I spent last week teaching mindfulness, community, and The Force to middle schoolers at a UU family summer camp. The reception was mixed, but it definitely had an influence on my thinking this weekend.
There are two emotions that are the most primal, the most essential, and the most powerful in humans: love and fear. They have very different functions. In short, love is meant to be a long-term emotion, building relationship and community. Fear is meant to be a short-term emotion, one that rescues us from a certain situation. Love gives us stamina, fear gives us strength.
As we have mentioned many times, here and on the Facebook page, building, creating, and improving the communities we want to live in takes stamina; overnight success is unlikely to last. Love gives us the power we need to establish relationships and grow communities. Done with care, they are hard to destroy, but they are easy to damage. The strength needed to do that damage typically comes from some form of fear.
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
~ Jedi Master Yoda, Muppet Wizard supreme (Star Wars)
The world is full of fear. Fear is meant to be a motivating force, driving immediate action. Love instead inspires patience and focus, but also makes us feel safe and stable.
Think of fear as a fire, doing its work quickly and efficiently, but needing to be fed and leaving little behind. Love is like water, also shaping the world as it moves through it, but gently, through persistence. We speak of love flowing, and that is an apt way to envision it. Also, like fire and water, fear can disperse a small amount of love easily, causing panic and mistrust. A well of love, though, can smother an inferno of fear, or at least outlast it as it burns out.
Fear has its place in our lives, and we should not be ashamed that we have fears. Fear is just as often irrational as love, but also usually situational. That said, fear is powerful and dangerous when nurtured and fanned into anger and hate. Those secondary emotions are not as strong as fear, but they are slower to die off. Fear is not to be dwelled on or toyed with.
Respect for our varied emotions is important to understanding them, their causes, and their place in our lives. We cannot simply chose not to be afraid ever again. We must, instead, choose how we will face our fears and what our priorities are. We must ask why we are really angry and what we can do to set things right.
Emotional awareness opens us up to new avenues and types of growth. Realizing that while we cannot choose not to feel things, we can choose how we will feel them and what shape we allow them to take in the world. That is a powerful ability, and one worth developing.
If you want to work on strengthening the power of Love in your life, August 3rd is Esther Day, a holiday for non-romantic love. Reach out to friends and family and let them know that they are loved. Try to tell them why or how they have impacted your life. Let love grow healthier and more beautiful communities around you!