My old friend and college roomie, Jonathan, was up from Atlanta to visit last night. It’s been a decade since our last visit but we immediately went deep with our conversation.
“What’s the point of all this,” he asked, waving his hand around my small kitchen, but including the whole world; our entire existence. “Why are we here? I’ve been thinking a whole lot about this lately.
“I think it’s to learn to love.”
I think he might be on to something.
Learning to love ourselves, to love others, to love people and things that don’t obviously or immediately (or ever!) return that love is a journey worthy of a lifetime.
The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has a lot to say on the subject of learning to love. This is what he told me this morning:
Respect and Trust
From “How to Love” by Thich Nhat Hanh
Along with the traditional four elements of true love — loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity — there are two more elements: respect and trust. These elements can be found in the four, but it helps to mention their names.
When you love someone, you have to have trust and confidence. Love without trust is not yet love.
Of course, first you have to have trust, respect, and confidence in yourself. Trust that you have a good and compassionate nature.
You are part of the universe; you are made of stars. When you look at your loved one, you see that she is also made of stars and carries eternity inside.
Looking in this way, we naturally feel reverence.
True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself and for the other person.