Love Is A Choice

First thing we need to understand is that love is a choice.  It is a choice we make every waking second of every day.  It is a choice because love is a gift.  It is like the gift of breath that we receive from the Source of all that is.  Unlike the gift of breath, which is automatic, love is work.  We have to make a conscious effort to do the work of love.  We have to choose to use the gift so graciously given to us.  When we wake up in the morning we choose whom we will give the gift of love to, be it others or ourselves.  We can also choose not to use the gift at all.  The important concept here is that using the gift of love is a conscious choice.  Let me share why it is an important concept to grasp.

I had a friend that was reluctant to get engaged.  His girlfriend was sure that being engaged was what she really wanted.  So he caved in and proposed.  However, after the novelty of it had worn off, she became fearful and doubtful of the decision.  It could have been because some friction in the relationship or meeting someone she thought was a better fit.  Whatever the reason, the doubt and fear was there.  She didn’t know if my friend was “the one.”  She has bought into the current marketing scheme that there is one true love out there and all she has to do is find him.  She is not alone.  However, the truth be told: there’s a plethora of people you could possibly spend the rest of your life with.  It’s really a matter of choosing one and choosing to love them everyday.  It’s also a matter of choosing to make sure neither person’s needs is overpowering the other.  A while back there was an ad campaign for an online matching sight that stated the idea of “All you need is love” was a myth. Deep compatibility was what they where shooting for. And no offense to anyone who has used this service, but I can’t help but wonder why they would say that deep compatibility was so important. As if deep compatibility is what keeps a relationship long lasting. One thing that they never mention is how many relationship matches ended in break up or divorce. I could almost hear the Apostle Paul saying in response that if I had all the compatibility in the world yet had not love, I am nothing.
Love is still the most important thing in a long term relationship. You don’t have to be deeply compatible to have a long term relationship. All you have to do is the work of love every day and the reciprocity of that work needs to be given back to you. And by reciprocity I mean getting your needs met while meeting their needs without being a martyr or taker. When a couple, a family, a community can do that for each other with reciprocity, then the relationship will be long and strong. NO RECIPROCITY OF LOVE, NO LONG LASTING RELATIONSHIP! It doesn’t matter how deeply compatible you are.
Now being deeply compatible does help, but let’s think about it this way. When it comes to the likelihood of reciprocity of love in a relationship, being each others equal puts that likelihood higher. However, not being each others equal does not mean reciprocity of love is impossible. The couple will just have to be more willing work at nurturing each other. By being each others equal I mean this. On a spiritual, emotional, psychological, intellectual, physical, leisurely and sexual level, the couple is in the same place. When the couple is at the same level and they chose to do the work of love, it is easier for them to meet each others needs because they will most likely have similar needs that can be mutually met. Reciprocity will more likely happen.
Now what happens when a couple (and this can be extended to all human relationships) is not each others equal? And I purposely say “not each others equal” so no blame can be singly placed on one person. One cannot say it’s all my partners fault. If your partner is not your equal then you are not their equal either. If they are not meeting your needs, then you are probably not meeting theirs either. And don’t expect or go into a relationship expecting them to become your equal. I am not saying that it can’t happen, but you should not place that expectation on them. I has to be a part of their nurturing of their true self. If their true self turns out to be equal to you then all the happiness to you. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. If they are not your equal now, they probably won’t be (not impossible, but not likely). There are many relationships that end in frustration because one person thought they could change the other. DON’T DO IT! You have to chose to love them for who they are. I hope this all conveys a small part of the work involved in loving someone and why we have to make conscious choice to love.
Writer Sherman Alexia backs me up on this point.

