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Acts of Love

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"We love our enemy when we love his or her ultimate meaning," professor Adams told us. "We may have to struggle against what the enemy stands for; we may not feel a personal affinity or passion for him. Yet we are commanded for this person's sake and for our own and for the sake of the destiny of creation, to love that which should unite us."

To love that which should unite us requires us to believe there is something that connects us all, to know that at some level all of us love and want to be loved, to base all our actions on the sacred covenant of love, to know that love is an act of will, to refuse to exclude others because of personal difference or race or language or ethnicity or religion. It is easier to be indifferent. It is tempting to hate. Hate propels us to the lust for power, for control, to the Hobbesian nightmare of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Hate is what people do when they are distressed, as many Americans are now, by uncertainty and fear. If you hate others they will soon hate or fear you. They will reject you. Your behavior assures it. And through hate you become sucked into the sham covenants of the nation, the tribe, and you begin to speak in the language of violence, the language of death.

Love is not selflessness. It is the giving of one's best self, giving one's highest self unto the world. It is finding true selfhood. Selflessness is martyrdom, dying for a cause. Selfhood is living for a cause. It is choosing to create good in the world. To love another as one loves oneself is to love the universal self that unites us all. If our body dies, it is the love that we have lived that will remain -- what the religious understand as the soul -- as the irreducible essence of life. It is the small, inconspicuous things we do that reveal the pity and beauty and ultimate power and mystery of human existence.

Vasily Grossman wrote in his masterpiece "Life and Fate":

"My faith has been tempered in Hell. My faith has emerged from the flames of the crematoria, from the concrete of the gas chamber. I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never be conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious leaders, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man's meaning. Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer."

To survive as a human being is possible only through love. And, when Thanatos is ascendant, the instinct must be to reach out to those we love, to see in them all the divinity, pity and pathos of the human. And to recognize love in the lives of others, even those with whom we are in conflict -- love that is like our own. It does not mean we will avoid suffering or death. It does not mean that we as distinct individuals will survive. But love, in its mystery, has its own power. It alone gives us meaning that endures. It alone allows us to embrace and cherish life. Love has the power both to resist in our nature what we know we must resist, and to affirm what we know we must affirm.

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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Beautifully said, Chris!  Love is a hard topi... by Silvia Wilson on Monday, Feb 20, 2012 at 5:43:20 PM
This is one of the most eloquent articles I have e... by for_hibakusha on Monday, Feb 20, 2012 at 5:47:40 PM
This is my hell. This is my trauma. Isolated, hide... by Dante DeNavarre on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 12:14:15 AM
is a true gift   That's said by Joseph Brod... by Mark Sashine on Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012 at 10:30:34 AM
Of the two words most corrupted by reason, one is ... by R. A. Landbeck on Sunday, Feb 26, 2012 at 11:30:04 AM