Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Living as separate from one another, separate from nature, will end humanity; it is through love and harmony with our planet that we will thrive
Gravity and love are two aspects of a single reality. They are the organizing principles of our precious planet and our amazing universe. Gravity holds dominion over the physical, our outer world. Love holds dominion over the metaphysical, our inner world. Gravity sustains our material existence, while love nourishes our spiritual existence. Gravity is to the body what love is to the heart, soul, and consciousness. Gravity relates to what can be measured, while love relates to what can be imagined. Gravity sustains matter; love gives it meaning. In the end, everything is held together by love.
Love is difficult to define but each of us has a sense, deep in our hearts, what it means. For me, love is the source of all positive and creative relationships. Love provides a solid foundation for family, friendship, fellowship, community, and camaraderie. Love gives birth to compassion, kindness, caring, courtesy, and cooperation. Out of love grows humanity, humility, hospitality, and harmony.
A lack of love leads to war, conflict, competition, exploitation, domination, and subjugation of people and of Nature. Militarism, the arms race, insecurity, and rivalry of all kinds arise wherever there is no love. When there is no love, then there is poverty, inequality, injustice, racial segregation, and caste or class discrimination. The dark clouds of narrow nationalism, wretched racism, and demeaning sexism are all dispelled by the light of love.
In love, we find the end of separation and isolation. In love, there is the beginning of connection and communication. Love creates union and communion.
I have found that whatever the problem, love is the only solution. Whatever the question, love is the perfect answer. The pathologies of pride, greed, anger, and fear can be treated with the healing power of love. Love is the medicine for an excess of ego and anxiety, for the disease of depression and despair. Life without love is like a well without the water, a body without the soul, or words without meaning. The true purpose of life is to love. When I exist in love, I move from greed to gratitude, from ownership to relationship, from glamour to grace, and from attachment to engagement.
I have personally been blessed and graced with unconditional, unlimited love from countless people throughout my life. All parts of my body, mind, and spirit have been nurtured by this abundance of love. My beloved life companion, June, has been a fountain of love these past fifty years. We met in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square in London, in 1971. I fell in love at the very first sight. I was on a short visit to Europe with a return ticket in my bag. After meeting June, I canceled the ticket, gave up my life in India, and settled with June in London. We read poetry together, edited together, gardened together, cooked together, and walked together. Together with June, love in my life became a living reality.
All great teachers and social reformers from ancient times to our own age have one common theme, the theme of love. From the Buddha to Jesus Christ, from Mahavira to Mohammed, from Lao Tzu to the Dalai Lama, from Mother Theresa to Martin Luther King, from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela, and from Joan Baez to John Lennon, they all have encapsulated their teachings in one word: Love.
Love is more than a religious or a spiritual ideal. Love is a source of nourishment to the human imagination.
Great poets and painters have always been inspired by the common narrative that is love. Shakespeare explored his passion in 154 sonnets, not to mention the countless ways he articulated the enduring power of love in his plays. From Tolstoy to Tagore, from Goethe to Goya, from Pushkin to Picasso, from Blake to Botticelli, from Rumi to Ruskin, the list of writers, poets, and artists who have been inspired and fueled by love is endless. Be it love of nature, love of a humanity, or love of God, love itself is the seed out of which the trees of literature and art have grown. It is love that feeds us at the best of times and the worst of times. And humanity is facing a time in which our very existence is under threat, a time in which love can make all the difference.
The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of COVID-19 — the year of social distancing, lockdowns, and staying indoors even when the sun was shining, the flowers were flourishing, and the birds were singing their sweet songs. I took that time of quarantine, or self-isolation, as a blessing: a time for spiritual retreat and for reflection. I read Rumi and Ha.z. I read Shakespeare’s sonnets. I read Rabindranath Tagore. I meditated upon the word quarantine, and its association with Lent. I learned that, originally, quarantine referred to the period of forty days Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert.
Despite the opportunity for quiet reflection, I was overwhelmed to see so much suffering in the world, engulfed in an unprecedented crisis. In 2020 I was eighty-three years old, and I had never experienced such a drastic and dreadful situation in my entire life. Being in this crisis was worse than being in a state of war, which I have experienced. Wars are initiated by humans and can be controlled or ended by humans. But COVID-19 was a show of Nature’s power, far beyond human control. Many people believe that through science and technology we can conquer Nature. But through a novel coronavirus, Nature has made abundantly clear that any talk of humans conquering her is sheer human arrogance. COVID-19 reminded us in no uncertain terms about the reality of human vulnerability.