In his short story “Saint Junior” found in the book The Toughest Indian In The World, Alexia describes the love between the main characters, Roman and Grace, as a choice.  He says that Roman realizes that he not only loves his wife, Grace, but he chose her and continues to choose her every day he wakes up.  Roman also thinks that anyone that does not believe that love is a choice is just fooling themselves.  If people don’t choose who they love then they just end up with whomever happens into their lives.  Those that just happen into peoples lives can end up being abusive, lazy, not supportive, and life drainers.  Love just doesn’t magically happen.  Love is work that you are not paid for in currency but rather in a long-lasting relationship.  Because it is work that is why you have to choose to do it for better or for worse.

This is so true, but it is not only true for marriage.  It is also true for any relationship.  Whether it be a friend, co-worker, student, child, enemy or ourselves, love is a choice.  We have to choose to love these people.  It is not automatic.  We would like it to be.  In fact some believe it is.  They think that people automatically love them and they automatically love the other person in return.  And when it doesn’t happen automatically, we blame others and ourselves.  We try to put love in automatic mode because we choose fear over love.  We fear the work involved and settle for a pseudo-relationship, something shallow and fake.

When we choose fear, instead of nurturing each other, we eventually start to compete with one another.  We compete by seeing who is the better friend or, worst yet, who can get more out of the relationship.  Now again, fear is not all that bad.  Fear lets us know that a need must be met.  You see, when we choose to do the work of love we need to know that it will work.  I believe that if we follow my definition we will see that it does work.  It may take some time and patience, but eventually the work pays off.  We enter into a deeper relationship with that person.  When struggles enter into the relationship, and they will, we choose to forge ahead and do the work of love.  We leave the shallowness of our past pseudo-relationships and move on to the next step, which is being humble.  But before we look at being humble I need say something about divorce.

Divorce is usually the result when couples sadly think that love is automatic.  No one taught them to choose to love each other every waking day.  Any relationship that does not see that love is a choice when things get rough, will most likely end up in divorce.  But that is not to say that all couples that get a divorce failed to see love as a choice or stopped choosing to love each other.  Through love they realized that they could not meet each others needs.  In a perfect world both couples realize this, but sometimes only one of them realized it.  Sometimes divorce is the only loving action that will truly nurture both couples.  This is especially true when abuse is taking place.  It is important not to see it as a failure, but instead see it as a best possible way to love that person. When you are not each others equal you have two choices. Decide that you don’t want to or don’t have the capacity to put in the extra effort of choosing to humbly finding ways to holistically nurture their true self, thus ending the relationship, be it divorce or break up. And please listen to me when I say that if there is no reciprocity of love, especially in abusive situations, then the most loving action you can take is to divorce or break up with that person. The other choice is to humbly say we are not the best people to meet each others needs, but we can work on it. That can take on the form of being willing to allow others to meet that need for your partner or finding creative ways to meet that need without sacrificing your own needs. As long as each person does the work of love and reciprocity is present, then the relationship will continue. If this cannot happen then divorce is the loving path.

Love Is Nurturing

The third part of love is to nurture holistically.  The reason why this part comes after the explanation of how to be humble is because we use our humility to find ways to nurture holistically.  Hopefully we come to this part of love empty of illusions so we can use our strengths to love holistically.  So let’s look at what it means to nurture holistically.

Nurturing holistically is another way of saying we meet the needs of our body, mind, spirit, and soul all together at once.  If we are empty coming into nurturing, then how do we find ways to nurture and how do we do it holistically?

The answer to the first part of these questions comes to us by way of the teachings of Marshall Rosenberg.  His book, Nonviolent Communication, outlines the steps of meeting needs, or nurturing holistically.  The rest of this chapter will be a summary of Marshall’s teaching, but rewritten in my own words. The summary of these steps I am about to give is in no way a substitute for reading Mr. Rosenberg’s book.  I highly recommend that you read it for yourself or listen to the audiobook by the same title.

