Distinguishing love from love


What is this phenomenon called love?  Investigate this phenomenon and you will find that it is not just one experience (phenomenon).  No, it is manifold, many different experiences (phenomena) hidden under one label – love.

What are these manifold experiences housed and mingled together under this umbrella called love?  There is the experience of desire which is more accurately labelled lust. And as lust is not acceptable, given our cultural practices, it is called love.  There is plain sex and that is called ‘love’ or ‘making love’.  There is ownership – in the sense of I have exclusive rights to you, your body, your sexuality, your resources, your time – and that is also called love …. and there is love as in care and caring.

It occurs to me that we would help love to flourish if we reserved love only for authentic care for another.  What kind of care?  Care for their wellbeing – in the physical, emotional and spiritual domains of life and living.  Whilst I can talk about this it is better to get there more concretely.  Allow me to give you an example.

In the morning as I was headed out to spend a few days away from home I was got a surprise.  What kind of surprise?  On one of the doors leading to the outside, a door I have to go through, I found a note for me.  What kind of note?  This note:

photo-3My wellbeing requires me to start the day by taking the Levothyroxine tablet.  And to end the day by taking a statin tablet.  That is just so. And more than once I have left my tablets at home.  So my son, late at night, after I had gone to bed had written this reminder for me and left it where he knew I would see it.  Why did he do that?  Because he cares for me – he loves me.

Now, here is the thing to get.  It is quite possible that my son felt strong feelings of love for me that night.  And those feelings would not have shown up in my living nor made any difference.  Why?  Because I do not have access to his feelings.  I do have access to his actions: I got present to the depth of his love when I saw this post it note and it moved me to tears of gratitude and joy!

I say that contrary to what the songs say love is not a feeling.  No, love is verb – it is doing.  Doing what?  Doing that which contributes to the wellbeing of those we claim to love.  And not doing that which gets in the way of the wellbeing of those we claim to love.

So you and I are confronted with choice: to live from the default context where love is a hodge podge of phenomena or to create and live from an ‘extraordinary’ context where we use the label love to mean love – love as in compassionate caring for the wellbeing of those we claim to love.

What choice will I make?  What choice will you make?  In making our choices we should be mindful that love – as in caring for the wellbeing of another – is the access to transformation: of my live, your life, our lives, of life as a whole.

Beyond possibility: shaping the environment to call forth that which you wish to call forth


Inventing possibilities is not sufficient

It is not enough to invent possibilities; inventing possibilities does not lead to a transformation in the experience of my/your living.  If you/I are to experience a transformation in our experience of our living then the access to that transformation is inventing possibilities that leave us moved-touch-inspired.  Why?

It takes something say “activation energy'” to get us to be/act differently to the default that you/I have become accustomed and addicted to.  To use the analogy of the rocket, it takes a certain amount of energy to overcome gravity and get the rocket those two inches off the ground.  If that “activation energy” is not there then the rocket will continue resting on the ground.   Put differently, our habits run us – they run us without us even being aware that they run us.  Like the rocket, it takes a certain amount of mindfulness/effort/energy (“activation energy”) for you/I to break loose from these habits.  And you/I are most likely to put in the required effort when we are moved/touched (emotionally) and inspired to act.

I am inspired by the possibility of communication & relatedness with my children

A couple of months ago I invented the possibility of being intimately related to my children and vice versa such that we spent more time together and enjoyed the time that we spent together.  I was so moved-touched-inspired that I told my children that I would be available and present for them every day between 7pm and 9pm – to do whatever they wanted to do.  And that is exactly what I did.

How did it turn out?  Not as I had expected.  In the main the children were looking for me to play entertainer – to come up with ideas that appealed to them and then put on the show.  I soon ran out of ideas!  Truthfully, disappointment was present.  And I was struggling with how to generate that interaction and thus relatedness between us.

