In thinking about Buddy Ramsay’s funeral yesterday and focusing on love; in thinking about Mother’s Day today and thinking about love. And in remembering one of the workshops at the Inhabit Conference Berdine and I attended in Seattle, love is the focus today, too. At the workshop, I remember the presenter talking about the fact that the most important value and idea in our Christian tradition that we can live out and fully embody is love. Even those of us who struggle to love and be loved; love is lived in striving to be more loving.
R. Buckminster Fuller was mentioned at our Intentional Living gathering the other night; I’d heard about him in Seminary in the ’80s, but hadn’t thought about him for some time—I mentioned him at Buddy’s Memorial yesterday. The person talking about him said that he’d been invited to a symposium in Calgary in the early ’70s and talked about love. To refresh my memory of who Buckminster Fuller was, I looked him up.
This is straight from Wikipedia; he “was an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor and futurist. Fuller published more than 30 books, coining or popularizing terms such as ‘Spaceship Earth,’ ‘Dymaxion’ house/car, ephemeralization, synergetic, and ‘tensegrity.’ He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, and popularized the widely known geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes were later named by scientists for their structural and mathematical resemblance to geodesic spheres.” He was born in 1895 and died in 1983, and had 29 honourary degrees. He was also a deeply religious and metaphysical man.
What we were reminded about at the Intentional Living gathering last week was that he often talked about love. On a YouTube video, Steve Corscia told a story about someone asking Fuller a question in the last year of his life; the question was about what kept Fuller going in times of adversity and challenge. Instead of a complex answer, he answered simply with the word, “LOVE.” He elaborated a bit using physics as his example and said something like, “radiation is inherently disintegrative—it tears things apart; gravity is inherently integrative—it pulls together. And to me, there’s a good possibility that love is what I call metaphysical gravity; love holds everything together.”
Love holds everything together. What I love about the 23rd Psalm—and it has a much more complex meaning than we might first suppose—is that it invites us into a deeper relationship with love. It invites us into a deeper relationship with God who is active and inviting. I remember someone saying many years ago—perhaps when I was a student at VST—that Psalm 23 gives the impression that God is wanting to take us to quiet waters where we can sit in contemplation and peace all our days. Well, in actual fact, the overall arching theme of Psalm 23, and I think what gives it its universal appeal, is that it is really about God’s presence while we experience the ups and downs in the real world. The key verses that lead to this are the one about going through the dark valley and the one setting a table with one’s enemies. Both suggest a dynamic God who is at work in our experience of adversity to lead us into a greater sense of the abundance and wonder of living. The Psalm points to a living God who sparks a deep love in us “that holds everything together.”
Far from the romantic notion of shepherding that we have in NA, being a shepherd was difficult, dangerous, and isolating work. Alexander John Shaia, in interpreting John’s Gospel, talked about shepherding in the time of Jesus. He suggested that shepherds were often people who’d run afoul of a particular community; there were no prisons and if Roman justice didn’t get involved, what did you do with those you didn’t want around other people? You sent them out to look after the sheep, well away from anyone else except for other shepherds. And if you were a shepherd, your task was to find some green grazing ground in a land that was dry, rocky, hilly and dangerous. This understanding gives a whole new meaning to the fact that the angels, according to Luke, came to the shepherds first before anyone else to announce the birth. God’s love embraces even those we deem outcasts and beyond the pale.
That’s the very point of Psalm 23— not only does God’s love hold things together in terms of working for reconciliation for and with those who are apart, but God’s love holds everything together in ways that enable us to go through dark valleys and even to sit at a table with enemies. Here again, Buckminster Fuller is instructive; the person who had organized the early 70’s gathering in Calgary said that Fuller also talked about love as a source of creativity. It’s not anger or disappointment that makes good art or gives inspiration; that might give energy. But, it is the fact that we love something, somewhere that provides the creative spark to create. I like that idea. Anger and disappointment don’t fuel creativity; love does!
There’s no question that it is difficult when you are in the dark valley or the dark tunnel to actually see the light. Maybe Fuller can help us again in those dark places. He once said, “Love is omni-inclusive, progressively exquisite, understanding and compassionately attuned to other than self.” The temptation when we are in those dark places is that we feel isolated and alone; we focus on ourselves and our predicament. It’s when we begin to focus on the other, when we realize that we are held in an invisible web of love from others when we begin to think about how we might share—even in dark times—our love with others that we begin to glimpse the light. I know that in my worst times of depression, the depression sucked me into the temptation that I was absolutely alone in what I was experiencing. But gradually it dawned on me that I wasn’t alone. People were supporting me, loving me, praying for me. And as I read about others’ experience, I realized that I needed to turn away from the over-introspective path I had begun and focus on others—in providing them love no less than accepting the love that they offered. I believe that this is what gets us through times of grief and sorrow—accepting love from others and offering love in turn.
And that’s what Psalm 23 is all about—the dynamism of love; it is not static, but is full of life and invites life. That’s the power of Easter—it’s not about whether some historical event took place at the empty tomb 2000 years ago. It is about the power of love unleashed on the world to remind us that we are not alone, that love gives us wings to fly!