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Acts of Love

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Posted on Feb 19, 2012
Illustration by Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges

Love, the deepest human commitment, the force that defies empirical examination and yet is the defining and most glorious element in human life, the love between two people, between children and parents, between friends, between partners, reminds us of why we have been created for our brief sojourns on the planet. Those who cannot love—and I have seen these deformed human beings in the wars and conflicts I covered—are spiritually and emotionally dead. They affirm themselves through destruction, first of others and then, finally, of themselves. Those incapable of love never live.

“Hell,” Dostoevsky wrote, “is the inability to love.”

And yet, so much is written and said about love that at once diminishes its grandeur and trivializes its meaning. Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, cautioned all of us about preaching on love, reminding us that any examination of love had to include, as Erich Fromm pointed out in “Selfishness and Self-Love,” the unmasking of pseudo-love. 

God is a verb rather than a noun. God is a process rather than an entity. There is some biblical justification for this. God, after all, answered Moses’ request for revelation with the words, “I AM WHO I AM.” This phrase is probably more accurately translated “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.” God seems to be saying to Moses that the reality of the divine is an experience. God comes to us in the profound flashes of insight that cut through the darkness, in the hope that permits human beings to cope with inevitable despair and suffering, in the healing solidarity of kindness, compassion and self-sacrifice, especially when this compassion allows us to reach out to others, and not only others like us, but those defined by our communities as strangers, as outcasts. “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.” This reality, the reality of the eternal, must be grounded in that which we cannot touch, see or define, in mystery, in a kind of faith in the ultimate worth of compassion, even when the reality of the world around us seems to belittle compassion as futile.

“The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt,” wrote Paul Tillich.

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Aristotle said that only two living entities are capable of solitude and complete separateness: God and beast. The most acute form of human suffering is loneliness. The isolated human individual can never be fully human. And for those cut off from others, for those alienated from the world around them, the false covenants of race, nationalism, the glorious cause, class and gender compete, with great seduction, against the covenant of love. These sham covenants—and we see them dangled before us daily—are based on exclusion and hatred rather than universality. These sham covenants do not call us to humility and compassion, to an acknowledgement of our own imperfections, but to a form of self-exaltation disguised as love. Those most able to defy these sham covenants are those who are grounded in love, those who find their meaning and worth in intimate relationships that cut through the loneliness and isolation of the human condition.

There are few sanctuaries in war. Couples in love provide one. And it was to such couples that I consistently retreated. These couples repeatedly acted to save those branded as the enemy—Muslims trapped in Serb enclaves in Bosnia or dissidents hunted by the death squads in El Salvador. These rescuers did not act as individuals. Nechama Tec documented this peculiar reality when she studied Polish rescuers of Jews during World War II. Tec did not find any particular character traits or histories that led people to risk their lives for others, often for people they did not know, but she did find they almost always acted because their relationship explained to them the world around them. Love kept them grounded. These couples were not able to halt the destruction and violence around them. They were powerless. They could and often did themselves become victims. But it was with them, seated in a concrete hovel in a refugee camp in Gaza or around a wood stove on a winter night in the hills outside Sarajevo, that I found sanity and peace, that I was reminded of what it means to be human. It seemed it was only in such homes that I ever truly slept during war.

Love, when it is deep and sustained by two individuals, includes self-giving—often tremendous self-sacrifice—as well as desire. For the covenant of love recognizes both the fragility and sanctity of all human beings. It recognizes itself in the other. And it alone can save us, especially from ourselves.

Sigmund Freud divided the forces in human nature between the Eros instinct, the impulse within us that propels us to become close to others, to preserve and conserve, and the Thanatos, or death instinct, the impulse that works toward the annihilation of all living things, including ourselves. For Freud these forces were in eternal conflict. All human history, he argued, is a tug of war between these two instincts.

“The meaning of the evolution of civilization is no longer obscure to us,” Freud wrote in “Civilization and Its Discontents.” “It must present the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instinct of life and instinct of destruction, as it works itself out in the human species. This struggle is what all life essentially consists of.”


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By Jacob Jonker, April 9, 2012 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes,who’s ahead?In this life,it is a personal journey as well as a collective one.Your own beliefs and attitudes are pitted against those of the collective.Many people choose either-or,to either get in there and compete or to not compete and try to be happy.The majority will compete and try to forget they are trampling on others in order to get a life.Their happiness is hollow.Each of those competing,at their own level,will have a particular worldview and rationalise their position accordingly.There is no easy answer.To go it alone is a lonely road.To try and work for a better world is to be constantly taken advantage of.You can see that most people in the business of charity,religion/do-goodery and politics look first of all after number one.No amount of charitable work will overcome the inequities of inherent competition in the world.It’s a matter of the power of the lowest common ethical attitude/mentality.Also,check my comments on bhanupadmo.com

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By elisalouisa, April 2, 2012 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment

“The love we give is the love we most remember.”  Anonymous quote.

Problem is JJ, I really don’t see too much love in what you try to convey even though I cannot disagree with much of your post. It’s what is left unsaid that makes the difference. As I sometimes people watch I cannot help but be impressed by the happy attitude of many who do menial work. Three or four women who are cleaning a house converse in their native language, happily chattering away. Then again, the grim, angry faces of CEOs calling the shots leaves me cold. Perhaps they, like so many, are unable to love.

So who’s ahead?

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By Jacob Jonker, April 1, 2012 at 2:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Firstly.Full marks to all of you who read all the comments,or even half the comments.Next;the link to what Rudolf Steiner had to say about love I consider very useful,even for those who believe in Atheism.Then,I’m with the bloke who gave us that link.He’s about 60% down the first page,I think(sorry,forgot his name already).So,a very important issue!!!,but…,if you can bear with me,we have a paradox here;At basis,we are here down to the truth of two opposites,each as true as the other(once you worked your way down the logic with due philosophical diligence).Humanity is/has become inhuman.The answer is Christian Love,in order to bear it.To increase our collective merit,as a human society,we have to increase the bank balance of freely given love.In order for this to be done,certain people have to dedicate their lives,selflessly,to philosophy.This in order to get wiser,for people who are not wise cannot give love without expectation of reward(here or the hereafter)so as to increase the balance of merit/freely given love to go around making people more happy.It is in the nature of nature,to which law we are all bounden,that to give love selflessly is not a survivalist strategy.Even in these subtle things,people soon take to using others in order to get ahead,or coast along,or slow their descent into the hell on earth they have invited for themselves and everybody foolish or sad enough to come to depend on them/leeches.For there are leeches sucking this perfect love so they can have a free ride.Worse,the attitude promoted in the above blog by Chris Hedges invites exploitation to the worst degree.We live in the real world,after all.This is a conundrum.Good people have been sucked in for two thousand years by clever hypocrites preaching a recipe for a perfect slave mentality.This has become genetically hard-wired in both slaves and preachers.It gives both the feel-good factor,making for a rotten and corrupt slave society which wise people selflessly spend their lives trying to clean up.Which is truly mopping the floor with the taps running full bore.There is some light at the end of the tunnel,though.Suffering gives people a chance to escape from this man-made hell on earth if they are on the receiving end of the stick.But…,they need to be willing to get wiser and wiser by their own individuating efforts(Lao Tzu/Buddha)or give themselves up totally to the selfless Love of the Super-Archetype of the original Christ-God.The rest of you will just have to choose between dishing it out or suffering,or,like most of you,suffer it from those higher and mightier than you and dishing it out to those within your power and reach to dish it out to without them being able to retaliate.Thereby perpetuating the cycle of give and take of the seeds of hatred,evil,distrust and a host of other ills.Cheers.(Jacob Jonker).

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John Best asks,

By John Best asks, "What IS Progress"?, March 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment

I can;t believe the people who are ragging on Hedges for going all preachy.  It’s a tough world out there. Book sales aint what they used to be.

If I were Hedges, I’d cover my bases and keep that preacher credential alive.

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By Spiritual Bee, March 3, 2012 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

Loved the illustration on love by Mr. Fish!

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By Spiritual Bee, March 3, 2012 at 10:37 am Link to this comment

Chris’ wonderful post reminds me of a beautiful quote on love by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore:

“Joy (Love) is everywhere; it is in the earth’s green covering of grass; in the blue serenity of the sky; in the reckless exuberance of spring; in the living flesh that animates our bodily frame; in the acquisition of knowledge; in fighting evils; in dying for gains we never can share.

