There’s a Big Love Out There

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Big Love

There’s a Big Love out there
Expanding and expanding
Like the Universe
No one has seen its edges
Not even come close
Expanding beyond stars
Beyond galaxies
Beyond bounds

That Big Love out there
Keeps moving, growing
That’s how it stays alive
It never sits still, never waits
Always pushing further
Beyond you
Beyond dreams
Beyond me

The Big Love vibe out there
Can you feel it?
Close your eyes, open up
Can you feel it now?
Expanding inside, expanding
Pushing against your walls
Beyond prejudice
Beyond self
Beyond I

It’s a Big Love thing, you know
Vast and beyond reach
But in you, in me
In that tree, in song and story
A dog’s smile, a cat’s eyes
Sunshine and Autumn’s smell
Beyond sense
Beyond senses
Beyond seeing

There’s nothing beyond Big Love
But nothing outside it
Our attempts to contain
Failures of our smallness
Small minds, small hearts
Our rules can’t rule it
Beyond religion
Beyond law
Beyond isms

Big Love defies definition
As definitions have borders
How do you hold
Beyond in a box?
Why even try?
We can’t handle its Bigness
Beyond thought
Beyond science
Beyond us

But Big Love defines us
The definition of definitions
The One unity, shared
By all despite all differences
Despite borders, despite spite
Uncontained contains all
Beyond tribe
Beyond kin
Beyond us

Big Love is expanding ever
We can’t stop it
It will not be conquered
Or caged, or labelled
By those it contains
Those it embraces
Beyond fear
Beyond hatred
Beyond me

There’s a Big Love out there
Meant for you and me
A Gift beyond all giving
A Hope beyond all hope
You can’t run from it
It’s too Big
Beyond
Beyond
Beyond

 

Ronald Kok, January 21, 2018

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 45: Silly Little Love Poem

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Ah, Valentine’s Day! The flowers! The chocolates! The passion! The absurdly ridiculous expressions of love! What is it about romantic love that makes us feel like a god but act like Pee-Wee Herman? You can take the most sane, rational, level-headed person on the planet, smite them with Cupid’s arrow, and they become instantly stoopid. This day is full of silly and inane ways of gloriously and garishly showing the one you love just how much they turn you into a strangely cartoonish version of yourself, clad in full red, pink and lavender hues.

I have certainly been guilty of the wackiness of love. Perhaps there is good reason for this. Love makes you giddy. Love lifts you out of yourself. Love gives you wings. So you flit and float like a drunken pigeon, crash landing into the window pane of L’Amore.

To the many, many people who endure Valentine’s Day as someone without a partner (i.e., those who consider it “Singleness Awareness Day”), this day is enough to make them ill. You can’t blame them. Love makes us all look bonkers and do bonkerish things.

In the spirit of that weird and wonderful side of love, that Pee-Wee Herman side in us all, below is a ridiculous poem I composed for my wife, Monique, on Valentine’s Day five years ago. It is very hard to rhyme anything Valentine-appropriate with “Monique” (freak? geek? leek?) so I decided to use the nickname she was known by many, many moons ago in our college daze…

I Love Mo

Written Feb. 14, 2012

I love Mo, you know

When cold winds do blow

When down comes the snow

Yo! I love Mo

I love Mo, you know

When the ice melts and goes

When the grass starts to grow

Yo! I love Mo

I love Mo, you know

When the sun smiles down below

When the flowers put on their show

Yo! I love Mo

I love Mo, you know

When trees go orange, red and yellow

When cool wind again does blow

Yo! I love Mo

I love Mo, you know

Through times of joy and times of woe

Together in life hand-in-hand we go

Yo! I love Mo

So This is Christmas… and Who Do You Love?

On this day when we remember the birth of a man who would be King of Kings and Lord of Lords, being everything that is right about humanity in the midst of everything that is wrong about humanity, it seems appropriate to talk about love.

