin could treat the man lovingly without offense simply because the act of obvious discrimination was no threat to his security. He was established in the reality of his own being, which was love. Thus, he could easily love his neighbor as himself, for he easily loved and respected himself.
Note that Bayard Rustin had a choice. He could have taken offense and then reacted in hostility and anger. But in that case, he would have revealed a lack of self-respect. Or, as he did, he could simply be what he knew himself to be — a creature centered in the love of the Infinite, which was adequate to help and heal any situation. No one would have criticized him if he had chosen the way of anger, for that is the way of the world. However, the wise man will always ask himself, "Why should I let another person determine how I am going to act?" The apostle Paul had often faced this kind of choice, thus it was from his own painful experience that he urged us not to let the world around us squeeze us into its own mold, but rather to let God remold our minds from within. Every one of us has a choice many times a day whether to react to situations in human consciousness, or, as Meister Eckhart might say, to let God be God in you.
Jesus carried the process even further when He said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:43). If we think that love is a commodity, something that we give to the person, then we are going to wonder if he is worthy of the gift. We may say, "But he is an enemy. He is not deserving of my love." However, if we realize that "God is Love and I am that Love expressing as me," then we will know that we experience the ISness of God's love only to the degree that we let this Love process move through us in our attitudes, our manners, and our actions.
The enemy may not deserve your love, but the overriding question is, "Do you deserve your love?" Jesus said, "Love... that you may be sons..." You cannot afford not to be loving. For it is in loving that you activate the love process and thus open yourself to being loved from within. If you have an enemy, you have enmity, which is a state of consciousness in which you are frustrating your love potential.
An Egyptian ruler was once criticized because he did not destroy his enemies taken prisoner in battle. He replied, "Do I not destroy my enemies when I love them?" This ruler was not just parroting platitudes, but practicing the universal principle of love. He was not just saying, "Love will solve the war!" He was acting lovingly toward his enemies, and thus dissolving the warring states of his own consciousness.
Of course, Jesus is dealing with a love that is "inner-centered." This is transcendental love. It is not the kind of love for a person that remains as long as he is lovable. Shakespeare says truly, "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds." Outer-centered love may say, "I loved him with all my heart, but after what he did to me, I hate him with a passion." But this is not true love. It is what Fromm calls "symbiotic attachment." Inner-centered love can see a man lying drunk in the gutter as one who, in his way, is trying to find his lost treasure even as the one who is kneeling in ecstasy at the altar. It always responds to the appearance of weakness or even sin in others with the attitude, "Neither do I condemn you... "
Jesus said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another..." (John 15:12). This, again, means, "That ye are loving to one another." You are not really getting the message of Truth unless you are loving, kind, thoughtful, tender, accepting people as people, as they are, and not just as your prejudices cause you to think they should be. Life can only be fully lived when you understand certain underlying spiritual principles. But you are not really living abundantly or creatively because you can recite a lot of definitions of Divine Love, or because you can talk easily about love as the key to world peace or converse in high-sounding platitudes such as "the brotherhood of man."
The important thing is: How do you deal with the people you pass on the street? Do you treat the janitor or garage mechanic or salesperson as an equal or as if he belonged to an inferior breed. Thoreau said that he could call no man charitable who forgets that the persons who work for him or with him are made of the same human clay as himself. To put it simply: Move from love platitudes to loving attitudes — and actions.
In all human relations, it is good to begin with the principle that people are innately wonderful and beautiful — and love-full. It may be hard to see, for they may not see it in themselves. But people are real even beyond their superficiality. With practice, you will find that you can look through them instead of just at them. You will salute the divinity within them and celebrate love as the one great reality in which you both live and move and have being. Why take the trouble? Because you do live in the world, and because your own peace of mind and health of soul are totally dependent upon the relationships you establish with the world "out there."
The principle of love is dynamic. Certainly, love can change the world and it can change you. But it can only do so if you take the principle into the laboratory and roll up your sleeves. You learn to speak by speaking. You learn to walk by walking. You learn to work by working. And you learn to love by loving. There is no other way.