Joy is there everywhere; it is superfluous, unnecessary; nay, it very often contradicts the most peremptory behests of necessity. It exists to show that the bonds of law can only be explained by love; they are like body and soul. Joy is the realisation of the truth of oneness, the oneness of our soul with the world and of the world-soul with the supreme lover.”

This quote is from Tagore’s book Sadhana - The Realisation of Life
http://www.spiritualbee.com/spiritual-book-by-tagore/

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By Inspiring Love, March 3, 2012 at 10:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is one of the most amazing posts from Chris Hedges! Thank you for your profound words of wisdom. They touched me deeply!

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By katsteevns, March 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment

@ MisterFingers,

Cuz he used to be different. We are hanging on to the old Chris.

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By MisterFingers, February 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

With all due respect Chris Hedges should stop pretending to be a journalist and just go all the way into the church.  He spends way too much time talking about a god that in all probability doesn’t even exist.  And because of this most of his analyses are useless.  Unless, of course, you have a vision of a Christian future for a Christian America.  I certainly don’t.  I have no idea why people take him seriously.

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By Dale, February 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Those who go searching for love
Only make manifest their own lovelessness

But the loveless never find love
Only the loving find love

And they never have to search for it


—D.H. Lawrence

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By berneredfeather, February 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Which comes first the chicken or the egg? The age old philosophical
conundrum which comes first society or self. Individual survival on a daily basis
depends on the individual and might be seen as selfish or even egotistical. The
global survival does depend on individual contribution to a lesser extent of
course. Unfortunately
those with strong ambitions, good or bad, tend to affect the whole more
ambitiously than the quiet ones. One might say that their ego then becomes the
collective ego that we see today amongst world leaders and we see see it most
strongly in countries like the U.S. The attitudes of aggression as the way to
peace is a false hope or promise. The manipulation of power is driven by other
than human evolution, I say egotism. Psychologically speaking I would call it
psychopathic.
Those who might aspire to affect changes with love are drowned out by fear
mongers and special interest groups. Unfortunately the discussion of love
or love of neighbor becomes moot in the face of the numbers in the populous.
Democracy is challenged by powerful selfish interests as a result.

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By Ed Romano, February 25, 2012 at 8:32 am Link to this comment

Outraged, Bless you man. You are not far from the kingdom. Love is the answer for just about every man made problem.

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By Outraged, February 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm Link to this comment

Good article Mr. Hedges.

Love matters. For lack of a more descriptive analogy (aside from the fact that I lost my original post, which always bites) it needs to be remembered 1,2,3,4… what is it we’re fighting for!

Love matters.

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By Thomas Dooley, February 23, 2012 at 8:12 am Link to this comment

Damn! Does this mean we are losing Chris Hedges? Is he going to turn into another friggin’ guru? Just what we need—another damn guru telling us we need in one way or another to “get our minds right.” See? That’s the problem. War? Poverty? Destruction of the earth? Nah! It’s really an internal problem and the problem is with us although assumedly, not with him.

What’s next? Is he going to be standing in front of an audience unshaven, in a bathrobe, going full Lenny Bruce on us? I hope not.

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By Ed Romano, February 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm Link to this comment

Balkas, I don’t know where you live but there must be a school somewhere nearby that can teach you how to write an English sentence.

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By balkas, February 22, 2012 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment

i meant to say that jesus had not been that dumb to say that he’s against
justice, fairness, forgiveness, peace on earth, love, generosity, etc.
and neither is a dishonest person going to say that.
he knew to say just the right things just like a lawyer, used-car
salesman, cleric, or any dishonest person.
so, why make a god out of him for saying what each of us says?? what he
said was just smart or [dumb, to me, anyway] politics.
as to why would god have only one son god and not trillions? and damn
it, couldn’t he make [even today[ at least one baby girl god?
i wonder why not make a daughter god? ok, i am off to see a priest; he
surely knows because he has an explanation for everything.

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By balkas, February 22, 2012 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment

thinking or talking about thinking, the thought of stoning a woman to death we may also call thinking, but, please, don’t carry it
out!!!
so as long you only think it, i guess, it is ok. but, then, if there is a god, then only IT/HE/SHE knows all there is to be known;
includes what’s ok or not. and i am not god nor do i ever hear him/her.
and no human being would ever know ALL about anything.
the problem with people who stone s’mone to death is in the fact that they are not at all aware of the fact that in actuality it is
their PLAN [thinking, ideology, etc] and not that of a cleric—if he abstains from throwing stones at a person—that is being
fulfilled.
so, did you guyz get the message? that THE FIRST CAUSE for stoning a person to death, waging wars, poverty, ignorance,
arrogance, hatred is THINKING OR IDEOLOGY.
but if we insist in splitting thinking into fallible and infallible, true and false, socialist and asocialist, democratic and
undemocratic, right or wrong i guess we can expect only worsenings.
and the sanely insanest among us [politicos and clergy] would keep on winning.

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By balkas, February 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment

the crucial point is obvious: some humans call some THOUGHTS “god”. fine, nothing, wrong with that as far as my knowledge
extends. doing this or thinking thusly may even be desirable.
but then, after this thinking [what’s a belief other than thinking/thoughts?]
new thinkings arise which some people call “religions”.

and then identify idea of a god with religion. in fact, religions have no connection whatever with actual or imagined [believed] god.
for if one has god in his/her life, why would that not be enough? why visit a human, usually called “priest” in order, i assume, so
that one would not lose hisher jesus or god. so, why affirm god on one hand and at the same time deny god by going to church
for solace or to find god once again? [my own phantacy basement for [re]connecting with god usually does just fine]
for isn’t god with us at all times and places.? or s/he limited in some way? and then in which way[s]?

i may be the only one who does not split thinking into religious and areligious [i know of no one else who thinks as i do on this
dichotomy]. this is most crucial fact of all facts. who ever misses it, misses meaning of living.
in other words religions are ideologies [or thinking]. so is atheism, communism, socialism, capitalism, judaism, mohammedanism,
jehudism, etc.
and no ism is infallible or ever understood or known—they can be only intepreted; which, of course, leads of to all kinds of other
ideologies.
this thinking leads to sanity. mohammedanism, judaism, capitalism, socialism, [rugged/strong/silent type] individualism deemed
infallible lead to insanity.
perhaps this could have been said better or clearer; however, message is there and if one get’s the message, that’s all that matters
or should matter.

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By James M. de Laurier, February 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges,  2/22/2012
    “and yet,so much is written and said about love
that at once diminishes its grandeur…” Indeed,and
when misanthropes see and hear “bleeding hearts”
express any emotional plea for the desire of real
love to rein eternal,they recoil.
    Conditional love does not understand empathy -
a key component of love,and only demands obedience.
    In a masquerade,“the words get in the way.”
Keep up the good work -
Thanking you for this opportunity to comment -
James M. de Laurier

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By Ed Romano, February 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

Okay Balkas, I really was not trying to rile you up.Honestly.Your latest posting is readable.
Icould argue with it but it wouldn’t do any good
  The original one that I questioned really had me befuddled as far as the English language is concerned.

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By balkas, February 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment

ed, you could have been a bit more arrogant, but you’ve shown enough of it,
nevertheless.
what christians are selling is nothing but snake oil and good deal of intolerance,
hatred, etc.
i do not think that priests would not burn at stake ‘witches’, scientists, homosexuals if
they could.
however, they think about the same way as priests who burned alive people.
if jesus is your god or if you have god in your life, what more do you need? also to
spread arrogance, ignorance, hatred which also jesus taught!
and if you can tout your ideology i can and will tout mine and other people’s ideology.
but ours will win some day even if it takes millennia—yours will be utterly discarded!
100% sure!

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By Ed Romano, February 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment

To John Best, Yes. Maybe we are onto something. I’d like to see a magazine dedicated to the Christian Left…..Hey! Perhaps that would make a good title.
In the deepest part of my heart I fear that it is too late to turn around the disastrous course that this society is on. But I guess we should guard against becoming so pessimistic that we give up all effort. Besides, how better can we spend our brief dance on this planet than by opposing the ding battiness we see all around us?

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By EmileZ, February 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment

I think a particularly acute form of suffering is freaking out about loneliness. It is OK to be lonely. It is not an affliction.

Anyhow, good article.

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By Ed Romano, February 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment

Balkas, I am honsety not trying to get into an argument with you here. I respect your right to post whatever is important to you. But I can’t decide if this latest was done tongue in cheek or an attempt at some sort of surrealism. It is the most incoherent thing I have read since the last of the Dada poets left the planet.  d R

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By EmileZ, February 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment

Kahlil Gibran “The Prophet” - On Love

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lMKw7VuN6o

Yes, I am one who has covered my nakedness and passed out of Love’s threshing-floor and into the seasonless world where I laugh, but not all of my laughter, where I weep, but not all of my tears.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my favorite Chogyam Trungpa talk, which I call “Smell The Bacon” (I don’t think you have to be a meat eater to appreciate it).