A funny thing is happening to me as I approach 50. Well, to be accurate, it is one of the many funny things happening to me as I approach 50. Some of the funny things are actually funny, some not so funny. Getting older is often not fun at all, truth be told. This has mostly to do with what is going on physically: the greying, the balding, the hair springing out of the ears (why the hell in the ears? WTF?). But there is an aspect of getting older that is truly beautiful. It is in the beautiful category that I’ve noticed this “funny thing” that is happening to me.

I am becoming less and less reserved when it comes to showing and telling people that I love them. This may not seem like such a funny or amazing thing to those of you to whom this comes easily or to those of you born into naturally effusive ethnic groups (you know who you are). I have always felt a great warmth and affection for many people but have not always been very good at expressing it. Either it felt awkward or I was concerned it would be taken wrong or I was too caught up in my own personal crap to not be thinking of others. But lately I have adopted a “damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead” approach to loving people. And, frankly, it feels awesome.

Last week I wrote out Christmas cards for all of my co-workers. There are twenty of us and the job could have been quick if I just signed my name and stuffed the cards into envelopes. However, instead of the easy route, I decided to take the time to write each of my co-workers a personal note about how much I appreciate them and value them as people. This exercise forced me to sit and think about each person in turn, what unique qualities they have, how I had observed things in each of them that I admired, and then to put those thoughts into writing. I already have a high regard for my team at work but now I can say without a doubt that I love them, each and every one. There was something about getting outside the selfish thought patterns and actions of my day and focusing on others that brought a profound love to the surface.

I went in on a day off to bring in the cards because I couldn’t wait to deliver them. I actually went to work when I didn’t have to, driving through crappy weather. Love makes you do crazy things.

Today is really a day about that crazy little thing called love. After all, it was love, a mad and uninhibited love, that caused God to send his Son to earth, to history, to us. Christmas Day is less about the Gift of God than it is about the Giddiness of God. Imagine, the Supreme Being loving you and me so much that He goes so far as to become one of us, born to a young woman in a ramshackle Roman province, born into an oppressed group of people “walking in darkness”, born vulnerable and dependent. Love in the flesh, delicate and soft. This is God. Crazy.

Why did He do it? I truly believe it is because God’s thoughts are on us all the time. He ponders our unique characteristics, our personalities, our circumstances, our humanity and He loves us all the more deeply for doing so. He loves us so much – past, present and future – that he took that crazy step, that ridiculous action, that insanity wrapped in intense affection, and sent His Son, Jesus: the Love of God for all of us incarnated – flesh, blood and bone.

By acting out of this crazy love, God made himself vulnerable; vulnerable to rejection, to misinterpretation, to the worst in humanity, which would rip apart the best He had to offer and throw it back in His face. Only love can explain this action, a love unfettered and unconditional.

So this is Christmas… and who do you love?

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Whether you believe this interpretation of Christmas or whether you think I must be stoned on some spiked eggnog, I hope you see the power of love in it all. That’s the message I’m trying to convey; more than just a reflection on the meaning of Christmas I want what I write here to be an impetus for you to do and say love in your life to all the people in your life.

I don’t want this to sound cliche but damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead: Life is too short to not love people fully and completely in words and in actions. 

Ultimately, that defines the funny thing that is happening to me as I approach 50. If my affection makes you feel awkward I make no apology. You are being loved so deal with it. Better yet, receive the love and pass that shit on. How’s that for a Christmas theme? Pass that shit on!!!

So if you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to get a hug from me, some words of affection, a card written out for you, an “I love you”, realize it is given with no strings attached, no agenda except to make love a defining characteristic of my life.

If that sounds nutty than that is high praise, because love like that is as crazy as Christmas

Our Capacity for Compassion

compassion-2I’ve heard it said  before that we only use a small percentage of our brain’s potential. It’s funny that we don’t talk the same way about our heart’s potential. By “heart” I don’t mean that organ that chugs away in the chest; I mean our potential for compassion, for empathy, for open-ness to others and to the “thrust of grace” (to borrow from a Bruce Cockburn lyric). People challenge their bodies through exercise; they challenge their brains through study, craft and Luminosity; they challenge themselves to learn new things and experience new things, to grow and add more “tools” to their own toolboxes. In many ways, being human is about that momentum forward. When we stagnate we feel it. Not always consciously but we sense something is wrong. A lot of our great art and great intellectual advances can probably be traced back to that desire to keep moving, to keep learning, to keep experiencing, to keep tapping into the great reserve of creativity and potential we carry with us through our brief years of life.

