…the greatest thing you’ll ever learn…
It’s a recurring line in the movie Moulin Rouge. “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”
It seems like a simple thing, right?
You would think so. I mean, we all want to be loved. We all crave that human connection that tells us we are not alone, crawling through the darkness with no bearing or hope of rescue. And yet, every where I look I see the opposite of love, the opposite of connection. I see hate and hate-mongering. I see fear and fear-mongering. I see division.
It seems like no matter where I am or what I am doing I find myself faced with it.
I read news stories about some hateful deed perpetrated by some hate-filled person because of something said or believed about someone else. I read the comments on those stories, with people calling out for the criminals to be maimed, hunted down like animals, raped in prison, brutalized, tortured and killed.
I watch politics and I see the right spreading lies and misinformation about the left. I see the left spreading lies and misinformation about the right. I hear the rhetoric, inflamed, impassioned speech calling us to war over every disagreement between political parties.
I listen as Christians spew anger and fear and hatred about Muslims and Jews and even other Christians. I hear Muslims spew anger and fear and hatred about Christians and Jews and even other Muslims.
All around me people are calling me to join them in their fury, without giving me any reasons for the anger, for the hate…there is no rational discourse, only knee-jerk reactions to knee-jerk reactions that leave us all precariously perched on one foot, with our knee in someone else’s groin without even knowing who that person is.
And through it all I am reminded that the greatest thing I have ever learned in my life, the thing that changed my life and made me who I am today was learning how to love. And I don’t mean falling in love, or holding a baby or any of that stuff. I mean Love.
First came loving myself. This was a big one. It was hard to do, and it’s something I still struggle with. But, without it, I could never have gone the next step. Loving others. Really.
I’m not a big Bible person, y’all know that, but there is a verse that I think pertains here. I Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ”
Despite the fact that I had to walk away from what I knew of Christianity to find this kind of Love, this verse is something I seek to practice in my life. It has changed the way I look at people. It has changed the way I conduct my life.
If you’ve ever tried to do that, you’ll know it’s a job of work. In this environment of fear and anger and hate it is so very hard to not respond in kind. When someone denigrates you for the color of your skin, or what is or isn’t between your legs, or what you believe in your heart, or the labels society has burdened you with, it is not easy to see past your own anger and your own fear and realize that person calling you a fag or a rag head or a redneck or a wetback or an uptight teabagger or a tree hugging liberal is, at their very core, a person just like you, with fears and life experiences that have taught them what they throw at you. It’s not easy, to reach a hand across the aisle in friendship.
It isn’t easy to set aside our prejudice and say to someone that we have learned to hate based on what we’ve been told about them, “tell me about yourself”…”teach me what you believe”…”show me your life”…It isn’t easy to forgo a label for the sake of understanding what it means.
It isn’t easy, but I promise you one thing. It will be the greatest thing you ever learn.