I suppose it was only marginally relevant anyway.

I put no boundaries on love myself. It can relate to ethics, or not. It is love.

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By sallysense, February 22, 2012 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment

yeah!... let it do its thing!...

let it go to gather close…
let it flow to be…
let it ride to deep inside…
with life’s infinity…
let it touch as in-so-much…
let it feel too…
let it make for its own sake…
what birth is born to do…
let it seed and let it feed…
let it have what is…
let it grow in souls to know…
the truth of all of this…
let it come to find a home…
let it dwell anew…
let it seep and let it keep…
the heart alive in you…
let it scatter over matter…
let it soak upon…
let it take by saving grace…
what’s made to carry on…
let it dare to care and share…
let the spirit in…
let its love of depth above…

yeah!... let it do its thing!...

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John Best asks,

By John Best asks, "What IS Progress"?, February 22, 2012 at 10:34 am Link to this comment

Ed, 3 a.m. and others….. you are on to something powerful.  ‘Christian values’ are New Testament values of love, forgiveness, compassion for the poor, etc.  There is a group in in this country which is claiming (louder and prouder than anyone) to be Christians, but their values are Old Testament, vengeful God kind of stuff. 

So, I think you for not letting them get away with it.  Regardless if you’re some form of non-fundamentalist Christian, perhaps a non-sharia Muslim, even an atheist, you can still appreciate what the New Testament tries to accomplish, whether it was the actual teachings of Jesus or not.  It’s a live-and-let-live attitude, not an old-testament attitude of revenge and intimidation.

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By Chaitya Purusha, February 22, 2012 at 10:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is the most compelling Western description of the soul i’ve ever read. America is blessed with a mind like Chris Hedges.

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By balkas, February 22, 2012 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

folks! no crook, priest, guru, politician, banker, imam, minister, messiah would ever say s/he’s against generosity,
forgiveness, justice, peace, love, etc., and not just jesus.
one is not gonna lose anything by saying it. and jesus, seems, was not that dumb to speak as any politico or robber
would speak.
actually i find it extremely arrogant for any individual to say that s/he’s for all of the above.
the proper and humane way to talk about panhuman virtues would be to say, Let us do justice, peace, generosity,
forgiveness, but only when we ALL BECOME much saner than we are now.
if you’re unsane [and we all became that way ove rmillennia] one cannot do justice—one can only ‘promise’ it.
and all ‘promises’ i evaluate as lies.
so, jesus lied, deceived just like moses, mohammed and just about every politician i know of.
in short, let us forthwith cease with making ‘promises’. that alone may generate more joy, peace, justice, etc., than
almost anything else we would do. thanks, bozhidar balkas, planet earth [boy, am i glad i hadn’t been made in
america]

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By EmileZ, February 22, 2012 at 9:24 am Link to this comment

Woody Allen on Eros and Thanatos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4huaX0UAFGM

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By Ed Romano, February 22, 2012 at 8:28 am Link to this comment

To 3 a.m. mystic, Thanks for your thoughtful posting. It’s well worth talking about. I am what I suppose is an unorthodox Christian believer inasmuch as I’m not sure about the claims of Jesus divinity, but I believe with all my heart in the teachings ascribed to him. I can’t say I love “God” because I have no experience of Him/Her. But I do love the attributes Jesus attibutes to God - compassion, forgiveness, generosity, justice. So I say that if these things are in God….that’s what I love….I am reluctant to claim I am a Christian because a lot of folks will take that to mean that I am aligned with the so called Christian fundamentalists and I would be most ashamed of being lumped in with them. Christianity has got a bad name in our age, and rightly so…I believe anyone claiming Christ as their mentor can only stand on the left politically. To do otherwise is schizophrenic. You can’t say you stand with the poor and oppressed, that you believe in justice and also be, for example, a Republican…...Well, that’s enough of this sermon. But I’m glad you gave me a chance to express it.  Ed R

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By claudine grange, February 22, 2012 at 6:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris is a laser beam shining light on what is important.  I do appreciate his
expression so much in these times.

Love. Friendliness. Nonviolence. Truth.  Generosity.

These are the expressions of our lives worth cultivating.  Daily practice to
overcome our greed, hatred and delusion within each of us is where it all
begins.

  Not easy but the only way to be here to experience the best there is. 

When we do it together we can have some fun that lasts, never hurting a soul
because we are not hurting our own.

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By 3am mystic, February 22, 2012 at 5:43 am Link to this comment

The problem with those of us on the left is that we have a tendency to retreat form “terms” once those on the religious right start using them, rather than making our claim for them; we surrender too easily.

The religious right has frightened us away from “God” and “love”; I refuse to let them walk away with them.  Yes, indeed, God is a verb, rather than a noun.  But let us who are progressives listen to Chris’s quote of Tillich in which he says God is “Who”, not “that”.  We find love in “who”, not in “that” 

God is “being”, “life”, and “love”.  These three, in their true form, are active, and it is “love” that lets us see “being” and “life” in others as divine.  Abraham Joshua Heshel said that we should be able to have God and human beings in the same thought, at the same time.  We progressives should accept Heshel’s challenge.

God was once stressed at the expense of humanity.  Then there was the attempt to hold humanity up without God.  Now it is time to hold out our hands to the poor and the discarded in ways that they see themselves as part of our divine thoughts, not simply those on the receiving end of good political policy.

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By Anna kissed me, February 21, 2012 at 11:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Trying to define love is like trying to explain colour to a blind person.

It’s not impossible, just very difficult.

Religions get in the way of love, because the “priests” always claim first hand knowledge.

Stillness is the way. (Barry Long)

Truth is a pathless land (Jiddu Krishnamurti)

Be as you are (Ramana Maharshi)

The kingdom of heaven lies within. (Jesus Christ)

Keep trying Chris.

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By racetoinfinity, February 21, 2012 at 11:06 pm Link to this comment

Love is the end-all, be-all.

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By Dirck, February 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Zen teaches that the nature of things (God) cannot be
described in words. The master must utilize a Koan or
other method to assist the one attempting to find
truth. In the west, we think words can serve every
purpose. In this, we are wrong.

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By Argy F, February 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I like this article very much (as I do everything that Hedges writes).

Seems to me that - in aggregate - the comments on Truthdig seem a bit more facile than those one sees on other sites - but no more temperate or generous in nature.

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By elisalouisa, February 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment

But love, in its mystery, has its own power.

Not just a chance happening that Chris Hedges should choose Acts of Love as the topic of this week’s excellent column, providing some balance, especially in light of recent subjects. Love, in all its mystery, indeed does has its own power.

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By gerard, February 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment

Why does the mention of Hedges and Maher in the same sentence grind on the ends of my nerves?  We need them both—and I “enjoy” both of them. But in the same sentence?  NO, PLEASE.
  Why not?  Because in the trenches, up to their knees in blood, Hedges would be trying to lift two or three suffering humans by sheer strength of will while Maher would be making some very clever remark about some human frailty.  It takes courage to laugh at death, but it takes a lot more of it to reach right down into the muck and hold someone in your arms.

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By gregorylkruse, February 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

I have brain capacity the size of a cauliflower about emotions and God topics, and only capacity the size of a broccoli floweret about physics and math.  We’re all like that in one way or another.  The brain we process the world with determines the conclusions we come to. I would like to see a debate between Hedges and Maher on Truthdig.

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By Ed Romano, February 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment

Ah yes. Ann Rand, the sweetheart of Machiavelli. One of her most well known disciples is Alan Greenspan the wizard who was in charge of U.S. monetary policy for a good number of years.

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By felicity, February 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

Ah, yes.  Rand, the self-appointed god of us all, from
her misanthropic throne declared altruism to be a
disease, a plague afflicting mankind, and as such must
be eradicated.

Those taking her ‘advice,’ to counter altruism are to
live according to the antonyms of altruism -
selfishness, greediness, piggishness. It would seem
that a lot of us these days are taking her advice.

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By robjira, February 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment

Great article; Marcus Aurelius, Shunryu Suzuki, and Alan Watts would all approve.

