Love is the cornerstone of culture.
NOTE: This is Part 6 of a 12-part series that defines the core elements of Black culture.
Love is the most misunderstood and misapplied word in the world. To most people, love is an abstraction associated with virtually anything that looks or feels good. It represents a profoundly tender, passionate affection or sexual desire for another person. Many believe love is a set of emotions that results in happiness, and trust, and can vary in intensity and change over time (i.e., fall in and out of love). After thousands of years of human bonding, science is still trying to sort out what love is. Researchers debate the extent to which love is a biological or cultural phenomenon.
Let’s shine a light on this illusive term — put simply, love is giving, seeking nothing in return. Love is expressed through sharing, by helping someone who has a genuine need without judgment, especially if you have you go out of your way to help them. The wealth that comes to you belongs to everyone. You help the person out of an understanding that we’re all damaged goods and we need each other. That’s why you shouldn’t judge anyone.
If you want to express love, then invest your time and energy in someone else and expect nothing in return. You become a loving person when the dominant interest in your life is your concern for the whole above your own self-interests. The wellness of all is balanced by one’s own interests because it is enmeshed in the “all.” Stated another way, the more that you do for others is the more that you do for yourself. It is when sharing transcends the bonds of affection and blood kinship that love comes into play – especially when you have nothing to gain in return.
As far back into the historical record and into the present day, poets, poets, philosophers and preachers – all have acknowledged the power of love in countless ways, raising it above all other virtues. Surely, there must be something inside each of us clamoring to feel love, spread love and be loved.
To understand why we seek to love, let’s begin where we started…in Part 2, we affirmed the fact that all of us have the same goal in life – to be at peace despite what is going on around us. For man, there is a natural urge to be at peace. Since challenges in life cannot be avoided, we want to be peaceful as we undergo them. Being peaceful is man’s highest form of expression because peace transforms a human into a divine being.
Although peace is the goal, it is love that propels you toward achieving this goal. Peace is established through acts of love. Our Blackness isn’t what makes us divine, but it’s our knowledge of the purpose of life that always seeks peace through the power of love.
To be a loving person is to have an automatic reflex to help someone out of purity with peace. Thus, love is natural. All thoughts and acts that lack love (i.e., selfish, emotionally driven, ulterior motives, etc.) are unnatural and create disorder.
The universe functions on order – the sun rises and sets in predictable intervals, tides rise and fall in concert with moon phases, the day progresses into the night and night becomes day, etc. We depend on order for everything we do, but our lives are disorderly. Most of us fail to live in accordance with the rhythms of nature which is a product of God’s love. God’s love is manifested in the order of the universe that guarantees our success in life if we live within the order that God established for us. Love is the highest force of nature, the supreme unifying force. That’s why we say, “God is love.” God shares with all Its bountiful blessings. The sun shines for everyone, not just those who we think deserve it.
However, we don’t appreciate God’s love just as a child often doesn’t appreciate her parents. A universal image of love is a mother caring for a child. The child cannot care for itself, so a mother devotes all her energy to feeding and caring for the child, and she won’t hesitate to put her life on the line to protect the child. It is within her nature to do so. This is an example of how our love for God and love for others should look like.
To live as God is to live in a loving manner, and to be selfless. The highest act of sharing and love giving is to place your mind, body and spirit in the service of God. Through serving God, you must serve all men through sharing while cultivating a love for God above our love for anything else in the world.
However, we often want to quantify our sharing in a manner that is comfortable to us. We want to direct to whom, how much and when we give. That’s not love. Love is selfless which means being concerned more with the needs of others than with one’s own. If you share, but only on your own terms, then it’s a form of selfishness. Of course, one should maintain a healthy balance between helping others without persistently diminishing one’s own time and resources to his detriment.
Clearly, Western culture’s concept of love is firmly entrenched in selfish behavior. For instance, a husband and wife are said to love each other, but they want something in return. The wife may want her spouse to be more emotionally available to cater to her own emotional needs. Likewise, a husband may place sex at a high priority with more frequent expectations of his mate. The problem arises when the prevailing culture reinforces these notions which leads to a perpetual lack of understanding of what love is.
Black people, on the other hand, must re-establish a spiritual approach to love that promotes the love for God as the highest manifestation of love. If love is the ultimate unifying force, then we must define and demonstrate love in the correct manner. Black culture must foster a love for one another, love for nature, and love for God. It is love — the ability to share the best that you have with those truly in need — that is the foundation for establishing order in the family, society and the world.