Certainly, the capacity for human beings to do great things seems to have no boundaries. But I find more and more in an age of warp-speed technological advances and unprecedented prosperity in the western world, we are forgetting to tap into the power we have for Good – grace and mercy and forgiveness and kindness; we have barely scraped the surface of our capacity for compassion.

The irony, of course, is that we are more connected now than ever before. When I traveled to Spain as a young man in 1987, connecting with my parents back in the States was a major challenge. I may have spoken on the phone with them about three or four times in my four months overseas. We communicated through letters which would take a couple of weeks, at best, to arrive. Now, if a young person is separated from their mom and dad by thousands of miles and an ocean or two, Skype puts them face-to-face in seconds. We can send instant messages practically anywhere in the world. The distance that keeps people apart shrinks when there are so many ways to connect, to stay in touch, to communicate information with such mind-boggling speed to those of us who grew up in the pre-internet world. And yet I sense in the shrinking of distances in this way a corollary: a shrinking in the compassion quotient in our lives; a decreasing ability to expand our hearts to embrace people around us.

Currently I am one of the many drones who ride the buses to work in Ottawa. I have been struck by the  masses of mostly glum humanity that cram onto those grossly utilitarian vehicles and lurch around from stop to stop, trying their best not to make eye contact, heads bowed down with a focus on screens, thumbs being the only thing moving as they stay connected with someone, anyone, who isn’t sitting or standing next to them on the morning commute. Earphones and I-Pods insure the ability to interact with others is kept to  minimum. However, even a near-Luddite like myself, who must seem like an anachronism when I actually pull out a real book to read on the bus, has bought into the Near-Death March that is the joyless journey to work and school in the early hours of each day. It is far easier to keep to oneself, to exist in your own personal bubble, than to break a barrier between yourself and a stranger. I find something keeps me back, more than just a shyness or some social anxiety.

It is said that we can exercise our brains, make them stronger and more pliable, and increase our ability to tap into all that untapped grey matter. Could it be that to tap into all our untapped capacity for compassion we also need to exercise loving kindness more often? Maybe in our society today we’ve just become flabby when it comes to caring for others. We don’t put in the daily reps needed to strengthen our hearts and a sort of compassion atrophy is the result.

For myself, to grow stronger in compassion means being intentional about pulling myself away from a focus on myself. Occasionally, I’ll find myself on that dismal bus ride on a weekday morning, considering the people around me. What are their stories? Have they fallen in love? How many times have their hearts been broken? I don’t know them, likely never will know them, yet there are dozens of people who do and cherish them as a dear friend, spouse, child, neighbor, parent. Occasionally, I’ll find myself saying a silent prayer for someone. Bless them today. Be with that mom with a couple of small kids in tow. Make that young person’s dreams a reality. Give them a great day. Occasionally, I’ll find myself smiling, appreciating human moments, individual quirkiness, the wondrous patchwork quilt that is People.

It is times like those when I feel my capacity for compassion, when I sense the deep well I have to draw from. It is times like those when I truly realize that, yes, we are all in this together and it is so great to be alive right now, right here. I guess I have moments when, like the Grinch, my heart grows three sizes in a day.

Our capacity for compassion is great and greatly untapped. But when you hop into someone else’s skin and walk around in it for awhile, you get an overwhelming sense of how we are created to love one another. It is quite a gift to be able to feel this way, when you think about it. We’ve been given so much and we have so much to give to others and our world.  Our time here is too short to not exercise the ability to care.

In the end, when we are dead and gone, quite likely we’ll want people to remember us not for the breadth of our intellect or for our impressive muscle tone, but for our inexhaustible ability to embrace the world around us. I’ll try to keep that in mind on tomorrow’s commute.