The human race does not know what it means to love. Just as the dreamer is unaware that they've succumbed to sleep, we have lost ourselves to the song of a slumber so long and so deep it threatens to keep us. The open hearts we had as children have been constricted, both convicted of crimes and victimized, all by the trying and terrible turns of this life as it continues its unrelenting march forward in time.
In many ways, this loss is both the tragedy and the beauty of free will. It is possible to make all the wrong decisions in life. Though it's not very probable, one could imagine a particular life in which every major choice — every important decision made — was actually the wrong one. Not just the wrong one, but the worst possible one.
Needless to say, that life would not last long. It would be snuffed out in a very short time; whether it was murder, or suicide, or a very avoidable accident, the trajectory of the downward spiral would be steep.
Most of us, however, are better at making decisions than this. Or so we like to think. The majority of us feel justified in our lives and the decisions we've made— we hold true to our outlook on things, we defend our worldview and make a case for the lives we've made for ourselves. Of course we do. To do otherwise would be weak. It would be to admit fault in the very life we're living.
Yet if there’s one thing the state of the world attests to, it’s that mistakes are being made — a lot of them. In terms of the collective decision-making process of humanity as a whole — particularly as accelerated by the boost in our technology over the last decade — the hard evidence is overwhelming. Look around. It’s safe to say that we’re entering the last few turns of the spiral.
So who's at fault? Surely not us. We're not the fanatics, the war-mongers, the idiot politicians. We are good, hardworking, well-meaning folk. We are the salt of the earth, earning our keep and fighting for the side that matters. And we believe it. Not until we find ourselves lying awake at 3:00am, questioning the future, analyzing the past and worrying about the lack of sleep we're getting does it tend to dawn on us that we may not know what we're doing.
There's a scenario I once heard described — whether it was from a movie, tv show or book, I can’t recall — that depicted a person who, upon dying, meets another version of themselves who made all the right decisions in life. Thus, upon death, every mistake they'd ever made — known and unknown — was brought into the light as they came face to face with a double who didn't make any of them.
A harrowing thought, to say the least. Yet also impossible— and undesirable. It is our very mistakes that lend us our humanity. Without them, we would be nothing — we couldn't grow, nor would we ever be afforded the chance to grow. That’s where wisdom comes from: the ability to learn from one’s mistakes.
Yet there is a limit, and we are quickly approaching it. Not only have we failed to learn, time and time again, we refuse to. We refuse to look at ourselves, and to use the energy that is wasted on complaining, fighting and opposing to instead inform ourselves, experientially, with the true nature of love.
But it is no wonder. The message is nowhere. The last culture that possessed it we wiped from the earth and left ruined and shamed. We have no help, no council of wise elders waiting in the wings when we’re born to impart the lessons they've learned— both from life itself and from the wise elders before them. Our parents do the best they can, of course, but they are still in the process of learning themselves, and as sad as it is to admit, many are already, unfixably broken— to use the words of Douglas Coupland:
“...I realized that once people are broken in certain ways, they can't ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it's already happened.”
That’s what this world does, for the most part. It breaks people. Why? Because it’s been built, and is run by, broken people. This is the heart of the repeating history we're suffering from. These are the patterns of wound infliction we continue to persist in.
The only way out is to take total responsibility for oneself, shoulder the burden, and set about the process of transmuting it into wisdom. And the only way to do that is through love. Every saint, sage, wise woman and master have all said it, often repeatedly, until we just couldn’t take it anymore, and we killed them.
Because that’s what we do. That’s our thing. And that’s what we’re going to keep right on doing until the gun finds its way into our own mouths.
What will happen then? Will we have the will-power to keep from pulling the trigger? The self-control, the strength it takes not to self-annihilate?
The whole thing sounds absurd, when you put it that way. It takes strength not to kill oneself? Really?
Well, if you know anything about suicide at all, you know the truth of it: of course it does. Real depression — which is still not taken seriously by most people — should be considered as terminal as cancer. When one commits suicide, they are succumbing to a disease which they no longer have the strength to fight. And they most likely fought long, and hard.
Why didn’t they get the help they needed? Why didn’t they reach out to someone? Why did they suffer all alone for so long? These are the questions most often asked.
Might the answer have something to do with the fact that reaching out, speaking about and addressing personal darkness, admitting fault, shame, fear, and self-loathing is impossibly taboo in the societies we’ve built? Might it have something to do with the fact that what love actually is, what connection is — empathy, compassion, vulnerability, honesty, self awareness — is something that is not taught in our schools, not shown in our workplaces and not conducive to “success” as we’ve defined it? In our world, regardless of what is said, all of the things that comprise the true heart of love are simply chalked up as weakness. This is the unspoken message coming at us, from all angles. We are apes with shiny cell phones. Animals that refuse to evolve, that can’t bear to look at themselves, even as our technology brings us to a place where we will soon possess the power to consciously, physically participate in our own evolution.
All because we still don’t know what it means to love.