Ted Talk ONE----Four Flavors of Love: An Ecology of Heart
Ted Talk ONE----Four Flavors of Love: An Ecology of Heart
preached February 7, 2016 @ the UU Society of River Falls
© Rev. Ted E. Tollefson
Many cultures have multiple words for love, just like skiers have many words for
different kinds of snow (“corn snow”, “downy flakes”, “soft powder”) and surfers have a dozen
adjectives for the qualities of waves (“choppy”, “bumpy”, “glassy”). Love is confusing
because we have only 1 word in English to represent at least 4 ways of bonding.
Today I want to differentiate 4 ways of loving that are distinct, but complementary.
“Witchcraft” by Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh
Those fingers in my hair
That sly come-hither stare
That strips my conscience bare
And I've got no defense for it
The heat is too intense for it
What good would common sense for it do?
1. Romantic Love (“Eros”, “Amor”, “Mania”)
This is where our culture focuses a LOT of attention
it is fueled by a powerful “urge to merge”, to feel oneness with life.
It is used to sell soap, clothes, cars and houses.
It's that “old black magic”
we go head over heels in this kind of love
we can't get enough of your love
we “get crazy” over one person
and hope that it will last forever.
This kind of love has a a few things in common with addiction:
we get high, we can't get enough of it,
we feel “lost” or “incomplete” without our beloved
we are hooked by idealized fantasies
and it rarely lasts, in its original intensity,
for more than 9 months or so.
“The Prayer of St. Francis”
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy...
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born into eternal life .
2. Self-Sacrificing Love, Steadfast Compassion (Agape, Karuna)
Luckily enough, we are wired for another kind of love,
saintly love, self-sacrificing love that is steady, compassionate,
and needs to serve and take care of others.
This is the love that St. Paul writes of in Corinthians:
it is patient and kind,
it is not uppity,
it does not seek to get its own way.
This is the love revealed in the Prayer of St. Francis
which echoes Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva:
let us be the medicine
where there is sickness, may we bring healing
where there is hardship, may we bring ease
where there is suffering, may we bring comfort
where there is darkness, may we bring light...
This kind of love can be energizing and exhausting.
It often shows up in dreams I have heard
from ministers & therapists and other care-givers:
we're working in a cafeteria serving food
the line seems endless
and when our shift finally ends
there's no food left for us to eat
and no one left to serve us.
“Be My Friend” Albert Camus
Don't walk in behind me. I may not lead.
Don't walk in front of me. I may not follow.
Walk beside me. Be my friend.
3. Friendly Love (Philia, Metta, Kindness)
There's a third flavor of love
that can balance the ups and downs
of romantic love and saintly love.
It's friendly love, human kindness, what Buddhists called Metta.
In friendship, we don't go “head over heals”
we meet each other half way and keep our feet on the ground.
In friendship, we practice the art of mutuality:
giving and receiving, helping and being helped.
We walk side by side, hand in hand.
We stand together
not to get impossibly high,
not to save the world or any person,
but to savor the simple joys of embodied life:
work and play, eating and cooking,
helping one another
by sharing what we know and have.
Every potluck, every committee and most congregations
is sustained by friendly love
to get the work done and nurture relationships
“I am Somebody!” Rev. William Holmes Border
I may be poor. But I am Somebody!
I may be young. But I am Somebody!
I may make a mistake. But I am Somebody!
I must be respected, protected, never rejected.
I am God's child.
I am Somebody!
4. Self-Affirming Love
There's a 4th dimension of love
which the ancients often left out:
it is self-affirming love,
the “I am somebody” love,
the love that demands respect and gives it.
Saints aren't supposed to have needs, but they do.
Lovers are supposed to give and not ask, but sometimes they must.
If you have helped nurture a teenager towards adulthood
you have probably noticed how useful
and irritating self-affirming love is:
the endless hours preening before the mirror,
may also protect them
from the self-destructive aspects of youth-culture.
Self-affirming love can help people of all ages discover
that we don't have to think alike to be loved,
that differences are resources, not defects
that each of us is a work of art in progress
not yet finished.
5. The Ecology of Love
There are other flavors of love, but these four
form a eco-system in the human heart:
Romantic love and Saintly love balance each other:
we can learn to get high on serving others.
We can learn to be sober yet playful, silly and yet wise.
We can learn to fall in love with the universe just the way it is
moment by moment with whole-hearted attention.
Friendly love and Self-love strengthen each other:
we learn how the golden rule rings true--if we love our neighbors we must also learn to love our selves,
and by loving our selves, we have more energy
to share with our neighbors.
Do you see how the equation of love balances itself?
Do you feel the tug of love towards human wholeness?
Do you hear the saints and lovers, the friends & preeners
joining their voices in a celebration of love?
That's my first idea, that there are at least 4 dimensions of love.
When they are artfully combined lead us towards human wholeness
what the ancients called “Soul” or “True Nature” or “God-in-us”.
INTERLUDE: Quiet time or Music
Ted Talk TWO: HOW LOVE MAKES US BETTER PEOPLE
© 2016 Rev. Ted E. Tollefson
My second idea is this---that love in4 dimensions makes us better people:
it helps build better family and friends, better communities.
How does love do that? Let me count the ways...
1. Love reminds us that we are not alone,
that our life is part of a larger community of lives, our self is social.