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By Ed Romano, February 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment

In the New Testament Jesus is reported as saying ..... BY this all men will know you are my disciples - if you have love one for another….
  Today a person who claims to be a Christian (I’m not thinking here of Rick Santorum types )
  anyone who is trying their best to live as a Christian will better be known by how much hatred he/she attracts…..This is the heritage we have inherited from the main line churches who have abandoned the teaching of Christ in favor of a sacramental system and/or a teaching that says…Go to the authorities and get them to force everyone to live as we think they should. This is a universal shame because millions of people have come to equate the saving message of Christ with the traitorius churches that claim to represent him….Please don’t bother to throw any more bricks at him here. The main line churches have done the job for you.

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By Pierre Montage, February 21, 2012 at 11:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have learned a lot from the comments here, including the ‘critical’ ones.
The use of the word “god” makes a lot of people cringe, and given
religion’s scorecard, understandably so.  Still, if we don’t get stuck on
definitions, and really dive into the central message here, I see the article
as an inspirational reminder to choose love.  This may sound fluffy, but
IMHO it’s the most fundamental truth (that the fundamentalists
continually miss!)  As in the Matrix(!), it all comes down to choice.  In
every moment, we choose action based on fear or anger or separateness,
or we can choose to come from our best selves.  It’s really not much
more complicated than that IMHO.  Choosing love means doing right by
the earth, each other, and feeling good about our choices.  It brings both
meaning and happiness.  We can bring theology and literature and
atheism and more into all this, but it all seems to boil down to choosing
love throughout the day.  What I like about the article is that it focuses us
and reminds us of the vitality of love in a time that could otherwise pull
us into fear, anger or retreat.  Bravo to hedges for dancing in this
minefield!

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By gerard, February 21, 2012 at 10:37 am Link to this comment

P.S.  Interesting to note which habitual contributors are absent from this string.

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By JDmysticDJ, February 21, 2012 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

So, Hedges defines himself as being a “Christian Existentialist,” which indicates that he would have more affinity with the writings of Marcel than the writings of Sartre. I would define myself as a Mystic Existentialist. I would define myself as nominally a Christian Existentialist if I weren’t a coward. Seeing as how Hedges has much, much more to lose on so many levels his declaration is courageous. The merest reference to Jesus Christ is anathema to so many people and such is guaranteed to alienate many, especially in the intellectual community.

Who actually authored the Beatitudes as they’re found in the Sermon on the Mount in the Bible is questionable but the presence of the beatitudes in the Gospels is enough for me to see the virtue in Christian thought.

The eight beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–12 during the Sermon on the Mount are stated as Blessed are:[2][3]

•  the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:3)

•  they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (5:4)

•  the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (5:5)

•  they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (5:6)

•  the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (5:7)

•  the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (5:8)

•  the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (5:9)

•  they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)

That many will see the above as being trite and meaningless is a given. The hypocrisy so evident in those who claim the mantel of being Christian is glaringly obvious. According to the Bible the word “Hypocrite” was a word Jesus Christ reserved for the religious leaders of his day. One might infer that Jesus Christ “hated” hypocrisy.

Existentialism has been explained as the concept that if a person doesn’t do anything, then that person does not exist in any meaningful way. Expanding on a previous thought I’m wondering if espousing the hatred of that which is evil could be perceived as an existential act.

The debate about the value of Christianity has gone on for two thousand years, that 2000 years is significant. Clearly Jesus Christ was/is not merely a brief phenomenon.

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By Thomas Dooley, February 21, 2012 at 9:47 am Link to this comment

Chris Hedges has written a wonderful thought-provoking article. It belongs on some other website. Not this one.

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By Ed Lytwak, February 21, 2012 at 8:27 am Link to this comment

Humpty Dumpty World
Ry Cooder

Our God looked down what did he see
The work of His mighty hand
Saying if this world should end it wouldn’t hinder me
As I contemplate the works of man

I made man and woman I gave them simple tools
And all the charming creatures to keep their company
But they desired of things that was against the rules
And television was the worst of all
Television was the worst of all.

Rabble rousing politicians on the TV screen
Sowing the seeds of hate and fear
I’ve heard it said you sow and you shall reap
Don’t come crying to me when you fall
Craven minions sent from down below
Occupy the highest portals of the land
As swift is their climb as sure is their decline
Straight back to hell from whence they came.

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By Laroquod, February 21, 2012 at 6:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What is the difference between teaching everyone to love others but not themselves, and teaching everyone to behave like slaves to society and ignore their own interests?

No difference really. When someone is preaching love, they are preaching servitude. When they accompany this by saying, ‘Beware of self-love,’ then you know that they are slavers.

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By Caute, February 21, 2012 at 4:03 am Link to this comment

The ancient Chinese mystics noted that the first step
towards wisdom is, ‘to call things by their correct
names.’ What the vast majority of humans call ‘love’
is merely a dump of ‘feel-good’ hormones combined
with the ‘desire of the unborn egg to come to
fruition.’

‘Love’ for one’s partner, or new genetic storage
unit, (to which, in humans, has been given the name
child) has its origin in pathogens. These invaders
are adept at copying an organism’s defence
mechanisms. To keep them at bay, single organisms
split into a ‘male’ and ‘female’ then ‘rejoin’ to
create new genetic combinations forcing the pathogens
to start from scratch. This rejoining has been given
the name ‘sex.’ The pleasurable feeling sparked by
the hormone release during and after the ‘reunion’ is
given the name ‘love.’

Every creature seeks to replicate its genetic
material at any cost. For the DNA our bodies are mere
tombs, and they must ‘jump ship’ into a new storage
unit for survival. We are indeed Nature’s dupes. For
whilst the individual believes he works for himself,
he actually works for the species. Nature cares
nothing for the individual, only the species. The
fertilization of the egg marks the beginning of the
end for the parents. For this reason the ancient
Greek said, ‘after sex, the creature is sad.’

True love, something possessed only by the few, a
Spinoza, a Schweitzer, is best defined by the ancient
Hindoo phrase, ‘tat tvam asi’ or ‘this thou art.’
Here we find the sublime recognition that to hurt
another is to hurt yourself, as all are parts of a
single entity—that individuality is illusion brought
about by our own perceptual mechanism, as noted by
the great Kant.

A loving God? If that’s true I must be Queen
Nefertiti. Let us heed the words of the Sage, ‘if a
God had made this world, I should not like to be that
God, the misery in the world would break my heart.’

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By James Monroe, February 21, 2012 at 3:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ll have to admit, I didn’t read all the comments.

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By CanDoJack, February 21, 2012 at 2:24 am Link to this comment

Dear author, I think we have wondered into some
difficulty with terminology that even your Theology
prof might have some trouble with. And the average
blustering reader who often doesn’t know whether she
is on the hate or love side of a very thin coin
finds either side fodder for another hissy fit.

If we’re going to deal with Frankl and Freud and to
hell with the hissy fitting poseurs, then beginning
with First Corinthians 13 should be the prow of the
ice breaker that introduces agape which is, I think,
180 degrees out from Freud’s Eros.

Agape “vaunteth not, is not puffed up” and holds its
tongue all the while being more a verb than the “is
what it is and am what I am” that says it is love
but shows no fruit.

But, though St. Paul’s scriptural content is good,
he is likely to be saying out the other side his
mouth “god is love” like it is the real stuff.
Frankly, I do not see any evidence of “god is love”
gambit.

God is the guy in Numbers 31 who says “go down there
and kill all n thousand of those people who are not
my people: the babies, the men, and all the women
who are not virgins and the virgins you can have for
your fun when you are done.”

Love, agape not eros, then has to come from the
occasional human who can fill the bill of First
Corinthians 13 and does not give a damn who this god
guy is because if every humanity camps on the
outskirts of Utopia it will be because he exercised
a pragmatic morality that says, “love is uncommon
common sense.”

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By racetoinfinity, February 21, 2012 at 2:04 am Link to this comment

Love is the end-all, be all.  Love is the truth.  Fear/hatred/separateness are illusions and dissolve when the real Love force is relaxed into and accepted flowing through each of us without guilty blocks and false beliefs, the daddy of all being “I’m not good enough; I don’t deserve love.”

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By John G, February 21, 2012 at 12:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

At the rate the human race is overpopulating and destroying the planet, I’d say there isn’t anywhere near enough love within and among us to save ourselves. The people who are in a position of power to enable massive change for the good of all certainly won’t do it. “God” sure as hell won’t do it, either—those old belief systems are obsolete. Desperate times call for desperate measures by brave souls.