Human desire to conquer Nature comes from the belief that humans are separate from Nature, that, in fact, we enjoy a superior power.
This dualistic thinking is at the root of our inability to deal with many of the natural upheavals we face currently, such as forest fires, floods, global warming, and pandemics. We seem to believe that one way or the other we will find technological solutions to subjugate Nature and make her subservient. Rather than looking at the root causes of the virus, governments, industrialists, and scientists have taken refuge in looking for vaccines to avoid the disease. However, we need to think and act intelligently, and with greater wisdom. Rather than simply vaccinating to lessen the symptoms, we need to address the causes of the disease.
If we were to address the causes of COVID-19, rather than simply the symptoms, we would need to return to ecologically regenerative agriculture; to human-scale, local, low-carbon, and organic methods of farming. Food is not a commodity. Farming should not be motivated by financial profits. The purpose of farming is to feed people with healthy food. The end goal of agriculture is to produce nutritious food without depleting the health of the soil. Farming for profit directly or indirectly causes coronavirus!
To address the causes of COVID-19, we need to learn to live in harmony with Nature and within the laws of Nature.
Humans are as much a part of Nature as any other form of life. Therefore, living in harmony with Nature is the urgent imperative of our time and the very first lesson humans, collectively, need to learn from the COVID-19 crisis.
The second lesson is that all human actions have consequences. In the past hundred years, human activities have caused both diminishing biodiversity and increasing greenhouse gas emissions, producing climate change. Due to human activities the oceans are polluted by plastic, the soil is poisoned with artificial chemicals, and the rainforests are disappearing at an unprecedented speed. All these negative human activities are bound to result in disastrous consequences, such as floods, forest fires, and pandemics. Modern civilization has inflicted untold suffering and damage in Nature. Now we are harvesting the consequences. We must change. We must move on to build a new paradigm. To restore health to the people, we must restore health to our precious planet Earth. Healing people and healing Nature is one and the same.
With COVID-19, Nature sent us a strong message. We need to do everything we can to heal the Earth. Only positive actions will bring positive outcomes; this is the law of Karma. The trinity of Market, Money, and Materialism has ruled the modern mind for far too long. Now is the time to slow down and, with humility, listen to the voice of Nature, the voice of the Earth.
We need to replace this old trinity with a new one: the trinity of Soil, Soul, and Society. We need to welcome an Age of Ecology, an ecology of love.
Humanity needs to respond to this crisis positively and use it as an opportunity to redesign our agricultural, economic, and political systems, and our way of life. We need to learn to respect the place of wilderness. We need to learn to celebrate the abundant beauty and diversity of life. We need to realize that humans are an integral part of Nature. That what we do to Nature we do to ourselves. We are all interconnected and interrelated. We depend on each other. We are members of one Earth community and one Earthly family.
If this worldview becomes an integral part of our collective consciousness, and our love for the Earth becomes an organizing principle of mainstream society, then we will have different priorities and different values. Instead of economic growth at all costs, we will pursue the growth in the wellbeing of people and health of our planet. Poet and novelist Ben Okri wrote that “the real tragedy would be if we came through this pandemic without changing for the better. It would be as if all those deaths, all that suffering would mean nothing.”
I am aware of the obstacles. There are corporations and companies, governments and businesses who have vested interests in the status quo. Social and environmental activists have been working for many years, warning of impending crises, but it seems too often as if no one is listening.
For more than forty years I edited Resurgence & Ecologist, a British bimonthly magazine covering environmental issues, engaged activism, philosophy, arts, and ethical living. The message of Resurgence is to love: love yourself, love people, love planet, love nature. Its articles are underpinned by the spirit of love, urging social and environmental activists to shed their fear of doom and gloom and, instead, to act out of love. Act to uphold beauty and integrity.
Activism is a journey and not a destination. Love is an expression of our spirituality, our imagination, and our way of life. But love is also a practical and ecological imperative. My friend Deepak Chopra once said to me that the environment and nature are our extended bodies. The air is our breath, and the rivers and waters our circulation; if we don’t pay attention to our ecological self then we risk extinction. So it follows, apart from anything else, that love of our natural environment is a survival imperative.
[Special excerpt adapted from Radical Love, by Satish Kumar, Parallax Press 2023.]
You may also enjoy reading Emergence of a New World Order, by Barbara Ann Briggs.