Rosenberg wrote, “Everything we do is in service of our needs.  When this one concept is applied to our view of others, we’ll see that we have no real enemies, that what others do to us is the best possible thing they know to do to get their needs met.”  To this I would add that the beginning of empathy, the state of balance I mentioned earlier, is to see a human being for whom he or she is, despite the person’s gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.  Do not project your own ideology, judgment, or misconceptions onto them.  Just see them as a human being.  They are a gift that is full of worth.  For some of us we not only need to realize this for others, but also for ourselves.  Once we can do this, we can take a step back, slow down and follow the teachings of Marshall Rosenberg.

Rosenberg teaches about compassion and the steps of communicating compassionately.  Compassion is the eyes and ears of love.  It is the willingness to see and hear others and ourselves as people with feelings and needs.  Compassion is the tool that keeps us connected to others and ourselves in an empathetic way.  Empathy is using our compassionate eyes and ears to see and hear the needs behind every emotion.  We give and receive empathy so we can then concentrate on nurturing one another.  Without it we see and hear in a sympathetic, apathetic, or judgmental way by giving assurances or labeling those we think are deserving of them.  This is done because of fear.  We fear that our needs will not be met.  With fear, no nurturing can take place because love is absent.  However when love is present compassion can happen, empathy is used and nurturing begins.

Many times we act in un-compassionate ways because we don’t know any other way to act.  Fear sets in and we just react.  We are doing the best we can with what has been given to us.  It seems that most of us have been observers of blame, judgment, labeling, apathy and sympathy.  We in turn just repeat what we have observed because we know no other way.  However, instead of placing blame on others or ourselves, we now know an alternative way.  This way is the way of compassion.

In following the way of compassion we pay attention to the emotions of others and ourselves.  The reason being is that behind every emotion there is a need that is either met or unmet.  If a person’s need is unmet then we have to find a way to nurture that person’s need.  We should do this keeping our own needs in mind.  If the need goes on to be unmet, the emotion can grow into acts of unkindness or violence, either to others or us.  If we think back to the love spectrum from earlier, then this sounds familiar, right?

Fearspectrum

These usually translate into acts of self-abuse, permitting the abuse, or being an abuser.  If in trying to meet our needs, we use blame, judgment, sympathy or labels, then we are not going to get our needs truly met.  This only alienates us from the people we love.  They may distance themselves from us, get defensive, or out of guilt comply with our demands.  This only creates resentment.  However, if we try to meet our needs by connecting with their feelings and needs, and give that person a chance to connect with us, then blame, judgments, and labels no longer are tools for us to use.  We will find that those things never really worked for us in the first place.  Using compassion truly meets our needs.  This is how it works.

Pay attention and observe.  That is the first step of compassion.  We pay attention and observe because we do not know.  Remember we came here empty of answers and solutions.  When we assume we know something that is when we judge, blame, label, or sympathize.  We do not know what is happening when we get cut off in traffic, or our spouse wants us to stay home tonight, or our child is crying because a classmate made fun of her.  When we assume that we know, then the person that cut us off in traffic is a jerk, our spouse is needy, and we assure our daughter that even if a classmate made fun of her, everything is fine because we still love her.  However, what might really be happening is something completely different.  The person that cut us off in traffic may be rushing to the emergency room, our spouse may have a surprise planned for us, and our daughter may just need us to connect with her feelings and needs.  We just do not know and that is why we observe.

If we want to avoid assumptions then we need to observe and state only facts, which are  free from our interpretations or evaluations.  For example, “That person drove right in front of me.”  “My spouse says she/he wants me home tonight.”  “My daughter said that someone made fun of her.”  These are the facts.  We observed them as they happened.  However, these next examples sound more familiar to us.  “That retard doesn’t know how to drive!”  “You never let me do what I want.”  “Oh honey, I am sure that they didn’t mean it.”  This is how we respond when we interpret or evaluate what we have observed.  It distances us from others and ourselves.  It does not lead us to getting our needs met, nor does it help us connect with the needs of others.  It keeps us from trying to find ways to nurture.  When we can observe and pay attention without evaluating or interpreting, then we can connect to the feelings involved.