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By cclauson, February 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As always, I end up being the Grinch.  I’m not really buying this article.  I think that at the end of the day, love in general, and romantic love perhaps more so, is ultimately a self-centered act.  It doesn’t make you a bad person, but I don’t think it’s a mark of virtue, either.

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By colin2626262, February 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment

This article by Chris Hedges on the nature of love is probably his best piece of writing to date, and I’ve read almost everything he’s written.  Having said that, I have a few criticisms. He makes the point that love is not reducible to empiricism, which some atheists would like to maintain.  This is laudable on Hedges’s part.  The problem I see is when he brings his views of love into the religious domain.   

Hedges calls himself a “Christian existentialist,” also an “unorthodox” believer in God.  He has said that his argument against atheists has nothing to do with traditional atheism, which he finds philosophically appealing, for example, in figures like Albert Camus.  But Hedges also loves to remind everyone that he went to Harvard to study theology.  He says his ethics professor taught him that one must preach against pseudo-love.  Well, in keeping with his professor’s advice, I’d like to say why I think this love that Hedges is preaching in this article is actually the kind of love his professor told him to preach against.

First, there’s this idea that “God is a verb.”  That has merit.  Only those who seek God will ever be able to experience God.  To seek is an action, a verb.  So this makes sense.  However, there’s the other statement, the negative statement that “God is not a noun,” which is problematic for me.  What does that mean, God is not a noun?  Well, Hedges clarifies what he means.  He says God is not “an entity.”  Instead, God is “a process.”  The idea of religious belief being a process certainly has merit.  Faith is an ongoing, daily struggle to follow God’s will, and so process is the perfect description.  But God is not a noun nor an entity, according to Hedges.  So what is God to him?  Maybe by saying God is not a noun, Hedges is making the point that God is above being a person, place, or thing, and that would make sense.  But I think what he’s really saying by claiming that God is not a noun or an entity is that there is no actual Being known as God, that there is no personal God who hears our prayers and loves us, that there is no God whom we can love.   

Hedges claims to be a follower of the Gospel.  He’s using the Bible in this article, a verse in the Old Testament, to back up his definition of what God is.  But if you turn to the New Testament, to Jesus’s teachings, which Hedges claims to follow, you’ll find what Jesus said about love.  What Hedges says about love is the same as what Jesus says, except for one thing: Hedges ignores the first part of Jesus’s teachings on love and love’s relation to human life. 

Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

What Hedges is saying is simply “love your neighbor as yourself.”  He’s not saying “love the Lord your God with all your heart.”  He’s saying follow the second commandment without following the first and greatest commandment, even though the second commandment is impossible to follow without the first and greatest commandment.  But God is not an entity, remember?  So how can we love God?  God is only a process of human love, of human will, and God simply “comes to us.”

No, God does not just come to us.  In order to experience God, we have to come to God.  We have to follow the first and greatest commandment.  Why is it that there are atheists in the world?  Why do some people deny the very existence of any form of the divine?  Because they haven’t sought it out.  They haven’t loved God, or tried to, and so they haven’t felt God’s love, which is the only proof for the existence of God.  Obviously there are no scientific proofs for God’s existence.  The proof is found in love.  This is what Hedges is trying to say, only he’s forgetting that love is not God; rather, in the words we’re all familiar with, “God is love.”

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By kulu, February 20, 2012 at 10:55 pm Link to this comment

Like others here, I too think Chris does his tremendous intellect a disservice by harping on about God in this article which I confess I did not read in total (too many Gods for me to stomach at one sitting).

What I love about Truthdig though, apart from many of the pieces by Hedges and Sheer, is the quality of the comments in general. I learn as much, if not more from these comments than I do from the articles themselves.

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By Lafayette, February 20, 2012 at 10:48 pm Link to this comment

NOT JUST ON SUNDAYS

God, after all, answered Moses’ request for revelation with the words, “I AM WHO I AM.”

Which has been translated in this country by “God is as God does”. And if the ActionGod doesn’t do things for us, then what? He doesn’t exist?

We’ve taken God to a unconscionable extreme. When the Govenor of Texas, for instance, can “ask God” to end the drought he is playing with the ActionGod doll. Or we beg his munificence whenever we take risk for personal gain in the Casino of Life.

It is sufficient that God IS, not that he caters to our every little whimsy. Or that he be tapped as a vein in politicking by base interests of those who are always “holier than thou”.

God is a spectator, a referee of sorts. What we do for ourselves and for others is what matters most. How we treat one another is the only miracle o earth that really matters. How we live our lives with meaning and fairness to all every day and not just on Sundays.

It’s not all about ME. It’s all about US. And has been since time immemorial.

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By OzarkMichael, February 20, 2012 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment

I believe the point you are overlooking is that homosapiens WILL EVOLVE to a better version BY ACTING ACCORDING TO the advice set out two thousand years ago (and probably before, and many times after that date.
  It logically follows, then, that, since homo sapiens has not been acting according to said advice, homo sapiens has not evolved ... yet.

Sure, we even have scientific examples of that evolutionary process in real life. It happens all the time. 

Scientists say that giraffes had really short necks way long ago. At the time the the trees were shorter. After awhile the trees grew taller, and the giraffes went hungry until they realized that they had to ACT.

The little fellows kept stretching their necks, and their baby giraffes had longer necks but had to keep stretching more and more. But they did it, and todays giraffes have very long necks indeed.

Just like giraffes, you WILL EVOLVE, but you just have to try.

As for me, I dont feel like putting so much effort into something if it isnt easy and natural. But thats just my selection!

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By James Manista, February 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As the comments reveal fundamental words like “God” and “Love” are so fraught
with the individual baggage each commenter brings to them, discussion about
them seems like no one is talking about the same things.  If someone claims “We
cannot really know God,” another responds, “Then the word God means nothing.”

“You can’t love your enemy—doing so is against every natural response in your
body.  You’re confused and/or deluded.”  But others aren’t so quick to agree.

Faulting Chris Hedges for not agreeing with your particular fundamental
philosophical concepts discloses more about your concepts than about his.  The
man is confessing what he has found to be essential observations about human
nature and the nature of changing our world at its very base.

As for “evolving” into higher beings before we can really consider loving our
enemies, I don’t think any of us has that much time.  Besides how much time do
we as individuals really need to choose being the higher character while we still
live?

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By truedigger3, February 20, 2012 at 8:44 pm Link to this comment

Re: By gerard, February 20 at 5:35 pm

gerard wrote:
“I believe the point you are overlooking is that homosapiens WILL EVOLVE to a better version BY ACTING ACCORDING TO the advice set out two thousand years ago (and probably before, and many times after that date.”
————————————————————————
gerard,
You are confusing consciousness raising and expanding awareness with evolution.
What I meant by evolution is the Darwenian biological mental evolution that happened to the species since life began on earth when a species undergoes a sudden DNA mutation transformation that makes it better or worse at adapting to the environment and hence progresses and move forward or dies out.
Fundamentally the “new” homosapiens should have no greed and no selfishness and be in tune with nature for humans to survive in peace.

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By elfuncle, February 20, 2012 at 7:29 pm Link to this comment

Chris Hedges may be a prominent political progressive and indeed a revolutionary for that matter. At a Veterans for Peace meeting, he was hailed as someone who had evolved from journalist to prophet. But he is no progressive when it comes to spirituality; he reflects clichés from the mainstream culture that has not succeeded in tackling the challenges of the post-modern period i.m.h.o. although such ideas have been emerging since the late 19th century. As an alternative, I recommend Rudolf Steiner’s deeply moving lecture (link below), “Love and Its Meaning in the World” (Zurich, 17th December, 1912, GA 143): http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/LovWld_index.html

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By balkas, February 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm Link to this comment

CH, i think, reefies the word “love” or thinks of it as one would think of a ripe apple. there are
indeed ripe apples that one can pluck and then eat, but there is no love that you can pluck or
catch with a net, hand, mouth or any tool whatever and then put in your body, safe, or fridge.
best way to understand love [or hate, anger, and all other human emotions] is to view them as
ever changing processes.
our enviornment which includes our neurolinguistic environment, being ill or healthy or among
taciturn, steely-eyed, merry, talkative, helpful, unhelpful, sad, gay, angry people affect our
feelings. no effort or thought is required for your reaction to your environmnet- it is automatic
or takes a fraction of a second.
you can se how it works when a frightened or hurt child runs to her mom and not to god for
comfort and when comforted almost immediately stops being frightened or feels less or no pain.
you can verbalize all you want, but a child when in fear knows nothing of what you say or what
you ‘explain’, yet will do the right thing each and everytime.

