Loving the Collective “Other”


Photo by Ahmed Elzway

Valentine’s Day is here again. Whether you choose to celebrate or not, you can’t avoid the mass consumerism related to this day. Stores, even pharmacies, are decorated with red and pink hearts, as advertisements try to convince you that digging deep into your pocket is the way to express the love that resides in your heart.

Wouldn’t it be incredibly beneficial for society if we were to change the focus from the love of our lover on Valentine’s Day, to the love of all of humanity? Because really, that relationship, between each and everyone of us, beyond borders, religions, ethnicity, cultures, is not always very solid or love-filled.

Every day is just perfect for love. ~ Rumi

Fall in love with the compassion that resides inside of you and share it with others.

Make meaningful connections in your own community or maybe half way around the world. It doesn’t matter where—bridges of understanding and love need to be built everywhere. Let go of the limited view “here” and “there” being separate and detached. That is just a mere illusion; the reality is that we are all here, sharing this same planet that we all call home.

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. Quran 49:13


Commit to living each day with an open heart.

What does it really mean to live with an open heart? You become open to the many kinds of love that surround you every day. You embrace it. You live for it. You let love flow through you as freely as the air that you breath, giving and receiving this endless supply of what is truly the essence that unites everything in this universe.

To me, living with an open heart enables us to be givers and receivers of a more challenging and more limitless love than that of simply loving your lover. It is a love not bound by attachment. Many times, it is the rolling up of your sleeves-ass kicking-get-in-the-game-of-life-won’t-stop-for-anything-because-I-am-shining-my-light-in-this-world–damn-it kind of love.

Living with an open heart does come with risk; you are going to feel things deeper—much deeper—than those who go through their lives shoulders hunched forward, heads staring toward the ground.

For with open-heartedness comes awareness, compassion, empathy and connectedness. You allow yourself to be vulnerable. This is what you are signing up for when you stand tall, chest open, allowing your love to radiate.

You become so well aware of the oneness that unites all of humanity. You cannot hear of a tragedy that happens anywhere in the world and not feel it. You know how true the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere,” rings true because you feel it in the core of your being.

Luckily, that is balanced with almost a hyper-sensitivity to feel all that is good in the world, too. From the most noble act of loving kindness to the most simple. You are open to feeling it all and that leads to feelings of so much gratitude and joy.

It is known that thoughts become words, and words become action. Once we are thinking and feeling we find our voice to speak out against injustice. We then move towards taking action, through thoughtful civic engagement—from helping those underserved to becoming engaged in the political process. We take part in our participatory democracy and encourage others to do the same. Our voice and our action do bring about change, no matter how many obstacles stand before us.

I chose to accept the risks involved with living with an open heart, because to me that is what it truly means to live.

There are risks to living with a closed heart, too—emotionally shutting down, feelings of being isolated and disconnected from the people and world around you, and possibly fear.

Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions. -Hafiz


So open up! Feel the joys and sorrow, the highs and lows, surely, this is what it means to live wholly. With this energy, find something to commit to this month that you have never done before. Whether it be registering to vote, attending a local school board meeting, or serving a meal at a soup kitchen—go shine your light. Your community is waiting for you.

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