Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE ANSWER TO THE WORLD'S PROBLEMS

And having written that arresting title, I hesitate to continue writing as the reader may be anticipating a new or different approach to the problems that surround us every day.

Recently, we were traveling back to New Iberia following a few days' stay in central Florida, and on the 14-hour trek, we turned on a Daily Evolver podcast by Jeff Salzman of Integral Life. It was a brief broadcast, and the speaker concluded with a few words that most major religions talk about: the answer to healing the hole in the heart of humanity is love. He expressed his ideas much as the French Jesuit mystic Teilhard de Chardin had—in a provisional, experimental, and post-modern form which is open-ended and creative, and he touted a theology of healing and reconciliation centered on the act of love.

This sounds like an oversimplification, I know, but I nodded my head in agreement as I had just preached a sermon at St. Mary's Convent church two weeks preceding our trip to Florida in which I cited an example of how babies are helping to change the world and foster love through an amazing program called "Roots of Empathy." In the November issue of Science of Mind, the author wrote an article entitled "Changing the World Child by Child," reporting how Canadian and American babies are involved in a program that has a mission of building caring, peaceful, and civil societies though the development of empathy in children. In the program, mothers bring their babies into classrooms nine times over the course of a school year so students can learn to sense the emotions babies are feeling.

The children also observe the loving relationship between parent and baby and see how the parent responds to the baby's needs. This attachment between a baby and a parent is an ideal model of love and empathy. In short, children who have participated in the program are kinder, more cooperative, and inclusive of others and are less likely to bully (a common problem in contemporary schools), compared to children who don't participate in the program. The ethic here? The ethic here is that the heart is the true center of human life.

As I said, love as an answer to healing humanity's problems isn't a new concept—it's just an irrefutable law that says we need to take the neighbor we are sent and love him/her. As George MacDonald, the mentor of C.S. Lewis, says: "We mope and mow, striking sparks, and rubbing phosphorescences out of the walls, and blowing our own breath in our own nostrils instead of issuing it to the fair sunlight of God, the sweet winds of the universe..."

I don't often publish excerpts from sermons or belabor the idea of love as a burning fire that cleanses and reconciles, but the podcast I heard caused a lot of musing about "this funny thing called love." And the speaker's ideas advocating a respect for our neighbor seem to be a part of every major enduring religion and ethical system—a system that calls for its followers to develop integrity, accountability, responsibility, steadfastness, fairness, and loving service. Our unity is as important as our individuality.  


The photograph above is of my great-grandson as an infant, one of those babies getting his share of empathy in a private lesson from his great-grandmother. Photograph by Victoria I. Sullivan
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