Feelings are emotions and sometimes states of being that are directly related to our needs being met or unmet.  Men are not used to sharing their feelings.  Even women, who pride themselves for being open with their feelings, may not be really sharing feelings at all.  I think there is some confusion about what feelings are.  When most of us think that we are sharing our feelings we are actually sharing our perceptions or what we think.  This reveals nothing about the emotions we want people to connect with.  In fact sharing our perceptions instead of emotions are usually met with the sharing of more perceptions.  The conversation stays at the surface and does not get to the heart of the matter.  If the conversation is heated, then a perception battle will occur.  It is all very alienating and we are left wondering why that person did not understand us.  In order to connect at a deeper level we must learn to share our feelings.

I will say it again.  Feelings are emotions and states of being.  They are communicated by saying, “I feel” or “I am” and then state the emotion or state of being.  For example, “I feel sad” or “I am too warm”.  It is important that we state the emotion right after “I feel” or “I am.”  If we do not do this, then we are stating our perceptions.  For example, statements that start with, “I feel like,” “I feel that,” “I feel as if,” or “I feel I” are statements that are followed with our perceptions.  These statements are what we think is going on and are usually answered with more perceptions.  “I feel like you never listen to me,” will be met with, “Of course I listen to you.  You just don’t think I do.”  No connection to what is really going on happens.  It is equally important to not use words after “I feel” that state our perceptions, like, “I feel betrayed,” or “I feel unwanted.”  These statements will also be answered with perceptions.  What we really want is the connection and understanding that comes from empathy.  Sharing our feelings allows others to understand what is going on inside of us, that is that we have a need met or unmet.

Emotions and states of being are connected to needs.  If we only state our feelings, then we are only giving half of what is needed to connect.  If we, however, state both our feelings and needs, then the full story is told.  Needs are another thing that we rarely share because we think we will sound selfish or needy if we do.  However, we are only selfish if we meet our needs at the expense of others.  Needs are important.  If ignored, our true self and the true selves of others will not be nurtured.  When we suppress our needs for the sake of others, then they win, we lose, and we will have nothing left to give.  We might become resentful, give guilt trips, and find ways to win so that others lose.  Then we end up neglecting the needs of others.  All of these options are alienating.  Finding win/win solutions is the only way to get our needs met and helps us avoid any of these alienating options.

In order to state our needs we need to connect it to our feelings.  We do this by saying, “I feel or I am… because I need or I want or I was needing,” then we state our need.  Using one of the  previous examples would sound something like this, “When that person drove right in front of me I got irritated because I was needing safety.”  It is important that we stay away from words that could be perceived as an attack or blame.

Needs are personal, they live inside us, and should not to be projected onto others.  If we say, “I need that person to learn how to drive,” then we are implying blame or an attack.  It may be true, but if we want to connect and be understood, we need to stick with the personal need.  In this case, the need is safety.  The need of safety is the connection and understanding that we seek and now that we know this we can make a request to meet that need.

The final component of compassion is to make a request.  When we have made an observation and connected it with our feelings and needs, then we are ready to make a request.  We request what we would like and stay away from requesting what we would not like.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  If we focus on what we don’t want, we will still get it.  We need to stay focused only on what we do want.  We need to be as clear and concise as possible so that there is little confusion.

Be prepared to rethink and/or rephrase your request.  We want the person we are asking to be able to say no without guilt.  It is important that they do not hear a demand.  Instead, we want them to hear that they have a choice.  Make your request very specific.  Consider their reason for complying or not complying with our request.  Are they doing it out of obedience and/or guilt, or are they doing it because they want to?  Do they see the value in our request?  If they say no to the request, we can ask if they would be willing to find a solution that meets both of our needs.  The important thing is that we stay connected and avoid anything that will cut off that connection, especially after we made a great effort to connect in the first place.

