Human nature is a mix of light and dark. Our capacity for compassion bumps up against a callousness of spirit, generosity competes with stinginess, and an urge toward harmony can succumb to an appetite for discord.
Yet, are light and darkness given us in equal measure? Do we stand in the center of these poles, being called with the same intensity by each? A cursory look at human history could certainly lead to such a conclusion. In fact, some contend that our baser inclinations are stronger. But when we look more deeply, another conclusion emerges. Love’s voice is the more authentic, and its primacy is woven throughout our being.
The clearest evidence for this view lies in our biology. Numerous studies confirm a plethora of positive effects that arise when we allow ourselves to be guided by the better angels of our nature. An attitude of kindness, for example, strengthens the immune system and increases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, associated with feelings of well~being. The same benefits are also experienced by recipients of kindness.
What’s even more exciting, though, is that the boon extends as well to those who observe kind acts. A Harvard study, for example, found that merely watching a video displaying acts of kindness led to a marked increase in salivary immunoglobulin, an important component of the immune system. Other proven physical benefits of kindness include lowered blood pressure, decrease in stress hormones, improved sleep, chronic pain relief, and increased muscle strength.
But the gain is not, of course, only physical. We each know from personal experience that attitudes of love, harmony, forgiveness, and belonging simply feel better. An evolutionary biologist would say this is because these qualities ensure the continuation of the species. While not disagreeing with that view, others would suggest that living in love is in keeping with our essential nature and is, therefore, necessary for optimal human functioning.
But how DO we live in love within a world that ever offers opportunities for strife? Though spiritual traditions offer guidance, there are no easy answers. We are conscious human beings, growing in our ability to use our free will wisely. We must take the raw material life offers and choose, moment to moment, our response.
We are biologically healthier when we choose love. We feel happier when we choose love. Our thoughts flow more creatively when we choose love. And when we choose love, our spirits align with the teachings of every faith tradition on the planet.
We may, indeed, stand between poles of light and dark. Yet, perhaps what calls us lies beyond these simple divisions which, as human concepts, are assuredly limited. Perhaps it is a love beyond all understanding that calls us.
May we open our hearts to that love. And may love be our gift in return, this day and every day. Amen.
Love, love, and more love!