I learned about love from a man in white cotton, with a wrinkled forehead and very little hair, who spent most of his life barefoot in a tropical climate.
Love is not preferential attachment, he said. It is universal identification. When you can see yourself in another person, that is love. When they are you and you are them.
It took me years to understand this truly and some days, I still don’t live it. Those are the days when someone else’s comments trigger a reaction in me and all of a sudden, I am judging them and their choice and I look away, ashamed to still play those petty little human games.
On my better days, the love comes through, and I can feel the heart beating of someone I like and someone I dislike and someone I don’t even know.
Last night, driving home from an event hosted by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, my son and I were talking about this concept of love and he asked, “Could you love Adolf Hitler?” Could you, he asked, look into his eyes and see the humanness in him?
Wow, what a penetrating question. And one not easy to answer. Last night, the evening of 1,000 participants started with my wonderful rabbi sharing the most poignant speech I have ever heard him give, about one set of his grandparents fleeing Russia for America in 1903 after the pogroms, and another set of grandparents being stuck there in 1940 and only one person getting out upon the liberation of Auschwitz 70 years ago.
This week, the world news stage celebrated the 70th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation by Allied forces. Wonderful. Chilling. On the heels of anti-semitic terror encircling the globe.
Yesterday, over lunch with my dear minister friend, Jaime, we talked about the anti-semitism reigning in France today and then about the atrocities committed in the name of Boko Haram and all of the hatred flowing through different names that leads to killing and death and reprehensible behavior of one person toward another person.
Love is universal identification, not preferential attachment. Can you see in the chocolate-brown eyes of another person, behind the darkened skin, the same beating heart that allows you to walk through life?
When a religion stands up to terror and says it is not the same as the purity of Scripture, that’s when the hatred will end, last night’s speaker, Bret Stephens, of the Wall Street Journal, said. He was talking about Islam vs. Islamism, and he said the end of Islamist terror will come when the Islamic world shuts its doors on jihadists.
If we cannot love ourselves, how can we love another? I know a woman so filled with judgment and hatred that no one likes to be around her. And yet, no one says anything. No one stops her. They endure the cutting remarks and the harsh laugh and the looking down the nose.
Except, if any of them, or all of them, or one of them, looked into her eyes and started to see the hurt that lives there to the point of wanting to continually hurt others, perhaps it would all melt away. And her beating heart would be my beating heart and yours, too.
We are born with an innate capacity to love. It is our reflex. We do not automatically hate; that is something we learn. And we only learn it when it is directed at us. The abused often end up abusing others.
Can’t we stop the hatred circling the world, coursing through the veins of civilization? Can’t we build a world with a foundation of true love, the kind that is universal, that does not include mention of skin tone or ethnic origin or belief?
Isn’t our destiny peace and love and goodness? I believe we are brought to this life to make the world a better place – not to hunt it down and decimate it. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be the difference.