In order to stay connected, we should make our request by asking, “Would you be willing…?”, and then state exactly what it is we would like them to do.  Take the previous example of the spouse wanting their significant other to stay home.  Simply making the request, “Would you be willing to spend more time with me?” is  not specific enough to get their needs met.  We have to pay attention to what it is that would truly fulfill our needs.  Get to the heart of a need by saying, “Would you be willing to spend one night a week playing cards with me?”  This will meet the need for play and intimacy.  If the significant other says no, then the spouse could ask if they would be willing to find a win/win solution.

If we start blaming, judging, labeling, or sympathizing then we have departed from the goal we set out with – to be compassionate.  So stay connected, make specific requests, follow through, and find win/win solutions.  We will later look at some specific requests that I think will help us holistically nurture.  For now, there is still more to say about compassion.

We may find that it is helpful to express appreciation in the same way.  When we tell some one, “You are wonderful for staying home with me,” then we are labeling them, judging on their character.  It is a positive judgment, but it is a judgment nonetheless.  There could be a sense of unrealistic expectations behind such a judgment.  They may think we only like them when they do what we want.  Therefore, they are expected to act in ways we think are wonderful.  When we do this there is a separation between why we are calling them wonderful and what they did that we appreciate so much.  The reason that we think of them as wonderful is because they met a need of ours.  Knowing this we can now express our appreciation free from labeling, judgment, or expectation.  An example of expressing our appreciation in a way that invites compassion is, “When you stayed home tonight to play cards with me, I was thrilled because I was needing playful expression.  Would you be willing to continue doing this once a week?”  This is an invitation to connect and communicate compassionately.

Not only do we need to learn to communicate in a way that invites compassion, but we also need to learn how to listen with compassion.  As we may recall, compassion is the eyes and ears of love.  We can connect with a person if we see and hear with compassion, whether that person is communicating in a way that invites compassion or not.  We can observe what they are saying, connect it with feelings and needs, and pay attention to what they are requesting.  If the conversation is tense then we may need to give ourselves some empathy first in order to give empathy to the person communicating with us.  We will need to pay attention to what we are feeling and needing, and then meet those needs so that we can hear the other person’s needs.  We may need to request some time away in order to give us the empathy we need.  Then we can return to give them the empathy they deserve.

Furthermore, if the person that is communicating with us is aware of what we are trying to do, then it is imperative that they feel safe.  They may think that we are being condescending or judging their communication style because they do not communicate the same way.  They need to know that we are not thinking we are better than they are or that our way is the right way and their way is wrong.  They may have strong views of communicating that are different from what is being expressed here.  This communication style may work for us, but they may not work for all people.  We need to be empathetic to those who choose a different way of communicating.  We are not right and they are not wrong.  We just have different ways of communicating.

Taking all this into consideration, we can now look at exactly how we listen and see with compassion.  We start by never assuming we know what the other person is feeling or needing.  In contrast, we make informed guesses of what they are feeling and needing while at the same time requesting verification of our guesses.  We are informed because we have been observing and we are guessing because we may be wrong.  Our request for verification gives them a chance to verify or repeat what we misunderstood.  Using the previous example of the daughter being made fun of, we would guess, “Are you feeling hurt because you are needing acceptance from your friends?”  Trying to connect with her feelings and needs works much better than just giving sympathy.  Our guess may be wrong, but we keep trying.  Continue guessing and connecting until they have expressed all that they needed to express.  Silence or a change in mood is a good indicator that they are done.  If no clear indicator is present, then ask if they are done.  When they are done we can move on by either meeting their needs or expressing our own feelings and needs.  The important things is that no matter what, we try our best to stay connected.

To paraphrase a point Marshall Rosenberg makes, judgments are tragic expressions of unmet needs.  We could also say that rage, violence (inward or outward), and docile obedience are tragic expressions of unmet needs.  It starts with a need.  That need produces an emotion.  If we can connect with that feeling and need, then we can see and hear that person with compassion.  Compassion is the eyes and ears of love.  It seeks to connect with others and ourselves for the purpose of finding out what we need.  When we can do that, then we can nurture holistically.

