The quest of a love warrior is to never settle for an interior wasteland caused by a discouraged or barren heart. We must be seeking the Grail in the forests of our interior lives. Choosing life means becoming fully engaged in living with body, mind, and heart. To be fully engaged with life we must be fully committed to our inner lives and resources. This means we must be on the journey to discover and mature our capacities for passion and compassion, for love and strength. Becoming a love warrior is to confront our fears, our suffering, our despair, and the shadow sides of our lives, our culture, and our history. And it is to do this with the confidence that comes from the good we have done and are still capable of doing.
To be a love warrior is to see every problem, failure, and the accompanying suffering, as Jung affirmed, as bringing an opportunity, a challenge, and the possibility of becoming fully human. They present us with the possibility of widening our consciousness along with the necessity of saying goodbye to our childish, naive trust in the habits of our past. If, as we become love warriors, we see the new problems life forces upon us as questions meant to deepen our understanding of life’s meaning, they will increasingly provide us with opportunities to separate from the false security of our conventional past. It has been true that we often preferred quick fixes to long patient work. But the gift of consciousness, self-awareness, and a more profound awareness of the society we are living in will give us the vocabulary and the resources to understand what our ancestors did not, and this knowledge should compel us to own and address what is wrong today.
To be a love warrior is to seek to confront our shadows. In Jungian terms, facing our reality means we must face our shadow—the things we have repressed, denied, and hidden. We must face the darkness we are and have been, as well as the wounds to our spirit, hearts, and souls, personally and collectively. In pursuing this quest we must also remember that this process is seeking awareness, not condemnation; let us not forget the best of who we are and have been, and that our shadows also contain the repressed potential for the best we can become (also known as the “golden shadow”).
But speaking of love is often like pressing our finger on the many bruises that we have collected in our lives. A love warrior learns that a deep love of life doesn’t come to us easily. It grows slowly as we learn to truly understand ourselves, our torrents of emotions, the forces that shaped who we are, the darker destructive sides of our personalities, our denied positive potentials, the knowledge that life is a process, and that love and respect must go hand-in-hand. Self-knowledge brings us the power to live in an authentic, fulfilling way and the capacity to deal honestly, thoughtfully, and lovingly with other people. Self-knowledge brings to the surface the essence of what life is. It enables us to recognize the emotional games we play with each other, to confront reality, and to have compassion that is born out of the knowledge of our own torments. Without self-knowledge our notions of love often reflect needy psychological pursuits, idealistic fantasies, or sentimental hopes. Without self-knowledge we cannot truly choose either to be fully alive or to truly love. Growing self-love and self-knowledge are like water flowing into a pond. When the pond is full, the water will overflow and begin to nourish the world.
Love warriors come to understand the essential meanings of aggression. We see this clearly in the 1960s when the assassinations of our visionary and moral leaders stole our future from us. And the school shootings began. These tragedies compelled two of our greatest psychologist thinkers and social commentators, Erich Fromm, PhD (The Anatomy of Human Destruction) and Rollo May, PhD (Power and Innocence: A Search for the Source of Violence) to study and explain what was taking place in our society to produce these staggering catastrophes. The crucial question for a love warrior is: What is taking place in our society to produce such murderous, destructive rage and despair?
Dr. Fromm, writing on human destructiveness, classified aggression into two categories—benign aggression and malignant aggression. Malignant aggression is destructive and attempts to control life by destroying life and the spirit of life. It is power-oriented and is generally the result of a sense of helplessness and impotence that causes a person to attempt to transcend the negative states of neglect, rage, and alienation through violence. Such violence compensates for the feelings of impotence and alienation. Malignant aggression is usually paranoid, hoards material possessions, and seeks to build up power and destructiveness. In extreme cases such people seek escape from being trapped by doing violence to others, to institutions, and even to themselves. The parallels on a national level are obvious, especially as people in groups act and vote against their self interest. As malignant aggression penetrates our society, anxiety generates a greed for power that subtly replaces eros. This greed negates life by always demanding more.
Robert Kennedy, a love warrior who was stolen from our future by hate and violence, asked us to pray during the night after Dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down. In closing his brief, heartfelt address he said:
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.
So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love—a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.
We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder…
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.
