“Love is the Way: An Evolutionary Invitation"
Talk presented by Rich Hayes
Jan. 8, 2017 Unitarian Gathering of Southern Berkshire County Housatonic, MA
READING: "People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar." ~Thich Nhat Hanh~
READING: Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all 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, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived 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. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky
This is a challenging time. But we should not make the mistake of thinking that we’re unique - or that this time is so different from other times, because in the story of human civilization it is not.
There’s a story about a person who walks down a street and notices there is a large deep hole, they go to look and fall in-next day they go down the same street-know about the hole and make a mental note to avoid it-yet they fall in-this happens several more times… Finally, one day, they choose a different street…
Humanity is made up of people. I know that sounds pretty obvious but what I’m saying is simply this: if a person goes through a process of psychological maturing, spiritual and emotional development, doesn’t it make sense that if humanity and societies and cultures consist of people, then the same process is occurring on a much larger scale as well?
In spiritual language, as above so below- the micro to the macro.
There is an evolutionary process at work in all of nature and we are, after all, part of nature. I believe we are being called to make the next move in our evolution. And this calls for a different approach.
I suggest to you that humanity has been repeating patterns. Think of this as “variations on a theme”.
We're all familiar with the saying , “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it”. We can probably all agree it's true, can't we? It seems common sense, right?
But, just like the story of the person and the hole in the street, understanding this will not prevent us from falling into the hole once again.
Throughout human history we’ve certainly done extraordinary things-created great art, philosophy, we’ve come up with better ideas for doing all sorts of things-better forms of governments- better ideas for business and economics. And no one can say that there haven’t been significant improvements that many have benefited from.
But over time these systems start to deteriorate or morph into a kind of distorted version of what they once were- and then eventually become just another version of what people had hoped they were improving or replacing. Why is this? Because the problem lies not in what we come up with, it lies within us.
Until WE change, things won’t change! We will create or more correctly, recreate variations on the themes we have seen since the beginning of our time as a species. And sometimes the outcomes of what we’ve created will be more painful and awful than other times.
Currently we do not know where it is we find ourselves regarding the pain of this time.
But here’s the thing - it’s often only the painful things that get our attention!!! They start us asking “how?” or “why?” - or “how could people do or believe or think…..etc., etc.” There is a line in the Janis Ian song “Black and White”: “There’s nothing sadder than the man who thinks he’s free When he is chained to the prison of his hatred …”
Throughout history we’ve been blessed to have people come along and tell us (and try to show us) that there is a different way.
Jesus proposed a radical idea: love your neighbor as yourself. LOVE YOUR ENEMY! And often times that enemy is within our own self-who doesn’t despise things within them self at times, or judge them self with little or no mercy???
In early Christianity, this teaching on love was the central message and it was lived by the early followers. And it began to transform people. But then Empire got involved (in this cycle it was Rome) and the very things Jesus had tried to change as he challenged the status-quo in his own faith, was recreated into a new religion. And rather than following his central instruction, this new religion turned him into God and worshiped him-often at the expense and great suffering of others who believed otherwise or practiced "pagan" rituals.
Richard Rohr, my Franciscan teacher, points out that Jesus never said “Worship me” - but he did say, “Follow me”-as in, “do these things and you will be changed.” He did attempt to tell us that we were all connected and part of each other.
The Buddha said much the same when he invited people not to believe him and do what he says, but rather to see for them self.
Mahatma Gandhi transformed a nation-or at least began a transformation - through his teaching of non-violence, even though they were met with and dealt with various forms of violence.
These are just a few of those people who had an understanding that most of humanity did not have, and that is simply this: we will (eventually) become that which we hate - either an exact copy or another version(variation) of it.
And hate will never transform hate into anything else positive-it will reproduce itself.
And this has been our great failing and misunderstanding as a species as we continually go in the direction leading away from where we’re being called to go.
You’ve all heard me say, “We love to hate in the world what we hate to love in our self” many times these past few years.
Well, it’s time to love, and it must start with you. This is an inside job. This is not the love that’s been marketed to us and sold to us-not the diluted versions that say love is some sort of contract, do this and I’ll do that and we’ll call it love; It’s not the “self love” that is often only thinly veiled narcissism. It’s not even the warm and comforting love sometimes shared by family, lovers, or friends.