Love Is Holistic

The second part of nurturing holistically is how to love holistically.  Here are some specific requests or things we could do that in my opinion would help us nurture each other and ourselves holistically.

We need to start by seeing mind, body, spirit and soul as one entity.  We need to understand that when one suffers, they all suffer.  When one is nurtured they all are nurtured.  We need to make sure our decisions reflect that.  When eating food, we need to not only ask how is this going to effect me nutritionally, but also how is it going to effect me emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically?  The same goes for the intake of the mind.  Be it our own education or watching TV, we must ask how is this going to effect my body, spirit, and soul?  When  buying consumer goods we must ask ourselves what is the real cost of that product to ourselves, the people that made it, and the environment.  Any action we take we must ask ourselves how is this going to effect the habitat in which we live, the habitat of others, and the habitat of future generations.  Whether soaring in the heights of the spiritual or delving into the depths of the soul they both affect the mind and body.  Make sure to keep them equal in worth and free from compartmentalization.

The next request would be to start viewing justice as making sure that all environments are primed for meeting the needs of all who live on this earth.  It is commonly thought that justice is about right or wrong and handing out punishment to those we think deserve it.  Some even think that it is about vindication.  In contrast, justice is about fairness and protecting life.  How do we do this?

First we start by voluntarily sharing our resources.  From time to money to knowledge to possessions to talent to whatever resources you have, start sharing them freely with others.  No strings attached.  Remember that it is all voluntary.  It can never be forced upon others or ourselves.  A couple great examples of this today are cooperatives and the Linux community.  All around the world people are growing and sharing their own food.  Cooperatives are building a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood and the compassion to help each other.  The Linux community strives to provide free software and operating systems to everyone.  All software is open to programming changes.  These two examples are the kind of voluntarily sharing of resources I would like to see in all aspects of our lives.  A fuller manifestation of this point is for us to imagine a future where a gardener gets up to tend to all the gardens and lawns in the community.  She is not paid.  She does it for the shear fulfillment it gives her.  Her needs are well taken care of by others that voluntarily share their resources and strengths, be it a techie the makes laptops, or a baker that bakes bread, or carpenter that builds her a house, a seamstress that makes her clothes and so on and so forth.  It seems like utopia, but it is completely doable.

Second, we need to start cooperating with each other.  It has been said that God helps those that help themselves, thus creating the mindset of competition.  It is my belief that God helps us when we help each other.  We need to change our outlook of only helping ourselves to get ahead and realize the only way to get ahead is to help others.  The measure of any  individual, society, or the world is how well we take care of the less fortunate.  This is a different message than the message of domination.  Those in power will not take to kindly to it.  They will try to play the fear card to keep their power intact.  They might even use force to impose their will.  Just realize this, resist non-violently, and continue to spread the message of cooperation.  As the late Howard Zinn said, “…their power depends on the obedience of the people below them…”  If we stop obeying, then they loose their power.

Last, we need a sense of enough.  This one is two-fold.  First is the mindset that there is enough.  This world is abundant and there is enough for all to share.  Period.  No one should have to go without having enough.  It is up to us that have more than enough to share with those that don’t have enough. 12 percent of the world’s population uses 60 percent of the world’s resources. This inequality needs to end.  Everyone can have enough, as Biblical scholar, Marcus Borg puts it, “…not as the result of charity but as the product of justice.”  We need to make charity less necessary by have a just system in place.  We can still have the rich and the not so rich, but still everyone will have enough. Second, is the mindset that one has enough.  There is only so much a person needs.  Even the wants and comforts of life have a point of enough.  Whether or not we want to admit it, we all reach a threshold where what we consume no longer gives us fulfillment and/or happiness.  Pretty soon we are wasting precious time and life energy, “…store, insure, fix, forget about and ultimately sell in a garage sale.” It is better for us to do the work of introspection in order to figure out what activities and consumption fulfills us.  Focus only on that which makes you “truly” content and do away with all the excess baggage that is bogging you down.  Set a goal of what is enough and work to obtain it.  Vicki Robin, who co-authored the book, You Money or Your Life and who has been a major influence for me on this idea of having enough has this pledge:

I pledge to discover how much is enough for me

to be truly fulfilled, and to consume only that.

