“What the world needs now is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…”–Burt Bacharach, 1965 recorded by Jackie DeShannon and Dionne Warwick
As I write, I am humming the words to this song, which was released in 1965, when I was in high school. Maybe you’ll have to take a look on YouTube, if you don’t know the song.
In 1965, peace protests among activists began on college campuses. The protests came into public consciousness in 1965, after the United States began bombing North Vietnam.Those protests, the closing of college campuses in the Spring of 1968, the actions of prominent Americans, including Muhammed Ali and Martin Luther King, Jr., against the war(never declared a War, Vietnam was referred to as a “conflict”), and the growing number of American deaths in a civil war in Southeast Asia were brought to an end with the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement on January 27, 1973.
Those years bracket my high school and college years, and they are part of my history, as they are yours. Your life will be bracketed by events, also: George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed will be part of your story.
Many protest songs – John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” mark my history, also. “What the World Needs Now” is not considered a protest song, however, in my mind, the message of the song marks that time, also.
So, the world needs love. We know that. You know that. I know that. When I entered the world of adult work in 1973, my life had been shaped by that era, the war and the protests – and the music. I carried that hope and sense of justice for the world and its people into my adult life. “Service” is the word I give to that particular value. I expect many of you hold that as value, too. In some communities, “service” is defined as “giving back.” That’s something we can devote our lives to, something solid, gratifying, and even self-sacrificing.
How do we love in this complicated, difficult, unjust world? My question may seem unimportant, even useless. My question may seem like just another rhetorical exercise. However, now, after a lifetime of service, I carry that dream, that hope for the world.
How do we love?
I want to close with a practice. You can do this. Practice this each day. Make it part of your morning routine, and remember the practice, through the day.
Open your heart. That’s it. Say it to yourself: “My heart is opening.” “My heart is open.” “I will be open-hearted when I go to this conflicted meeting.” When you practice on your own, put your hand over your heart, and use your imagination to see your heart as energy, growing. You can envision your heart energy as a beautiful green, and see the green heart energy that is yours, flowing into the world, embracing you, embracing others.