Love Makes a Bridge: Dealing with Fear

Love is the bridge between you and everything.

Jalaluddin Rumi

Unfortunately, this powerful little line from Rumi can come across almost as a platitude–a nice, innocuous little saying that really carries no weight, a saying that we could say and wear on a lapel pin while otherwise acting pretty obnoxiously to others.

The truth of it is that it represents difficult work.  The fact of it is that we each have the capacity to bring love to any situation and choose to work with that situation from the standpoint of love.  By love, I don’t mean a warm, fuzzy feeling or romance.  By love, I mean (and I am convinced that this is what Rumi at least includes) choosing to honor the lives of others involved in the situation.  By love, I mean letting go of my need to control or to be superior.  By love I mean to allow myself to open up my ignorance to what I still do not know about the situation.  By love, I mean being willing ahead of the facts to take action that alleviates suffering.

As a teacher, I am daily in the position to witness human interactions.  Often those interactions include conversations in which students share real insight into these situations of life.  Recently, in a rather candid conversation about race and racism, one in which students from every imaginable ethnicity were involved (and where feelings were running high), we recalled many of the things that have been done by the white majority in this country over the years.  I remembered the internment of people of Japanese descent during WWII.  At that point, young white man offered this:  “When that happened in our country, people were really afraid, and our fear led us to do that to Japanese Americans. Look what fear does to us.  It could do that to us again.  If we become so afraid of Muslims, for example, we could end up doing that to them.”

It was such a powerful and devastating moment in the conversation.  Everyone in the room, including the Muslim students, knew that he spoke some horrible and necessary truth.  He dared to own out loud what our fear does to us.

Look what fear does to us. And under the guidance of fear, look what we do to each other. The really hard work of Rumi’s message is that the kind of love that becomes a bridge between us and everything is mostly never something we feel like doing.  It becomes a choice and a choice against feeling.  Sure, I feel the love between me and my family.  Love is a bridge between me and them.  And my friends.  I could sequester myself into a very small place in the world where I only have contact with my family and friends, but that’s not living, and that’s not living in this world. If I am to be a citizen of this world, I have to choose love–in the face of my fear–and begin to let it open me up to the rest of the world.

Look what fear does to us.

Love is the bridge between you and everything.

Bob Patrick

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