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cultivating love: starting the “awe” revolution in your life

October 13, 2008

Those who know me well know that the book To Love and Be Loved by Sam Keen is one of my all-time favorite works. So many ideas nurtured by Keen in his book resonate profoundly with me. His commentary on “awe” is no exception.

Keen makes the strong assertion that love for another human being must be divorced from the accomplishments and achievements of that person in order for it to truly be love. The editors and readers of the semifinal version of the book strenuously objected to this idea from the author. However, Keen was unmoved by their objections. He forcefully explains:

It is crucial to understand that first and foremost, love is the state of wonder at the mere existence of another. It need not be earned. It is not a reward for a moral or productive life. It is not a recognition that someone has been a good scout—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

In our capitalistic society where competition is the fuel that keeps the motor going, this concept may come to us as foreign: love is not earned? Think of the implications for understanding yourself and for relating to those in your life if love is—at its core—the state of wonder at the mere existence of another.

Science has done much to reveal the magnificent mechanical sophistication that is required for biological life to happen like it does. Our bodies and brains exist simply as a gift of the universe and of parents who bore us. They are the magnificent product of billions of years of tedious molecular tinkering. Did you know that your DNA has 3 billion points of data that generate the coded blueprint for your body? (That’s 3,000,000,000 bits of data!) Or did you know it is estimated that your brain has 100 trillion neuron connections in it? (That’s a 1 with 14 zeroes after it!: 100,000,000,000,000 connections!)¬† Indeed, every human being that you will ever see is an absolute wonder!—just for the simple fact that they exist!

The flow of energy from the sun to the earth to vegetation to the body, culminating ultimately in the release of beauty—whether it be in the form of a dance or a painting or a scientific discovery, the embrace of lovers, or the song of a mother to her child—this flow of energy from the bursting radiation of the sun into form, beauty, love, and human enjoyment is thoroughly spectacular. Life is marvelous—for the simple reason that it exists at all.

Returning to the words of Sam Keen:

If I had to choose the single best starting point for thinking about the complex nature of love, it would not be the passionate embrace of two lovers but the moment a father and mother first look with astonishment at their newborn child. In the beginning we are loved simply because we have emerged from the fertile void to begin the long human journey.

And so it is. As we contemplate what a Love-Revolution means and how to achieve such a revolution in our world and lives, let’s allow ourselves to experience an Awe-Revolution in our own mind and heart to assist us on our way.


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