What is the essence of man? It is happiness

Only from the heart can you touch the sky (Rumi)

All objects, however large or small, have an essence (nature) and act (do things). If objects did not act, there would be nothing to distinguish them from nonexistent objects. The essence of the sun, for instance, is that of a nuclear furnace and among its actions, it sends a stream of photons to the earth that nourishes plant life, which in turn produces oxygen and makes other forms of life possible. Magically, the photons not only help create life, but make it possible for life to see itself. That is, we can see thanks to the photons that strike our retinas.

It is by observing and experiencing nature that we come to understand the essence and actions of things. What is the essence of man? It is happiness. And happiness is existence aware of itself. What is the natural action of man? It is love. As infants, we are overflowing with happiness, taking delight in ourselves and the world. We express that happiness by embracing our inner and outer worlds with love. We radiate endless streams of love. Benjamin Disraeli agrees, for he wrote, “We are all born for love. It is the principle of existence, and its only end.”

Since love is all we knew, it is all we expected. But something odd happened. Born to love; we learned to fear. We fear that our love will not be returned unless certain conditions are met. It is no longer okay to be ourselves, but we must become what others what us to be. For example, if I’m uncomfortable and cry at 4 am, I may upset mommy and daddy. If my room is untidy or I “pester” my parents with pleas to play, I may be met with cold reproaches instead of warm hugs or stern rebukes instead of gentle pats on the head. The music of laughter may fade into the noise of anger and silence. The world around me changes from one of beauty to one of fear. Each step I take places me in danger of upsetting someone.

Is it surprising that I grow stressful, fearful, and resentful and my love shuts down? I need to find my way back to my original purity. I need to recall the words of Lao Tzu, “The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.”

Once we mature, understand our true nature and what led to our problems, we can decide to change and open our hearts to love. It’s simple. Go ahead and do what you want to do. That is, love the world. The only thing that stops you now is the fear of being hurt. But you cannot be hurt if you expect nothing in return. Life is unconditionally wonderful, so love it unconditionally.

Love your family, your job, your country, and everyone you meet without any strings attached. As Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevski wrote, “Love all that has been created by God, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf and every ray of light. Love the beasts and the birds, love the plants, love every separate fragment. If you love each fragment, you will understand the mystery of the whole resting in God.” The only Russian author greater than Dostoevski, Leo Tolstoy, wrote, “Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.” Buddha’s simple message was, “Love the whole world as a mother loves her only child.”

For centuries, mystics have sought to experience God by depriving their bodies of food, sleep, and comfort and by spending countless hours in contemplation or deep meditation. They were successful in their quests, but it isn’t necessary to go to such extremes. For all one need do to experience God is to experience God’s work, which is unconditional love. When we open our heart to love, we open our heart to God. When we experience unconditional love, we experience God.

What better way to begin the millennium than by accepting all those we met without conditions. We can allow them to be themselves. Every encounter, no matter how brief, is an opportunity to nurture, be nurtured, or both. When we love others unconditionally, we shower them with understanding, encouragement, and forgiveness whenever necessary. Some of those you love will return love. They will love you, not for what you are, but for what they are when they are in your presence. You will both experience love for the future good you bring out in each other.

Not everyone will return love, but doesn’t the sun shine on the “bad” as well as the good? Aren’t the least deserving in the greatest need? So go ahead and love anyway. Forgive, forget, and be blind to their errors, for as Rabbi J. Gordon said, “Love is not blind — it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.” In other words, love will find a way while indifference will find an excuse. Also, as Emmet Fox wrote, “It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.”

Marianne Williamson aptly summarizes what I’ve been trying to say, “Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies in us.” Finally, I was struck by Victor Hugo’s description of a young man in love, “I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his cloak was out at the elbows, the water passed through his shoes — and the stars through his soul.” Perhaps, if you and I join hands and greet the world with love, those behind us may see stars passing through our souls.