Study love. Meditate on the love idea and the whole process of loving. Here is a good exercise: Take a love walk. Make contact with every person you pass — but in a loving way. Look beyond the appearances to see from the consciousness of love, which will enable you to behold and see the lovable within even the most sordid character. This is an excellent way to sharpen your consciousness of love as the greatest power in your life. It will also be an effective means of letting a world of peace and order begin with you. But more than this, it is the best possible technique for creating an umbrella of the "protecting love of God." No harm could ever befall you if you were totally in the consciousness of love. And your consciousness of love is never complete, no matter how many love-affirmations you may be rehearsing, unless you are in the attitude and action of loving.
By nature, every person is generous and loving, but he may well have frustrated this divine impulse in subtle ways. In times of great crises when people are thrown together in the common bond of fear or insecurity, as in war or an earthquake, it is often the subject of conversation how loving and mutually helpful people suddenly become. There is no logical explanation for the phenomenon other than that people are really this way beneath the facade of their own faulty self-esteem. But no matter what a person is or is not, no matter what he has done or may have left undone, everyone yearns to renounce his status as a parasite upon life and to become a patron of life. Most of all he hungers to give love to the world. He may not understand the working of love; that God always loves him and is love within him, that he is created in and of love and thus he always has enough love to meet any situation. He may even tear at the world like a child tearing at a Raggedy-Ann doll. But his urge for love and for loving is always present as an explanation for his hungers and drives and also as a key to his potential for growth and achievement.
It is sad that religious organizations have placed the emphasis upon charity as the way to apply love. The word "charity" comes from the Latin word "caritas," which means, "to love," or more literally, "to care." But as the word is used in our times, it has come to be almost completely divorced from the idea of love. The emphasis is upon materiality. Thus you may give to the starving Biafrans or war-torn Bangladesh, or you may even organize charities and give parties and bazaars to raise money for "relief" — and still never take the step from love to loving, from sympathy to empathy.
Francis J. Gable tells of an experience in his own life when he was a traveling salesman. It was one of those rare revelations of transcendent significance that came from following a flash of inner guidance. He was passing hurriedly through a train station bent on catching the 8:40 to Chicago, when he was confronted by a crippled beggar sitting with his pencils and cup. Following his charitable instinct he dropped a coin in the cup and hurried on past. Suddenly, a few steps farther on, he stopped short and pondered the significance of his act. He turned and addressed the man, saying, "I want to apologize to you. I treated you like a beggar, but you are really a merchant." At that, he stooped and took a pencil and then hurried on to catch his train.
It was a spontaneous thing, but with implications much more far-reaching than at the time he realized. He was traveling through that same station two years later. As he passed this same spot he heard a voice calling out, "Hey mister!" He turned and recognized this same crippled man, now seated on a high stool, working as the proprietor of a bustling newspaper stand. The man said, "You probably don't remember me, but I will never forget you. You treated me as a person, and for the first time in my life, I realized that I could make something of myself. I have now found a way to be self-supporting, but, most of all, I now have self-respect." In a moment Gable turned from love to loving, from charity to involvement — and a life was transformed.
Yes, let's talk about love — but let us not stop there. Let us resolve to practice being loving. Let us remember that love is not finding the right person to love or be loved by. It is being the right person of love. And then let us meditate long on the realization that we are created in and of love, that love is the one reality of our life, and that there is always enough love to go around — if we are willing to turn it on by being loving.
Dostoevsky, in his The Brothers Karamazov, writes: "Love all of God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, and love everything.
If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery of things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love." Then, with Charlie Brown, you will declare, "I love all mankind." But unlike him, you will add, "And I love all people as I love myself." I am loving to everyone whose path crosses mine, even if he unfairly or unjustly treats me, not because he deserves my love but because I do — for life is for loving. And I affirm as my own celebration of life: I am a channel for the expression of the Infinite Love of God.