Mapping the territory


I am by no means pretending to be the only person to propose the following concept, even though I am prone to harp on it at this moment in time. I have seen it crop up over and over in my various searches for meaning, and so I figure it's time to pay it the respect it commands.

You will note if you've poked around at all that I am fairly driven by the need to turn over rocks and report on the bugs I have found. Being a bullhorn of doom is not only one-dimensional, the territory is covered. It is my intent to balance out my doom-saying with sooth-saying wherever possible, so let's put aside all the problems and concentrate on solutions. 

At the end of the day, we can trace all the weeds that choke out the sunlight to one root: fear. What do we do about fear? Spray it with love. How do we get to the point where we have enough to go around? First, we have to figure out and deal with the ways in which we interfere with our own connection with love. It's like the tired old sayings from the self-help books keep trying to tell us: You have to start with you.

Right up front, let me shout out to Bill Hicks for putting it so plainly. The choices we make all boil down to choosing between love and fear. I define love as that which connects, feeds, unfolds, moves, grows, changes, and nurtures. Love is the operating system of the Universe, though it may not always be obvious from our point of view. We have a very distorted view of what love is and what it means for us, and I think that creates a lot of unnecessary pain. 

The first thing you can do is be really honest with yourself and define what love means for you. Compare that with your experience. Try to look at things from a third-party perspective if you can. The screen of your experience, just like mine, is covered in dead bugs and acid rain and all the other occlusions that come from constantly comparing your life experience to the story about love that is being sold to all of us. The idea of love we're indoctrinated with is incredibly limited compared to the reality.

The other pole in this system is fear, which constricts, freezes, stagnates, and darkens. There's such a saturation of fear in this culture that even the way we talk about love is couched in fear language. We look at love from a perspective of scarcity instead of a perspective of abundance. As a result, we saddle our partners, family, and friends with the responsibility of providing us with it, rather than taking our responsibility to share the love we already have. 

Love is not something you go get. Love is something you already have. Your ability to connect with that internal source is no doubt damaged in some way, but repair is possible. The first step is to acknowledge that it exists and to take that responsibility. This is a very, very hard truth, and I am still learning how to do it myself, but I can tell you that the effort is rewarded. Love and fear reinforce themselves as they are fed by your actions. The harder you work to recognize, appreciate, and cultivate love, the more of it you will find that you have. The harder you work to distance yourself from the people who love you, the easier it is for those connections to dwindle and end.

You are the source of love in your life. If you accept it, fully, you won't need to play the standard game anymore. You won't have a mirage to chase, and so when you encounter love naturally, you can simply recognize and open yourself to it. Now when you do find someone who compliments you and frees you to be yourself, it's easy to give them all the credit. What you've found in a true partner is a polished mirror, allowing you to see yourself clearly. This may reveal work you have to do on yourself or or in the world, and that's a blessing, as much as it hurts up front.

I believe that we are all wired together under the board, in ways that are not always obvious or logical. The more we do to cultivate love, the better we make the bigger picture. At the end of the day, all choices are, at their root, between love or fear. If you choose love, you move toward growth, development, novelty, understanding, and the happiness that goes with those things. If you choose fear, you move toward a shrinking, a shutting down, and death, really. Love or fear, life or death. It all comes down to that.

Death is inevitable, and part of the deal, but you don't get extra points for walking around dead for decades before your time. You're alive here and now, so you might as well start clearing the rocks out of the road. I like to wax on and on about this stuff, but having practical actions to take is where the blood of this work is, so let's start.

I invite you to examine your life. Look at your behavior, toward yourself, your friends, your family, your lover, and don't leave out strangers. Be brutally honest with yourself, and divide your actions on paper into those reflecting love and those reflecting fear. Start connecting those choices with their effects. Do you see patterns? Which column is winning?

I'm doing this too. I am not trying to be anyone's teacher, but maybe you're in the middle of nowhere and miserable and you just need somebody to give you some ideas about how to get perspective, so I hope this is doing that for you. For myself, I only filled out the fear column so far, because I feel like I have a tendency to do the right things for the wrong reasons sometimes and I want to force myself to consider that before every entry in the love column. 

I believe that the more aware we are of our behavior, its causes, and its effects, the easier it is to assemble a tool kit for building greater happiness by stripping away the obstacles and feeding the genuine. The happier we are as individuals, the harder it will be to sell us ten thousand forms of sneaky misery in the guise of panacea. The more free we are in our hearts, the harder it will be to keep us distracted from our real work.