The hidden power of the context/situation/environment to call forth and shape behaviour

Then one evening I came home and noticed that the dining table had been converted into a table-tennis table.  It just so happens that we can all play table-tennis and most of us do enjoy playing it.  What showed up?  We showed up at the table-tennis table playing table-tennis.  Not only between 7pm and 9pm but also at other times.  The ‘table-tennis’ was calling us to play table-tennis and in the process relatedness was showing up – indirectly!

One day, I came home and noticed that the dining table was once more the dining table.  Then what showed up?  For sure no table-tennis showed up because there was no table-tennis table in the house.  I notice that the interaction that had been called forth by the table-tennis was no longer present – the children were in their rooms doing their own stuff.   And I was left missing the interaction with my children.   Now here is the puzzling thing.  I left the dining table as the dining table rather than make the effort to convert it a table-tennis table.  And over the course of a week or so I got used to the ‘lack of interaction’.  

A week or so later I came home and the table-tennis table was there again.  Delighted, I invited one of my children to play table-tennis.  He agreed and the interaction was there once more:  noticed that in the course of playing table-tennis we talked and laughed with one another – the relatedness was present once more.

Shape the context/environment/situation to call forth that which you wish to call forth in yourself and others

If you/I wish to transform our lives and our experience of our living then we have to act.  The default way of acting is to rely on willpower – to will ourselves to do what is necessary.  And over the longer term it does not work.  Experience and research studies show that willpower depletes itself and once depleted we find ourselves enmeshed in our defaults – our habits.  Yet there is another way, smarter way, to call forth the behaviours we desire.  What way?

I say the most powerful way is to shape the context/situation/environment to call forth the mode of being/acting that we wish to generate.  So if you wish to generate conversation, interaction and relatedness, for example, then stop that subscription to pay-tv, unplug that tv, put in a table-tennis table, make it a custom for everyone to sit around a table and eat together, introduce and play the game of three questions three answers……… If you want to exercise your ethical values then work for a enterprise that shares/exhibits/calls forth those ethical values.  If you want to be more laid back then live in a culture/people who are laid back…

And finally

When Martin Heidegger (‘the philosopher of being’) was offered a prestigious post in Berlin (the capital of Germany) he refused even though it was his dream job.  Why? Because he knew that the cosmopolitan/sophisticated/urban environment would shape him in ways that he was not up for being shaped. He also knew that the provincial and agricultural context/environment in which he lived/worked was the environment that nourished him as a person and as philosopher of being.

Oftentimes what I, you, we don’t do has more of an impact than what we do


I was on the phone with my younger son today and he asked me what I had been doing.  I told him that I had been working.  So he said “No, I mean what have you been doing in the evenings?”  I replied “Working, I worked until midnight last night and I am working this evening.”  He asked “Are you getting paid extra for the work that you are doing in the evenings?”  I replied “No” and he asked “Why are you doing it then?”

Why have I been working during the evenings?  Simply put, a bunch of people who have placed their trust in me and who I care about are counting on me to help them accomplish something that matters to them.  And people’s jobs and lives are at stake – there is something huge at stake given the economic situation in this country.

I am also working in the evenings because I am mindful of a fantastic piece of wisdom from a master of life and living.  Like a zen master (and I say he is a zen master, I suspect he lives joyfully without labels) he sees reality and the human condition just as it is and just as it is not.  Here is what he says:

“It is important that you get clear for yourself that your only access to impacting life is action. The world does not care what you intend, how committed you are, how you feel, or what you think, and certainly it has no interest in what you want and don’t want. Take a look at life as it is lived and see for yourself that the world only moves for you when you act.” Werner Erhard

You, I , we act on the world by what we do and by what we do not do. Oftentimes what we do not do (that which we hide from ourselves) has more of an impact on the world than what we do do (that which is visible to ourselves and others). Unfortunately most of the time we are not present to this.

I was fortunate that I got present to the fact that what I did not do on Monday evening (structure and write up the information coming out of the workshops) was likely to make more of an impact on the project that I am working on/in than what I had been doing during the days (facilitating workshops).

Wow: I just got an insight into why my wife is unhappy with me right now!