It is very important for us to reflect on and absorb the words in this prayer. Dedicating ourselves to this cause introduces us to the meaning of benign aggression. Benign aggression means using power, strength, skill, and determination in defense of life—to preserve life and to have a spirit of adventure in the support of life. Love warriors understand the imperative of life is to grow, heal, and renew. As human beings this imperative means we must ally ourselves with life, love, and the courage to face the struggles growth and renewal entail. What happens if we are not open to this imperative to grow? If we fail to grow and renew we will stagnate and begin to deteriorate, no matter how good or successful we seem to appear. The assassins in the 1960s robbed us of the models of great love warriors who were showing us how to create life in a broader form. These love warriors transformed the meaning of courage from raw aggression and conquering to preserving the sacredness and dignity of life, pursuing moral and spiritual journeys, and justice—love in action. The courage to stand for life, not for conquering or ruling is also the courage to explore ourselves and our culture deeply and then to act with self-awareness. We are challenged in the tradition of King Arthur to use “might for right” to pick up the swords of our strength and discrimination and use them to choose, protect, and defend love as the foundation for life.
We have arrived at a very important point. The question always comes up: What can I do? In the commencement address at Queens College in 1965 Senator Robert Kennedy said to the graduates, and through the years to us today:
We must remember our revolutionary heritage. We must dare to remember what President Kennedy said we could not dare to forget—that we are the heirs of a revolution that lit the imagination of all those who seek a better life for themselves and their children; that we must seize the chance to lead this continuing revolution, not block its path; that we must stand, not for the status quo, but for progress…
The essence of the American Revolution—the principle on which this country was founded—is that direct participation in political activity is what makes a free society.
Freedom, for the founders, was not merely negative, the absence of arbitrary restraints. Freedom for them was active and positive—the power of each individual to take part in the government of the town, the state, the nation—as Jefferson said, “not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day,” every man was to be “a participator in the government of affairs.”
As I bring these brief lessons to an end, I want us to face these final considerations. In today’s crisis we must ground ourselves as love warriors in our inner journey and at the same time seek out other people struggling with these problems at home, in church or temples, in community centers, or by seeking to bring people together in conversation. We must look for the cracks in the walls with patience and compassion for people who want us to do better in the crucial areas we are facing. Big things usually start small and they will grow if we can, in our diversity, begin to discuss the tough questions causing our alienation, fear, and quests for power and violence. These discussions can grow into hope if we each do what we are able to do—have the courage to speak up, speak to the best in us to defeat those who speak to the worst in us, organize, vote, and call our leaders to account. There will be more of us tomorrow and next month and we’ll be getting closer to the potentials in our hearts.
As I finish writing I am aware that we need so many things. We need compassion and reconciliation. We need a warrior spirit to return love to its proper value in our humanity. My greatest fear is for the children in our world. The pain of that fear almost doubles me over as I think of the horrible future they will face if we don’t wake up and commit with all of our hearts to transforming the heart of our society.
I need your help getting the word out. I cannot do enough alone to revitalize the heart of our society. As always, I want to thank you for your readership and support. Just thinking of you humbles and moves me. If my words on love challenge and inspire you please share them with others you value with my warmest best wishes.
image above by ractapopulous
Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris
, America, being human, citizenship, Elder Wisdom, fear, hope, Inspirational, life of meaning, love, responsibility, struggles, suffering
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After the first blog in this series of four, I commented that Dr. Harris continues to shine a beacon to help us find the way through our present apocalyptic darkness. And now, by the fourth blog, we have read somewhat of a synopsis of topics that Dr. Harris has been using and developing especially in his most recent series of books (as well as throughout all his books). These are fountains of knowledge to help us find our own inner compass by first waking up to face the truth of our reality, not to shy away or retreat from it. We are called to become “love warriors” and “we must first learn to face, heal, and love ourselves where love has been wounded in us”. As he says in the second blog: “we soon learn that choosing self-examination and growth is embracing the love that heals”. By the third blog in this series, Dr. Harris specifically addresses those of us who are “white, educated and middle and upper middle class” which he says seem to have “lost its spiritual ground about caring about the welfare of others”. When he says this, he’s not urging us to go out and simply buy the flag of support for those who are dying of hunger in the world and those school children dying in their classrooms attacked by white men with assault weapons; he is urging us all to take courage and take action and initiate change in the world. By the fourth blog, Dr. Harris uses as an example of a love warrior one of the leaders of the 1960’s, Robert Kennedy, as one who “transformed the meaning of courage from raw aggression and conquering to preserving the sacredness and dignity of life, pursuing moral and spiritual journeys, and justice-love in action”.
This call to action is not new from Dr. Harris and neither is his emphasis on the earlier mentioned social class. I’m also reminded of yet another model of a love warrior, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who also is referred to, in some of Dr. Harris’s books. And there is a pertinent quote from Dr. King, written from a Birmingham jail: ” I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can not agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season’ “. And so, we are all being called to be love warriors and to seek change in the outer world, guided by our inner strengths gained by our self-examination. And those of us who have been silent and have been too busy or too complacent in our outer world, need to heed this call from this wise man, Dr. Harris, who is, indeed, a love warrior.
I am so grateful for your voice and wisdom. Thank you.