The only sustainable force for change in our world is love. The wisest and gentlest people who’ve ever lived knew that: Socrates, Jesus, Harriet Tubman, Gandhi, Florence Nightingale, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa, among famous and less-known others.
“Love” is broadly defined and has many false guises in a mass consumerist culture. For me, the most authentic human love involves thoughtfully and curiously observing the talents, frailties, and perspectives of another being, and seeking to find ways to offer encouragement.
This love can be provided within the context of any kind of relationship or passing acquaintance. It doesn’t need to be formalized or sanctioned, and bears no allegiance to guilt, pressure, or ulterior motivations. It’s simply the soul of one human being seeking to more fully acknowledge the light that emanates from within another’s; it’s the “Namaste” that closes every yoga session.
This authentic love has only partially permeated our most powerful and far-reaching institutions, be they governments, businesses, non-profits, schools, or places of worship. For the most part, it takes a back seat to those false guises and more overt endeavors such as possessing, earning, overtaking, overthrowing, overreaching, and under-serving.
Individuals who hurt people, animals, or the earth are severely lacking in experiencing this authentic love. The resulting vacuum that entraps them is often filled with acts of self-preservation, fear, selfishness, violence, and an emerging quest for belonging. People join gangs to belong and find some semblance of love, even if they aren’t labeling it as such. They’re looking for their “tribe,” and everybody needs a tribe. Individuals abroad and at home are joining or sympathizing with ISIS for similar reasons. Lacking any sustainable, transformational love in their lives that helps to provide purpose and peace, their anxiety, fear, and anger lead them to demand that the world suffer and take notice.
For persons already radicalized by ISIS or other terrorist groups, it’s likely too late to help them heal and become loving persons who don’t injure or kill others. Steps must be taken to protect society from their behaviors. I don’t have enough expertise to speak to what those steps might be, and plenty of others are writing and speaking on this topic.
Rather, I’ll circle back to my opening statement on “sustainable love.” I believe that we must, at a minimum:
* Significantly introduce and expand mindfulness practices such as deep breathing, yoga, and meditation within all K-12 school systems, be they public or private, so that more people can be taught to self-soothe and properly handle their emotions at a young age
* Pressure public school systems to once and for all abandon their one-size-fits-all frameworks and find creative, alternative ways to reach and protect every student, so none of them drift aimlessly through their teen years and run the risk of becoming troubled young adults
* Invest heavily in programs that provide mentoring and support to lonely and at-risk youth, with careful screening and settings that protect kids from predators
* Revoke tax exemptions for religious or non-profit organizations of any sort that preach hate or intolerance, and funnel the resulting revenue into efforts described above
* Revise all local, state and federal laws that disproportionately impact the marginalized, such as excessive court costs and minimum prison sentencing guidelines
* Defeat any elected officials who preach politics of division or hate
* Significantly increase the minimum wage across all fifty states and expand efforts to provide health insurance to every American, so that the millions who remain in poverty despite working hard have a fighting chance to more fully participate in the economy we’ve all created together
There are many additional strategies and tactics that could be added to my list. I don’t have all of the answers and action steps, and I’m probably naive or under-informed on at least a few of these proposals. I’ll take the criticism, because I know my intentions are grounded in love, and I’m very open to learning from others.
Only authentic love, expressed through very thoughtful and non-conventional methods, can heal these open, proliferating wounds.