It is so much more. And it is scary to most of us because it calls us to be more than we believe or fear we are capable of being. But our fear is mistaken! We are able and capable! You might be wondering to yourself how this is possible? Well, it’s because we are more than we realize we are - much more.
That’s why Jesus could say what he did with such assurance. He saw it was true because he discovered it in himself and was able to see beyond appearances. He saw our true nature, because this true nature was known to him personally - he’d "remembered", so he “knew” and he knew that we’d forgotten who we really are, so he tried to remind us-to wake us up!
Same thing with the Buddha… and so many others-all who have remembered have tried to remind the rest of us. Because once you remember, there is no choice-you have to pass this good news on! You have to try and stop the madness and the suffering.
And the door of entry is this: Love. Big love. Divine Love. Love others as I have loved you.
So are you ready? Are you ready to choose a different street this time? Are you ready to turn and face love and even become the face of love itself? Are you ready to do the work that’s needed to take us to what we’re being called to do? We humans have continued to recreate variations of the things we have hoped to transform-or do away with and here we are once again, in a scenario most said would never happen. And simply put, this is the reason.
There is a way out. We must transform ourselves. And this must start with you, because it depends on you. Yes, you!
This is why Jesus said what he did - and why Gandhi told us we must become the change we wish to see.
And this becomes an “inside job” for each person. This is what we’re being called to do. Because the only person we can truly change is our self.
And by the way, in case you haven’t figured this one out: changing yourself is no easy task. As a matter of fact, it’s practically impossible. I don’t know how to do it myself - I can’t give you a simple 1-2-3 easy steps to follow!
We all need help. We need a power greater than we are. And what you call it doesn’t matter, but you will need to call on it (or tap into it) and ask for help. You see, self-reliance engages the ego (which is not your true self) and it will only keep you spinning and going down the same pathways. So what you call this "Power that is greater than you are" doesn’t really matter. It is totally up to you! Names are our thing-humans always think that if they name it they know it! And this has gotten us into lots of fights-even wars over God and religion. This is a trap-another "street with a hole" we too often go down. So call it Divine, God, Holy Spirit, Shiva, Jesus - call it Grace; call it Big Love-whatever!!! - it does not matter-just call on It! And then let go into it-ask for help and let It take the reins because it will know how to do what you can't do. Willingness is the key here!
We must do it or else we will continue this cycle. We must not become just another version of those we oppose, and without Love this is what will happen.
In the gospel of Thomas(*see note below) Jesus says, “What you bring forth out of yourself will save you, what you fail to bring forth out of yourself will destroy you” *(in both instances he is speaking about love) He also said very clearly-"you are the light of the world" - that's right, "You"!! and he went on to say that you must not hide this light. So, your job is to let it shine! Love will help you do this.
Emerson wrote, "What lies behind us and what lies before us, Are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us"
And there’s this from Pierre Tielhard de Chardin “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness (for God) the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” And I tell you this: what lies within you is more than you can currently imagine. It is “in” every single one of us-we arrived here with it-it is not “out there” in some far off nirvana or heaven or deity. It lies within and it waits to be activated. And really, how can you go wrong if you commit to becoming more loving? What have you got to lose other than your chains? It is time – will you heed this call? Will you accept the invitation? Thank you.
* The Gospel According to Thomas was discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945 among a group of books known as the Nag Hammadi library. Unlike the canonical gospels it consists not of stories but rather sayings attributed to Jesus.
Concluding prayer: by Karen Wyle May I see truth when human appearance causes me confusion. May I be able to see goodness as it arises out of pain. May I forgive even what I think is unforgivable. May I surrender when I want to fight. May I feel my freedom when I’m imprisoned-either physically or by my thoughts. May I always arise out of the ashes of despair and not falter. May I have a vision when my dreams appear to be crumbling. May I be fully present when I want to disappear.. May I stand in my integrity when it would be easier to sacrifice it. May I love my neighbor when I am inclined to judge him. May I surrender my anger and irritation in the name of my own peace. May I remember to pray when I am lost. May I see and feel the joy in all that is joyful. May I play and dance and sing, and not hold back for fear of seeming foolish. May I accept all aspects of my being and see them as holy. May I soar to the heights of my own being when it’s more comfortable to stay small. May the love within me cancel out everything unlovable so that I am peaceful in God’s love. AMEN Here is a link to a video that offers a great spiritual practice that can be of benefit to this world and improve your own life(which of course helps to transform the world!) http://gentleartofblessing.org/the-video