A little while ago, my little girl and I were rocking to MC Yogi’s “Only Love Is Real” song. We love MC Yogi. And this song always makes my hair stand… Something about the melody and the message to focus on love… It moves my heart. But as my toddler and I dance around the living room, and the lyrics: “Only love is real, only love is real, I crush everything else based on ignorance and fear!” fill the space, something feels wrong.
Wait a minute! Crush everything based on fear? Are you sure that’s a good idea?
“When I feel lost and disconnected
Searching for a way to heal
I remember the message you sent me
Only love is real…”
These beautiful words echo in my head and send shivers down my spine. I am searching for ways to heal. Sometimes I feel lost and disconnected. I want to believe it.
But then I start to ask myself: Is it true? Is love the only thing that is real?
Is this what we need to do in order to move through the challenges of life? Do we need to tell ourselves that what we feel or think or experience is not real in order to heal? (some yoga traditions, like Advaita Vedanta will say yes.) Is that really healing? Does it really bring us closer and deeper into our connectedness with ourselves or with others? Is it good for us to ignore the complexity of reality and reduce it into only one thing? Is it really healthy to overly simplify the world like that? Aren’t we lying to ourselves by doing that?
Love is really important. Love might even be the most important thing in life. I’ll give you that. But what about all the other things that we experience as we walk the earth as a human being? Disgust. Anger. Fear. Confusion. Loneliness. Are they really not real? Then why do we experience them? Do they have no place on the palate? Then why do we taste them? I would argue that there are moments in time when they are each appropriate to tap into. Even hatred is real. I dare to say it.
Now before you shoot me with your love guns, and hate me for saying such a thing, let me explain…
Of course I don’t think we need to act from a place of hatred. But I think we need to acknowledge that sometimes we feel it. Hatred is an experience, a flavor we all taste once in a while. If we say we never hate, we lie.
It is because I hate sometimes, that I can understand that shared human experience. That honest acceptance of this volatile emotion leads me to connect more deeply to humanity. Actions that arise out of that feeling are dangerous. But the heated energy shaking inside of it could be transformative in its own way. Maybe it can move me to make changes, to fight against injustice, to voice my concerns regarding human rights and crimes against humanity. Before you throw it away, maybe take a moment to consider why it’s there, and what might it serve. How powerful it is to let that experience wash over you in its intensity, to allow yourself to be brought into the core of you by it, to burn in its heat, and to understand yourself better as it moves through you. How powerful it is to accept it, and allow it, and move through it, and stand strong and choose not to initiate your actions directly from it.
And fear… Are you sure you want to crush it?
What about a little three year old running into the street? Should they not be afraid of cars? I need my little munchkin to be afraid of certain things in order to be safe! Of course I want to help her cultivate courage, and grow her independence, and go for things in her life, and learn to move beyond the places where her fears (or mine) limit her. But she needs a good dose of fear in order to stay alive! We al do.
Without fear there is no courage.
And if you did not experience disgust, by the way, you could end up eating rotten food. Or poop. Seriously. Think about that.
Fear, disgust, anger, hatred, and other experiences most new age messages tell us we need to transcend, are all here to help us cultivate discernment. Through them we establish our preferences. They protect us.
And if we crush everything made of ignorance, what would that really mean? I am afraid (yes, I am afraid, and that’s healthy) that it would turn us into “know it all’s.” The more you know, the more the horizon of your ignorance grows. If we leave no room for the questioning and inquiry that comes with not knowing, we lean a little bit too heavily into certainty. And certainty leads to tyranny. And that is dangerous!
I would even argue that we need a little dose of guilt. Not the kind of heavy guilt that haunts you and debilitates you and makes you miserable all the goddamn time. But that little tiny dose that makes you see where you were maybe wrong, and how you can do better. That healthy self-doubt that makes you question yourself just enough so that you can become open to change, so that you can grow.
Every experience we have has its place. Some experiences might need to move through a process of refinement in order for us to live a healthy life. But to ignore, to negate, or to push away aspects of our humanity isn’t healthy either. What you are going through in your life is real. The feelings are real. The pain and the struggle, the disconnection, as well as the joy, the triumphs, the love – it’s all here for you to be engaged in. Embrace it. Change it. Move through it. Let it move through you. Be human.
To say: “Only Love Is Real” is to deny everything else, pretty much. Love might be the most valuable, the most important, the most powerful energy in our lives. It heals, and grounds, and inspires us. But that is only because it probably is not the only thing that is real.