Photo contributed by Marlena Groomer
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was starting to write this and “Sweet Love” by Anita Baker popped into my headphones and as one of the most spiritually lifting songs in my music catalogue, it seemed appropriate for this discussion. Now let me be clear when I refer to “love” throughout this discourse. I’m not even remotely referring to the love that arises romantically between two people. That’s unique with too many facets and intangibles between two connected individuals and it still remains a mystery of sorts to me, even when I over-analyze and over-evaluate that subject as I approach the 22nd year of marriage to Deb. As far as that love is concerned without attempting to describe it, I’m sure there’s a special wing in the afterlife reserved for her for having the patience and understanding to put up with me that long because it’s not always simple when two people travel together.
But getting back to the “love” that I think Dr. King refers to or at least my my take on it and how my understanding of it has been woven into my life. I’ve written quite a bit about the transformation of sorts and rediscovery that’s occurred since my injury and how I’ve expressed a better comprehension of the love I needed to afford myself, those around me whether biologically or geographically, and degrees of love I needed to afford the basic elements in or near my life.
I do use as a starting point to frequently telling Deb, Jason, and Christian that “I love” them and it’s not because I feel obligated due to my title as husband and father to do so, but because it’s a passionate response as a result of the relationship I have forged with them and I couldn’t control it if I wanted to (which I don’t). Interestingly and due in part to my upbringing, I have a habit of telling others of varying degrees of friendship and familiarity that “I love” them and although it’s certainly not with the intensity of how I feel about the three aforementioned Dicos, it is no less an emotion resulting from what is generated at the moment towards that person because of the improvement they have made during that portion of my life. Love in return? I’ve never been sure what I’m entitled to in response and I’m better off not gravitating towards “hard and true” expectations but feeling strongly about anything in the direction of “love” clearly surpasses any of the contrary emotions that guide me towards whatever darkness that could erode my better existence! I just like letting people know of those feelings rather than keeping it to myself that their presence has made extremely more than a negligible difference in my life, I’m personally better for it, and I’ll leave it’s interpretation in the hands of the recipient to use as they see fit.
Now to be clear, anyone who knows me would never make the assertion that I express “love” for everything that happens in my life, or “love” about the totality of each person that surrounds me and those I have come across. By virtue of me being “me” with my own personal tastes, preferences, and varying tolerance for certain traits, some things eventually fall into the category of “less than loved”, under-appreciated, or tangentially annoying over time. I’m sure there may be a more tactful presentation of the foregoing blunt characterization but in lieu of an apology, I’ll just attribute this translucent honesty as a product of my age and brain injury.
However there is a precursor to whatever final conclusion is reached in my individual dealings and exploration of people and things so bear with me for a bit longer and I’ll start with this quote that I think is as spectacular in its message and presentation as the one by Dr. King. “Keep love in your heart. A life is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring. Who, being loved, is poor?” – Oscar Wilde
It takes work, patience, and restraint at times and I frequently have to catch myself (sometimes unsuccessfully) to avoid succumbing to an abundance of my own human shortcomings to utilize the “love” that keeps me rich in this life, and avoid the alternative “darkness” that is waiting to assert itself. I somewhat rely on a basic approach when possible to absorb my surroundings and what they can potentially mean to me if even momentarily.
I have before me each day a gift of 1,440 minutes and there are generally static elements that I awake to with the comfort of knowing that love for and from them will continue to surround me absent any traumatic disruption in the forces that bond us together. But by freeing and opening up myself to not just my normal routine but also the unexpected elements that present themselves, I’ve afforded myself the opportunity, possibility, and increased the probability that I will discover different aspects of “love” that can be so readily available in a life that is too magnificent to habitually ignore. It seems that the further I lean in that direction, the farther I distance myself from patterns that lead to the intractable management of more undesirable feelings and their manifestations.
The beauty of parts of our humanity is due to the fact that we are able to experience a wide gauntlet of emotions although it is rare that we entirely become masters of them no matter how diligently we attempt to keep them cornered. How often is it that we are immersed in moments where we attempt to command the sensations of heart and mind so they somehow correspond to both the adulation and criticism directed our way?
Still I’m fairly confident that it boils down to a choice of how we approach each day. Oftentimes they don’t end up as perfect as we hoped for but I’ve never been sure of the number of guaranteed outcomes we’re entitled to even when we think our best efforts have been made. Still, we can better define how most days develop for ourselves and the proportionate amounts of “love” that can be summoned from all things gently explainable and even those supremely mysterious.
And so it goes that “the way you perceive and react to the world is a choice.” – David Foster Wallace. And if given that choice, wouldn’t it be better that our expressions be symptomatic of emotions more associated with anything resembling “love” that reflect the brightness surrounding the beauty we can be behold, as opposed to anything diametrically different that darkens the best of each of those particular aspects. It seems like a logical choice once I get past the illogical distractions and given the alternatives that could erode them, I’ll just try to seek and express the “love” that lightens all those things that continue to surround me!