It is possible to get stuck in our selves
especially in the dismals of a northern winter
especially if we have a little too much or not enough self-love
but love in many guises
reminds us of the ties that bind--the neighbor who needs a little help with groceries
the traveler on the street who asks for spare change
the dog or cat who wags or purrs their way into our hearts
when our hearts open
we feel connected
we form a network of mutual support
our skills are met and complemented by those of another
our habitual blind-spots are filled in by another on-looker
our voices blend into greater harmony.
We would not be here in this house of flesh
without the embodied love of our parents
we could not accomplish much
without the help of family and friends
our capacity to do good would be unrealized
without the presence of neighbors,
especially the ones who vote the wrong way
or believe what we do not.
Love's first truth, is the one that the poet/preacher John Donne
no one is an island
entire of itself
but each of us is part of a larger continent
2. Love leads us towards something more--it is inspiring, catalytic, self-transcending...
Love can inspire us to do crazy things or wonderful things,
but it leads us somewhere
it is not patient with how things always have been
love comes with a hunger for a better life
a deeper challenge
love wants us to GROW!
Sometimes, love of what we do,
can lead us to what we are destined to do
to our vocation or “calling”.
I think of a young Earl Baaken
who when he was 9 or 10 years old
went to a scary movie with his mother called “Frankenstein”.
Young Earl came home so excited he could barely speak.
When his mother asked
Earl said: “I know what I want to be when I grow up...
I want to be Dr. Frankenstein!”
And so he did, in a way, building a prototypes in his garage
eventually founding a multi-billion dollar company.
His childhood fascination with “electricity and life”
led to a company that has kept millions of people alive,
and that company is called ????????????? [Medtronic]
So too I found my calling 40 years ago in the River Falls Care Center
where I worked with Beth Ray, Father Jerry, Krista Spieler and others.
We learned about service by taking care of elders
We learned about the power of story, song and debate
to animate the lives of those who had come
to what many called “God's waiting room.”
40 years later, we are still following our calling--Beth Ray has a ministry of music and also works with elders
Father Jerry is a priest and God's waiting room has moved a block south to St. Bridget's.
Krista Spieler is an artist, a minister who still works with elders
and here I am at this beloved UU Society
finding the fulfillment of my youthful call to ministry
about 2 miles south of the River Falls Care Center.
Thank you for inviting me to be your minister
and to fulfill my calling by being here with you.
3. Love multiplies resources
I'm not talking loaves and fishes,
just potlucks, work parties, pledge drives.
When we pitch in what we have,
when we shift from hoarding to sharing
something wonder-ful happens:
our social networks shift from scarcity to abundance
when we share what we have
there is usually plenty to go around
and, the saints and rabbis were right,
it feels good to share
it is good to give
because sometimes it is in giving that we receive
it is in ego-death we are born
into the clear-light of our True Natured
the “we” much greater than “me”.
Love at its best is synergistic.
We proved this last year
in celebrating our 25th anniversary
and doing a pledge-drive with a serious ask
our debt was erased,
when ended last year in the black
and this year we are in the green.
4. Love never dies say the saints, the poets and the dreamers.
When we love someone
When we love a place or a person or a way of life
an amazing trans-formation takes place--natural but extra-ordinary.
When we love deeply
whoever or whatever we love
becomes a part of us
and we become part of them.
Think of the people or places
that you have loved.
Can you deny that they have become part of you--that you still carry internalized images of the beloved
with you in your heart forever
or at least as long as memory lasts?
If you have loved and respected
a parent or grand-parent
a mentor or teacher
their guidance goes with you---doesn't it?
Whenever I pick up a saw
I hear the voices of better carpenters and quilters saying
“Measure twice, cut once” and “Haste makes waste”.
When you enter a holiday
do year ever feel the presence of those
who taught you about giving and receiving?
And when we dream at night or by day
have you ever been visited
by images of those no longer in a physical body
who come to share a cup of tea or coffee
to tell familiar stories
or perhaps point the way towards the future
we cannot see clearly?
When we love deeply,
we may come to dwell for awhile
in the timeless regions of heart and mind
that the ancients called “eternity”.
There's a catch that Saint Paul seems not to have noticed:
there is a part of us for whom “love never dies”
and there is part of us that is chained to the wheel of clock time and impermanence.
I am very slow to realize this, I'm back-sliding Buddhist
because I keep mistaking “timeless moments” for “enduring realities”.
Many of us felt that the love-revolution
of the 60's and early 70's would never die,
then we woke up, Nixon was president,
and the War in Asia was replaced
with a seemingly endless series of wars
that cannot be “won” and should not be fought.
Many of us felt that the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's and 70's
had finally put to rest the legacy of 240 years of slavery and racial injustice.
But now we have been awakened
by the unequal and unacceptable version of “Justice”
that befalls those who are not white, not rich and not straight.
What happened to the dream of “liberty and justice for all”?
Many of us may have imagined that the music of our youth
would linger for ever and it does, on the internet and our CD's
but each week, a few more rockers are leaving this stage of embodied life
for a jam-session way up yonder.
Love connects us to the larger community of human-kind
and we still have a personal self to cultivate and care for.
Love gives us glimpses of a better life
and we need to work to turn those visions into reality.
Love multiplies resources
and we still need to make a pledge,
write the check, pay the bills.
Love lures us to a timeless zone
and then---tick tock--we look at the clock and sure enough,
it's time for this sermon on love to come to an end.