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By gerard, February 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment

From truedigger3:  “Some people say God came to earth and advised the same advice, two thousands years ago, at no avail. It did not work and it will never work until homosapiens evolve to a better version.’
  I believe the point you are overlooking is that homosapiens WILL EVOLVE to a better version BY ACTING ACCORDING TO the advice set out two thousand years ago (and probably before, and many times after that date.
  It logically follows, then, that, since homo sapiens has not been acting according to said advice, homo sapiens has not evolved ... yet.
  Naturally, many will assume from this fact that homo sapiens will never evolve.  This is only an assumption (not an inevitability)—possibly a false assumption based on severa; insufficiencies—of time, of ability, of effort, of mutual understanding, of will power?  Ergo: What is required is more time, more ability, more effort,more intelligence, more will power, more mutual understanding. 
  Reason for some hope:  Rapid recent increase in mutual understanding due to rapidly shared information; recent increase in awareness of the limits of time; and some evident increase of efforts in many places simultaneously.

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By Truson, February 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment

Considering the experience and thinking brain that Chris possesses, I find myself continuously disappointed with his views.

This was simply a frivolous article containing arrogant and stupid thoughts. 

However, i don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water.  Chris does have
some good points.  I’m just seeing more and more bath water, and less and less
baby.

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By JDmysticDJ, February 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment

After reading this from Hedges, and the comments, I confess to being befuddled, confused. Can hating be an “Act of Love”? I don’t love those who perpetuate death and suffering. I don’t love serial killers. So, am I living in hell, or destined for hell? Hatred is not foreign to me. When I hear of acts of extreme cruelty I experience hatred. My initial impulse when I hear of acts of extreme cruelty is towards violence. In my darkest moments I want to exterminate the brutes but my rational mind always takes precedence over emotion and those dark moments are only moments but the hate lingers on.

“Feed your enemies and give them water when they thirst and God will dump hot fiery coals on their head”? There are a lot of people I would like to feed and give water to. Damn! I just can’t help myself. I don’t really want to see them with hot fiery coals dumped on their heads but I do hate them. I don’t even believe in the death penalty but still I hate.

“William Edward Hickman (1908 – October 19, 1928) was an American criminal responsible for the kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of Marion Parker, a 12-year-old girl. The Los Angeles Times referred to Hickman’s actions as “the most horrible crime of the 1920’s.”

“Hickman sent … three ransom notes to the Parker home, demanding $1,500 in $20 gold certificates.”

“On December 19, Parker delivered the ransom in Los Angeles but in return Hickman delivered the girl’s dismembered body. Her arms and legs had been severed and her internal organs removed.”

“In 1928, the [Atheist] writer Ayn Rand began planning a novel called The Little Street, whose hero, Danny Renahan, was to be based on “what Hickman suggested to [her].” The novel was never finished, but Rand wrote notes for it which were published after her death in the book Journals of Ayn Rand. Rand wanted the hero of her novel to be “A Hickman with a purpose… Renahan, which she intended to be based on Hickman, “is born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness—[resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people ... Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should.” Rand wrote: “The first thing that impresses me about the case is the ferocious rage of a whole society against one man. No matter what the man did, there is always something loathsome in the ‘virtuous’ indignation and mass-hatred of the ‘majority.’... It is repulsive to see all these beings with worse sins and crimes n their own lives, virtuously condemning a criminal…”

“Worse sins and crimes in their own lives”? Really Ayn?! Some “Love” Ayn Rand, some name their children after Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand is the heroine of some people and they base their politics on compassionless Randian thinking. I hate the crazy bitch and I’m not at all ashamed of that fact. I would have been pleased if she had been sent away to the nut house. I hate her and every bit of her essence that lingers. I’m sure that Ayn Rand was seductive, beguiling in her youthful years.

Ain’t love grand? Yeah, but it is what it is, and what it is, can not be unconditional or theorized into the metaphysical. Both love and hate are conditional.

“To everything there is a season, a time of love and a time of hate…” The good must be loved and the evil must be hated and it’s up to every individual to determine what is to be hated and what is to be loved. Am I promoting hate? Can hating be an “Act of Love”?

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By antoon6, February 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges, the last time I went to church was in
2002 when the minister promoted war and the church
displayed nationalistic symbols.  I promised myself I
would never attend a church service again, a promise I
have kept.  I have attempted to read everything you
write as it is what should be taught in every religious
service of every faith.  Your message in this article
is timeless.  Thank you very much for this and all you
write, and all you do.

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By Ed Romano, February 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm Link to this comment

To Dimman,  Yeah, He’s like that.

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By diman, February 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm Link to this comment

By Ed Lytwak:
“as humans stopped worshiping the nature spirits - Mother Earth - and began worshiping “god the father”

Well, this is where our downhill slide had started, exactly at that point.

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By diman, February 20, 2012 at 4:08 pm Link to this comment

By Ed Romano,

Dovstoyevsky wrote - if there is no God everything is permitted. Of course, and why not ?

And if there is a god, everything is just as permitted only in the name of god.

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By themanyareone, February 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment

Wow. Well, Chris, I’ve appreciated you before but this
is a-maz-ing! I am grateful for your depth of Soul and
truthful intellect, and that you wrote this very
powerful,critically important article. This
insight about love and being human is bare-bones
truth,and if we are to survive it’s time to talk the
talk…which is clearly an uncomfortable subject for
many who either pick apart or over-analyze…a perfect
example of why it needs to be brought to the fore. To
readers, I say, read this again and again until you
“get it.” I hope you can, because this message is the
only hope we have left, in fact…it’s the only hope
we’ve ever had. To Chris Hedges: THANK YOU. Really!!
Those with ears to hear, eyes to read truth and a
heart within that still lives, are thanking you as
well.

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By berneredfeather, February 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I want to thank Chris Hedges for introducing this discussion. All the
contributers have great things to say. The faith that Chris Hedges exhibits for
his understanding of God has stood him in good stead to see many things as a
journalist and still have faith. I have read some of his work and a few
sociologists, historians, theologians and philosophers as well in my attempt to
understand the meaning of it all. I am most dismayed by many Churches in our
modern world that have not maintained relevance in todays world. I am sixty
seven, white male. I am ashamed of my heritage as British descendant, N.
American and a Canadian. I am an existentialist and realist. I try to be loving
and compassionate to family and friends and globally by supporting institutions
that I think are making a humanitarian contribution. I believe in the higher
power of the energy of the universe and believe that every living being has a
right to survival with dignity and access to the resources to maintain existence. I
also believe in evolution and hopefully that evolution is taking us to higher
level. We as human beings can only have dignity if we dignify the world around
us.

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By Ed Romano, February 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment

Dovstoyevsky wrote - if there is no God everything is permitted. Of course, and why not ?
  Brilliant Bill ...thanks for bringing Ammon Hennacy into the discussion. We could use a few more like him today.

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By jj, February 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Love the Black Bloc!

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By Jeff N., February 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm Link to this comment

Good article, don’t really agree with the selflessness/selfish bit at the end though.  Selflessness is not being a martyr, it is living a life that deemphasizes the importance of our personality and our own incessant needs and wants.  We are surrounded in our society by the ‘cult of the self’ (a term I think Hedges uses elsewhere?), and this promotes division, jealousy, pride and all kinds of addictions because off our hopeless obsession with our own ego. 

When we are able to give up on this endless, empty search for who “I” really am and who “you” really are, we are able to gain an understanding of the infinite, interconnected nature of our reality.  This in turn guides our actions towards a more peaceful, mutual relationship with the world around us.  This is the basic, unifying truth across millenia of religious philosophy, from the Bhagavad Gita to Zen Buddhism to Christ.  Also, for you uncompromising atheists, you might consider the obvious parallel this concept shares with quantum mechanics.

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By BetsyB, February 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment

I appreciate this. Reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces I found myself nodding in assent on a passage about the essence of all major religions: Love, and how this essence is distorted in almost all of them.

It is incredibly easy to take a religious text and use it to justify your daily life. It is incredibly easy to put yourself and others in a box so that you can dismiss them easily (well..I’m an atheist, well..I’m a christian, well..I’m an environmentalist, well..I’m a small business owner, well…etc.). It is incredibly easy to get stuck on a word (“marriage”, or “god”) and use that word to justify hating another person or people.

It is incredibly hard to love. Thank you Mr. Hedges for writing about Love, when the entire world has always considered it “fluff.”

