My Funny Valentine
Love isn’t just for Valentine’s Day anymore. Or for lovers. It’s not even reserved for family members any longer. And for that, I am grateful. Somehow between my teens and my fifties we have collectively begun to transfigure the concept of love on a global scale. In the center of this massive shift in a Warrior’s world stands the most unlikely figure. His Holiness the Dalai Lama embodies the biblical adage of one voice crying in the wilderness; a plea that is most assuredly being heard.
I don’t mean to step on toes here, in fact I’m all in favor of anything that improves one’s outlook on humanity, one’s peace of mind and perceptions of the planet in general. That being said, most organized faiths – try as they might to elevate mass consciousness – possess at their base some pretty mercenary underpinnings. The Orthodox let it all hang out, from leaders bedecked in robes, crowns and jewels to magnificent worldwide halls of worship. (A love of architecture has drawn me inside many of these breathtaking structures.) There are also fundamentalist sects that invest coffers of tithing in order to manipulate political agendas. Then there are the holy wars, which Christ himself could never have imagined – and history notes these are not the sole purview of Islam. Take the Roman Empire, for example. Or the bloody backstory of the British Isles. Power and money corrupt, from the top-down.
Fast forward to the twentieth century, when a simple monk from a newly conquered nation located in the hinterlands of Asia emerged onto the world scene – embodying The Redeemer as thoroughly as anyone imaginable – praying for his country’s enemies, the Chinese, while simultaneously living in exile in neighboring India. We as a nation perked up and took notice. We as a world began drawing nigh to his aura of kindness and compassion. Enraptured, We the People pasted Free Tibet bumper stickers on our cars and on road signs and buildings – even as our country launched into yet another series of wars in foreign lands. Blue-white-red-green-saffron flags began appearing in profusion. We who marched and shouted, fists in the air – or tuned in and dropped out – now Listened in a generally clearheaded fashion. [Even the Beatles, who were duly credited for a mass transit into Eastern thought and borders, were still exploring concepts through mind-altering drugs. And no judgment – many were doubtless swept along in readiness for that which was to come.] If we wanted Peace (and countless in our numbers did), we began to anchor an understanding that this was to be a quiet process which needed to take root in each individual.
What I can say with abject certainty is that my generation’s most altruistic aim really was to bring Peace to the People. We got our revolution. And while many of us pondered retrospectively thinking it might have failed, at the same time we couldn’t help but notice seedlings pushing persistent heads up through cracks in the concrete: Women’s rights to their own bodies and voices. A reduction in the number of volatile nuclear energy plants. Safe houses for victims of domestic violence. A change in the 4-foods grouping. A softening of the macho image, giving men permission to accept more of their humanity. Awareness of global warming and our part in it. A need for sustainable living. Holistic medicine. A Black President. The popularization of Quantum Physics. The Occupy Movement. A new kind of Hero in an unassuming man from Tibet.
I’m not sure everyone shares my view that the man with the smiling eyes is conquering the world with his humble presence. But tell me: when was the last time you used or heard the word compassion? A cursory survey of my own mental landscape assures me next to never, before the Dalai Lama strode onto the scene. Now it is ingrained in my daily consciousness, even though I am not a practicing Buddhist. Those I love benefit from it, and those I don’t claim to like very much may benefit far more. For I now possess an awareness as never before that even my thoughts have the power to heal or harm. It might be the product of aging and life experience, but I’m pretty sure it is in large part due to the life’s work of this unselfish, unpretentious soul.