I also pledge to be part of the discovery

of how much would be enough for everyone

not only to survive but to thrive, and

to find ways for them to have access to that.

Through this commitment to restraint

and justice, I am healing my life

and am part of the healing of the world.

When we work on having enough, cooperating, and voluntarily sharing resources justice will prevail.

Another request I want to make is to place more emphasis on education and less emphasis on making laws.  Let’s take the example of the very controversial topic of abortion.  There are many that would like to see abortion become illegal and are fighting to have a law to make it illegal.  Making it illegal will not stop people from having abortions.  All it will teach them is not to get caught.

The reality is that it’s the same with most of today’s laws.  We all break some laws and work hard to avoid not being caught.  There is a huge disconnect between the law and the reason why we should follow it.  Many people don’t follow the speed limit because society focuses more on enforcing the speed limit than educating why the set speed limit keeps us safe.

In the case of abortions, instead of working on making it illegal, I would like to see us educate people about responsible sexual practices.  We need to make abortion less needed through teaching contraceptive use, thinking ahead, and how to survive having an unexpected baby.  Education is the key because it shows that we care and that we are thinking about all possibilities.  Passing laws is so impersonal.  Education is not only a key for fewer abortions but it is the key for all we would like people to do.  Think of how Prohibition did more to harm responsible drinking and its effects are still felt today.  In contrast, Germans teach their children about responsible drinking and have very little problems with excess drinking.  Make education a priority and cut back on making laws.

The last request I would make is that we make passion a part of our lives again.  Specifically passion for a vocation and passion for each other.

Steve Irwin and Steve Wozniak have been heroes of mine for the simple reason that they were passionate about what they did.  The late Steve Irwin, also known as the Crocodile Hunter, could be seen on TV practically jumping out at you with a love and passion for educating the viewers about wildlife.  Steve Wozniak spent countless hours drawing computers that were never physically made for the soul purpose finding ways of using less and less parts.  Eventually he came up with what would be the Apple I.

Where are the Steve Irwins (the gifted naturalists) and Steve Wozniaks (the technology geniuses) of the world?  I will tell you.  They are waiting to be reborn out of the meaningless and passionless jobs that they do just for a paycheck.  The concept of having a passion is such a foreign idea to people that we call it daydreaming.  If you were to ask someone what their passion is or what would they do besides their job, they probably would not have an answer.  They have become institutionalized, just like in the movie Shawshank Redemption.  They are fearful of what doesn’t make sense to them.  They are afraid to hope that their passions could pay off.  To them it is just easier to stay institutionalized than to hope for a better life outside the prison walls they have made for themselves.  However, just like Red had to do in the movie, we have to choose to either “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

When was the last time we got up excited and raring to go, no matter how hard the work was?  I don’t believe in the phrase, “It’s not supposed to be fun, that’s why they call it work.”  That to me is a lie.  Joseph Campbell said that all religions have one common theme.  That is do nothing that is not play.  When we are doing something we are passionate about it is always fun no matter how hard the work is.  But we can’t be passionate about just anything.  What we are passionate about needs to meet our needs and utilize our strengths.  Steve Irwin probably could not have invented the Apple I, the world’s first personal computer.  He may have had the desire, but not the natural talent involved.  Likewise, Steve Wozniak probably could not have brought Steve Irwin’s vast amount of wildlife awareness to the world.  We simply cannot be passionate about just anything.  Some can be passionate about working in a factory for the rest of their lives.  However, some working in a factory are not passionate about their work and would be better suited elsewhere.  We need to find our passions and work hard find to a way to pursue them full time no matter how long it takes.  Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  It took the main character in Shawshank Redemption nineteen years to break free from prison.  Once we do, we will find more zest to live for ourselves and with more time and energy for another passion that has been long subdued.  The passion I am referring to may surprise you.