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By Ed Lytwak, February 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment

Atheist like anarchist has such negative connotations for the religious.  I prefer the term thinkers and believers.  What we call the modern religions all started about 12,000 years ago when humans were transitioning from hunter gatherers (aka the economy of the commons) to fixed settlement farmers (the first revolution).  Corresponding exactly to this transition was another as humans stopped worshiping the nature spirits - Mother Earth - and began worshiping “god the father” or his human male surrogate, i.e. Moses, Jesus, Mohamed, Buddha, Confucius etc.

Accompanying this religious transition was an economic one where the economy of the commons (non ownership of the means of production) became the economy of private property better known today as capitalism.  The kings, nobles and priests had a problem.  How do you go about turning free people in to obedient, servants of the hierarchy?  Actually the patriarchy, because the hierarchy was always based on 1% of the males at the top.

That is when they invented modern religions with its emphasis on authority - obedience to god the father.  Can anyone remember the story of Adam and Eve, the evil snake and wicked woman?  What an incredibly effective way to make thinking, free people into mindless believers.

With religion its easy to manipulate and control the adults but what about those feral little creatures, aka children whose early development is so under the pernicious influence of women?  Of course, lets go with what we knows will work - religion.  The way to create good little fascists, aka mindless believers who can only obey orders, is to have a ultra-religious family structure headed by an authoritarian male - the father.  Religion and fascism and patriarchy its all the same.  Just ask someone who was there, Wilhelm Reich, “The Mass Psychology of Fascism” written in 19933.

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By LocalHero, February 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment

Pure, downy-soft, fluffery Chris but this stuck out—

“There is some biblical justification for this.”

Well, in case ya haven’t noticed, there is “biblical justification” for anything you can name including rape, murder, incest and buggering the family cat.

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John Best asks,

By John Best asks, "What IS Progress"?, February 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

Why can’t they just let this crazy little thing called ‘Love’ be what it is to each of us?  Something unique to each that simply can’t be made as universal as eye color or number of toes?  They have to put it in a box so they can use it as a weapon. 

This article is why I hate preachers.  They f@ck with your brain.  Love?  ....whatever….. 

I guess human nature is so bipolar there has to be an opposite of hate….simple as that, right?  We know what hate is, so surely we must be able to understand love.  What bullshit.

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By Arianna, February 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment

Chris, I loved your article about love!  LOVE is the essence of humanity, and in today’s world it is so easy to let that fall by the way-side.  It is without love that nations are so easily led into wars.  It is without love that humans can so easily commit acts of violence against one another.  It is WITH love that this madness can be stopped.  I don’t have any famous quotes to back up my meaning here.  I only have the feelings in my soul that I know are right.  That we are all human.  We all have families and loved ones that we care for and about.  We need to look no further than our hearts to know how to react in any given situation.  Kudos to you on your thoughtful insights, and good luck with your lawsuit.

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By truedigger3, February 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment

As a chronic atheist myself, I don’t relate to that talking about “God” and the “beast”. Yes, I know Hedges meant good and evil but why revert to such abstract and esoteric theology and Greek mythology to talk about the current concertet problems that are confronting millions of people and not just bunch of intellectual elites.
Hedges used examples of holocaust survivors and victims of solitary imprisonment to demonstrate the “power of love”, but these were very unique isolated situations which confronted very sepcial unique human beings. Few of the struggling masses in the current mess is going through such trying circumstances or has the intellectual abilities and the makeup to respond likewise.
Hedges says “love your enemy”, oh yeah, no kidding!.
Some people say God came to earth and advised the same advice, two thousands years ago, at no avail. It did not work and it will never work until homosapiens evolve to a better version.
In most hate situations, there is a victim and a victimiser and in most of the time the motive of the victimiser is desires, greed, selfishness, envy and false pride, in nutshell, the classic sins.
So instead of love your enemy the cry should be to reform the victimisers and their greed and selfishness which most likely, or maybe not, will require steps up the evolution ladder which unfortunately might lead to worse homosapiens, since evolution is unpredictable.
I am not sure why all of sudden, at this juncture, does Chris Hedges tak a sudden turn and writes this piece of sentimental pie in the sky fluff. Does he has an inkling, that pretty soon, the shit will hit the fan??!!

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By Marietjie Luyt, February 20, 2012 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment

Amor vincit omnia.

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By felicity, February 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment

As to those here who seem to take issue with the
‘notion’ of God, perhaps the via negativa, a
definition of God that was popular hundreds of years
ago among some great religious thinkers may be
believable.  It works for me.

God is not great, is not good, love, compassion, all-
knowing, creator…(it’s an open set) And what is
left?  God.

Love, like God, is a mystery.  Both should be looked
for, if you’re curious, either may be ‘found,’ or not
but the looking may be its own reward.

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By Linda G, February 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

very, very beautiful.  thank you Chris.

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By Ma Kettle, February 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you, Chris Hedges.  Here is another great mentor:

The Angel that presided o’er my birth
Said, ‘Little Creature, born of Joy and Mirth,
Go love without the help of anything on Earth.’

—William Blake

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By Arouete, February 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm Link to this comment

Lovely sentiment but I am always a bit circumspect about those who claim to know “why we have been created.”

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By Jake, February 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Another disgusting preaching session from Hedges about how we should accept on faith that loving one’s enemies is somehow the apex/ideal of human development. This material will be great for people to rely on while they are tyrannized and oppressed by their political overlords, “just turn the other cheek,” “march respectfully.” Please, get your goddamn religion in check, along with it’s completely vapid moralist tone. Your conception of religion, whether it is from Gandhi, MLK, or Christ has no place in politics as it is just a sham for your cowardice in the face of real and grinding oppression.

    No one in OWS, Syria, Burma, Iraq, Iran, or Saudi Arabia need hear any more of the Jesus-freak brainwashing that your new age opiates consist of. You need to wake the fuck up, get a brick, or a whip, and storm the temple, turning over tables of the money-changers, instead of cherry-picking religion to turn your followers into lambs even as the lions pounce.

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By Craig Jones, February 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

” ‘I’ is Illness, ‘We’ is Wellness”—Michael Pritchard.

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By Ed Lytwak, February 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment

CH should have clarified, it is about loving other living beings whether that be humans, animals or Mother Earth.  Loving only money or power is what we call nihilism.

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By Rosalie, February 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm Link to this comment

My Dad learned from his alcoloholic anonymous group , “no one is loved by everyone ”  but I acknowledge that Erich Fromm and Victor Frankl had a more nuanced understanding of certain situations.  How human love or God survives in war or in an environment of political ill will defines our humane virtue.

I feel that your phrase pseudo- love is very precise and right, Chris.

In convent schols we were taught that God knows and loves the most imperfect of creatures .  In the real world , though, we are allowed to exercise free will when it comes to unsupportable premises that are forced upon us. For example , unrequited personal love that can be given a social imprimatur with the nice aura of political inanity that some   Obsesive Compulsive Disorder apparently requires.
  A doctor has the duty in this country to medically attend a man woman or child in need of immediate medical care , no matter what his or her insurance card, no matter what the patient’s presumed allegiances are. 
  There’s no peculiar Wizard of Oz   exclusivity clause that I can remember hearing about   when it comes to giving out medical qualifications . “He seems so nice, we’ll call him a medical school diplomate anyhow   ”  A medical board asks the qualified medical student to have further training under the auspices of trained physicians.   

Even Sigmund Freud knew how the gods of medical reasoning could be fickle .  His otherwise brilliant psychological insights were shattered by his fears of losing his self esteem .  By losing his theoretical battles he constricted his compatible social circle.

A so called physician ,  which Freud was, is training his acolytes for his particular constricted mind set , is asking that a failed controlled experiment to be renewed . 

Rank hypocrisy as far as I can remember is not worded as acceptable in the Hippocratic oath .  Forced nicety or forced affection is the worst aspects of unrequited love when it becomes obsessive .  Stalking doesn’t become anyone .   

Medicine requires the religious term agape, which a qualified physician has to get involved with a medical emergency if he is present.  To say that a white lie is not illegal,  as one of today’s opinion pages about qualifications would have it , is frankly laughable .  Agape is a real practical love,  an intellectual and emotional respect for our mutual dislikes . 

  Physicians , agnostics and believers and atheists,  all have respect for a individuals body’s personal space and personal dignity .  “We shouldn’t have to live in each other’s pockets ” not exactly an anti- intellectual ,  my embittered Dad reproached himself for misusing his powerful addictions thoughtlessly and at times lovelessly .  Imperfections intact , we muddle through the beginning decades of the 21st century but no one should have to replace honest achievements with hair shirts ’ penitential hypocrisy .

