How About Love?

I’ve been watching TEDtalks lately. No matter the topic, the speakers TED gets always seem to know how to captivate an audience and make us think differently. TED now offers playlists of curated talks on vaguely related topics. The playlist I was actually watching recently was on the very subject of thinking differently.

Of the eight speakers on the list, the one that jumped out to me was by psychologist Susan David, on the subject of “emotional courage.” In the talk, she shares stories from her practice, saying, “I've had hundreds of people tell me what they don't want to feel. They say things like, ‘I don't want to try because I don't want to feel disappointed.’ Or, ‘I just want this feeling to go away.’ ‘I understand,’ I say to them. ‘But you have dead people's goals.’"

She goes on to say, “Only dead people never get stressed, never get broken hearts, never experience the disappointment that comes with failure. Tough emotions are part of our contract with life. You don't get to have a meaningful career or raise a family or leave the world a better place without stress and discomfort. Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”

Through the course of her talk (which is about 20 minutes if you want to watch it) she encourages people to face their negative emotions and not hide them from the world. She argues that in taking time to deal with how we honestly feel we “develop skills to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.”

Two ideas jump out to me here. One, it is human to have negative, painful emotions, and it’s part of the richness of life. Two, it’s human to want to escape these negative feelings.

I find this second revelation comforting. Because when I feel stressed, or brokenhearted, or disappointed, or like-a-failure…I tend to think I’m the only one. I tend to think that other people have their lives together and never feel this way. (I mean if they did, they’d probably share about it on Facebook right? I never see those posts.)

But maybe that stigma is part of the problem. Maybe that’s why a suicide like Anthony Bourdain’s is so haunting. It’s hard to fathom someone living such an exotic life could wrestle with the same pains as the rest of us. And it’s even harder to believe that someone of such status could feel as lonely as the rest of us.

But perhaps loneliness is the real evil in the world. Was Eve not alone when she ate the forbidden fruit? When the Israelites were left alone, did they not create their own gods? Even Jesus met with temptation when he went into the wilderness alone.

Paul writes about loneliness and the need for community repeatedly in his letters.

In his letter to the Thessalonians, he writes, “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

To the Galatians, he writes, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

To the Corinthians, he writes, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.”

These feelings that Paul calls out—disheartened, weak, burdened, suffering—are perhaps the side effects of feeling alone in this world. But to the Romans, he writes, “So in Christ we form one body, and each member belongs to the other.” Despite the pain of this world, we are never alone, because we belong to each other.

I think a great example of belonging was shared by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the Tony Awards earlier this month. As you may remember, this school was the site of the Parkland, Florida shooting in February of this year. At the Tony Awards last week, the students sang the opening number from Rent called “Seasons of Love.” Reminding us that there are 525,600 minutes in a year, the lyrics pose the challenge of how do you measure your life. “In daylight? In sunsets? In midnights? In cups of coffee? In inches? In miles? In Laughter? In strife?...How about love?” Despite the stress, broken hearts, disappointments, burdens, and suffering these students have been through, they still remind us that love is what makes a difference.

Maybe if we remember that, and we can reach out to those we love, we can hold each other through the pain, and we will never really be alone.

(CBS has copyrighted all video footage of the Tony Award performance, but here is a link to the 2008 movie version.)

Zach Herzog

(editor's note: Zach, we love you and hope you feel that all the way in Vietnam!)

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