That passion is sex.  Not just the act of sex, but the sensual aspect of it too.  For a good example, we need only to look at the Bible.  The Songs of Solomon is a passionate love story, steaming with sensuality.  When was the last time we heard it read like one?  It is a good example of how sex has been subdued.  The religious community has turned it into being a metaphor for God’s love for us.  Unless we believe that we ourselves are gods, then that metaphor just doesn’t work for me.  I guess it works if we change our view of God from the big guy upstairs to God being everything that is, including ourselves.  It’s actually the way I would like us to view God.  However, I do think that the author intended it to be a sensual love story between two lovers.  For some reason the religious community can’t handle that.  Sex and the sensual to them is so animalistic and God forbid we are viewed for what we really are.  Remember, mind, body, soul, and spirit are one.  One is not greater than the other, therefore sex is not confined to or just a function of the body.  I would like to see it find its way into every aspect of our lives.  Mind, body, spirit, and soul.  I would like to see it celebrated in our art, music, worship, and way of living.  I would like to see it be a real expression, unlike pornography, which is staged.  It is empty and it leaves all who partake in it empty.

As Thomas Moore says in his article, The Temple of the Body, “[pornography] focuses on organs and acts.”  It is void of any human contact or, “…there is no love, little sentimentality, and almost nothing that could be called foreplay in any innocent sense of the word.”  In other words there is no work involved.  It is instant gratification.  Anything that is wonderful in this world requires work or foreplay.  However, Moore also says:

Every time we think of sex as biological, every time we teach sex education as a secular study, we are setting ourselves up for more pornography, and, strangely, for all its stupidity, lack of taste, and outrageousness, as a symptom pornography both reveals and distorts the imagination in sex.  Pornography is full of problems, but mercifully it keeps sex from becoming the heartless preserve of the medical establishment and the social scientist.

I would add that as long as the religious community plays down the role of sex in our lives, pornography will flourish.  We cannot scandalize sex any longer.  We can no longer keep it separate from our every day being.  We need to give ourselves permission to express sex and the sensual in real ways.

Here are some suggestions (with help from Thomas Moore’s article).

Spice up the architecture, infrastructure, and the décor or aesthetics of the spaces we live in.  Focus less on function, efficiency, and cost.  Instead focus more on what appeals to the senses, like form and foreplay.  There is a reason why we associate an iris is with the shape of a vagina  and why we won’t find in nature a domicile that has four corners.  If we have not noticed these things in nature maybe it is time that we step out of the sterile concrete world and on to a nice meandering path.  Visit a decadent bakery or make sensuous meals at home.  Give yourself the liberty to be unproductive every once in a while.  Idleness has been called the devil’s playground only because we have allowed sex to be associated with devilishness.  Of course, maybe we need a healthy dose of devilish behavior in our lives.  According to Moore, we need to give more time and attention to “pleasure, desire, intimacy, and sensuality, and give these very qualities a place in all aspects of daily life.”  We can do this not just with our lovers, but also with family, friends, co-workers, and our communities.  As long as we value the life and innocence’s of each other, what is the worst that can happen?  Go ahead and risk living sensually, sexually, and passionately.

One last thing, Madison Avenue knows we are starved for sex and love so they use that to sell us empty substitutes and distractions, keeping us in a passionless cycle of always wanting.  Be attentive to all that distracts us from our passions and focus only on those things that fulfill our passions.