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By Rosalie, February 20, 2012 at 11:59 am Link to this comment

My Dad learned from his alcoloholic anonymous group , “no one is loved by everyone ”  but I acknowledge that Erich Fromm and Victor Frankl had a more nuanced understanding of certain situations.  How human love or God survives in war or in an environment of political ill will defines our humane virtue.

I feel that your phrase pseudo- love is very precise and right, Chris.

In convent schools we were taught that God knows and loves the most imperfect of creatures .  In the real world , though, we are allowed to exercise free will when it comes to unsupportable premises that are forced upon us. For example , women and men are allowed to reject unrequited personal romantic love.  Soap opera love   can be given a social imprimatur with the nice aura of political inanity that some   Obsesive Compulsive Disorder apparently requires.
  A doctor has the duty in this country to medically attend a man woman or child in need of immediate medical care , no matter what his or her insurance card, no matter what the patient’s presumed allegiances are. 
  There’s no peculiar Wizard of Oz   exclusivity clause that I can remember hearing about when it comes to giving out medical qualifications . “He seems so nice, we’ll call him a medical school diplomate anyhow   ”  is more like a child’s concept of what college should be like.  A medical board asks the qualified medical student to have further training under the auspices of trained physicians.   

Even Sigmund Freud knew how the gods of medical reasoning could be fickle .  His otherwise brilliant psychological insights were shattered by his fears of losing his self esteem .  By losing his theoretical battles he constricted his compatible social circle.

A so called physician ,  which Freud was, is training his acolytes for his particular constricted mind set , is asking that a failed controlled experiment to be renewed . 

Rank hypocrisy as far as I can remember is not worded as acceptable in the Hippocratic oath .  Forced nicety or forced affection is the worst aspects of unrequited love when it becomes obsessive .  Stalking doesn’t become anyone .   

Medicine requires the religious term agape, which a qualified physician has to get involved with a medical emergency if he is present.  To say that a white lie is not illegal,  as one of today’s opinion pages about qualifications would have it , is frankly laughable .  Agape is a real practical love,  an intellectual and emotional respect for our mutual dislikes . 

  Physicians , agnostics and believers and atheists,  all have respect for a individuals body’s personal space and personal dignity .  “We shouldn’t have to live in each other’s pockets ” not exactly an anti- intellectual ,  my embittered Dad reproached himself for misusing his powerful addictions thoughtlessly and at times lovelessly .  Imperfections intact , we muddle through the beginning decades of the 21st century but no one should have to replace honest achievements with hair shirts ’ penitential hypocrisy .

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By allen, February 20, 2012 at 11:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wishingforsanity writes:

“...I will never buy into the “god concept” as the only grounding force for the human
capacity to love each other.”

A recently departed fellow doubter—atheist, if you like—made a similar comment with respect to the source of our sense of morality, compassion, and love for our fellow human beings.

He said that the idea that humans need—or would need—a God or written instruction(s) on how to treat one another was wrong.  Rather, he said, we see evidence all around that the understanding of what love is and what our fellow travelers deserve and should expect of us is ingrained in each individual.

While there is certainly evil in the world, manifest in the barbarous treatment of one human or group of humans by other humans, this does not imply that such individuals necessarily need instruction from some external source to know that what they are doing is wrong; nor does it imply that they don’t know what “right” behavior should be.

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By BrilliantBill, February 20, 2012 at 11:29 am Link to this comment

Reminds me of what I once wrote of Ammon Hennacy:

Opposed World War I and was imprisoned in 1917 for refusal to register for the military draft. Spent two years at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, nine months of it in cruel solitary confinement reading only the Christian Bible. This formed the Christian pacifism that became the foundation of his life. He said the day he finally learned to love the warden was the day he finally understood what the Sermon on the Mount really meant. “To change the world by bullets or ballots was a useless procedure. The only revolution worthwhile was the one-man revolution within the heart.”

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By rumblingspire, February 20, 2012 at 11:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Love - Orange Skies
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZAPpMuENqE

“orange skies, carnivals and cotton candy.  and you.”

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By Wishingforsanity, February 20, 2012 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

Absolutely an Atheist myself. I was, as I read your essay, Mr. Hedge’s continually pushed
and pulled by your offerings of God is love and/or humanity and human connection is
love.  I will never buy into the “god concept” as the only grounding force for the human
capacity to love each other.  There is no great spiritual white/black/brown MAN in the sky
protecting and guiding us through compassion and love. Instead, if one looks at the truly
committed religious (and you don’t have to look very far, we are being bombarded daily
with these fanatical ideologues from every corner of the earth including right here in the
“one nation under God” U S of A by) to witness the Thanatos-centric hating killing
machine in action.

As Woody Allen said so brilliantly, “If there is a god the most I can say about him is he is
an underachiever.” I would go further and say if there is a god he is the original HATER
and the original WAR CRIMINAL.

This silly, childish, insipid, backwards notion that some magical fairy lives in the clouds
and created us therefore we owe our complete and utter fealty is what has continued to
stoke the war machine, the disenfranchisement of anyone who thinks or looks different,
the fear of those on the fringes of society, who continues to give the priviledged few the
ability to literally own and enslave the rest with no conscious compunction whatsoever.
Kill in the name of god. Hate in the name of god. Spread disease purposefully in the name
of god. Separate and segregate in the name of god. Decide for all women everywhere
what and whom can go in or come out of their vaginas in the name of god. Be a happy go
lucky bigot in the name of god. Watch despair and spread ignorance in the name of god.

This essay was unworthy of your intellect, Mr. Hedges.

Love is. Compassion is. Humanity is. Why does it have to be anymore complicated than
that? 

Can we not all just grow up?

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By TAGGLINE, February 20, 2012 at 11:05 am Link to this comment

To: Diman. The use of ‘supreme being’, at least in my
limited lexicon, means a great many things to a great
many people. To some, anthropomorphism is a vehicle
that must exist in order to facilitate at least a
cursory understanding of forces greater than
ourselves.

The Dalai Lama as a multi-culturally respected world
leader in the realm of ‘inner contemplation’ states
that whatever your ‘religion’, ‘faith’, following’
may be…within your personal comfort zone..should,
at the helm, have love and compassion as its (their)
compass. One need not ex-communicate oneself with
their own path toward enlightenment (read: love), and
pursue Buddhism, for example…but work within the
context of what LOVE and compassion really are. The
teachings of Jesus Christ (whether one subscribes to
the ‘Christian’ ways of thought or not) are at their
core, very similar to that of every pursuit of
‘faith’ or spiritual journey across humankind. Love
is at the core of it all…

Joseph Campbell reminds us about metaphors…now that
we, as a relatively evolved species, can understand
abstract and complex thought, when he states that
“God is a Metaphor for the Mystery that transcends
all human forms of language and classification…”

“God is a thought, God is an idea, but, its reference
is to something that transcends all thinking.”

To quote Campbell in his interview(s) with Bill
Moyers, ” The great horror today, is what you see in
Beirut”...(and…and…and…)...
“where you have the three great Western Religions,
Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and because the
three of them have different names for the same
biblical god, they can’t get on together. They’re
stuck with their metaphor, and don’t realize its
reference.”

THAT, in and of itself is the foolish, man-made, line
in the sand. WE try and corporialize that which is
transcendant…simply to get our pea-brained selves
some ‘thing/one’ to whom, of whom, because of whom
‘we…are’. There is no Being, per se…but, there is
the state of being. However…the concept of God, in
Campbell’s thesis…is beyond humankind’s ability to
classify ‘it’...even in the states of ‘being or non-
being, which in and of themselves are
classifications…it’s as simple as that.”

The manifestation of ALL of the teachings of every religion/faith/spirit-quest…is love, plain and simple. Love is the ONLY thing that lasts, forever.

Hedges knows this..has seen it happen over and over…and, that capacity is innate within us…all.

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By gerard, February 20, 2012 at 10:53 am Link to this comment

Chris, thanks for trying!

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By Jeff N., February 20, 2012 at 10:47 am Link to this comment

David, voting for the R and D as you mention does not make the people less humane and more bestial, it just illustrates the obvious fact about our political system.. that those in power do not represent the positions of the everyday citizen.  People coming together for a common cause such as OWS, civil rights, fair labor laws, etc., is a great thing.  I think you have to judge the intentions here, not necessarily the results.

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By Galen Flynn, February 20, 2012 at 10:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m a big fan of Chris Hedges, but wow, fluff piece. So tired of seeing the word God become ever more malleable in order to find some small corner of our experience in which its a reality.

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