“If you are lucky enough to find love, don’t throw it away.”
Once again, I want to expand our concept of love. I am most certainly blessed to be married to Lindsay and to become the father of our baby in 2014 (the greatest 30th birthday present I could ever receive). But I think Stephen Hawking might agree that love goes beyond this lifelong partnership. Love is found in our families, in our friendships, in our communities, and in a deeply interconnected way, through the whole universe.
In a speech I heard by Desmond Tutu, he unpacked the word Ubuntu. In a rough translation, Ubuntu means, “I am, because you are.” Take a moment to contemplate that statement. How often do we view ourselves as isolated, autonomous beings?
More often than I want to admit to myself. Sure, I’ll talk a big game about community and interconnection, but at the end of the day, I brush my teeth for myself, I go to work and earn a paycheck for myself, I drive my car from point A to point B to get myself somewhere I want to be, I buy groceries for myself, and I drink a beer or two to relax myself. Every single one of these things is a seemingly selfish act, but when we look deeper at all of our “autonomous” moments, each of them has, and can have, a profound impact on our fellow human beings.
Every great religious prophet, from Buddha to Christ has asked us to consider our neighbor in all of our actions. Wandering through the 100 acres forest, Winnie the Pooh learned again and again that he was nothing without Piglet, Rabbit, and Tiger, too. Even Holden Caufield and Leopold Bloom attempted to carry the weight of the novel world on their 20th century backs, but they discovered in the end that they could not, and should not, be alone. Somehow Mack, drinking moonshine and waxing philosophically on Cannery Row found the power of community early on in life, and despite his constant trespasses, he held it up higher than any material or worldly possession.
If I am because you are, than you are because I am. I must therefore be thankful everyday for your presence in my life, and I must recognize that I also have a great responsibility for your life. Whether that “you” is a dear friend, a colleague, a stranger I pass on the freeway, or a child sitting in China that will one day meltdown the computer from which I write this diatribe if I don’t find a more just way to properly dispose of it, I am thankful for you and I pledge to honor my end of the bargain as best I can.
The plea then arrives that before we even begin to work, we must consider and cherish and return the love we have in our lives. I’ll make the confession that I often don’t show the love I have for everyone in my life: quite simply, I suck at returning phone calls. Our twenties have taken my friends to every corner of this country. We have moved away from dear family and lifelong friends, but nothing is more important than our community. If we must find a portion of our community through emails, Facebook, text messages, or a cell phone glued to our ear for an hour a day, than so be it.
By all means, find community and love in your home, in your neighborhood, in the brewpub down the street, at work, on the other side of the globe. And as it was said, when you find that community and love, do not throw it away. . . instead, cherish and serve it with every ounce of your being.