Live and let love

My 92-year-old father-in-law Michael had a bad fall last week. He is a fiercely independent English gentleman made of tough stuff from another era. A lot went into making him tough.

He lost his father at fourteen years old and had to step into his shoes and look after his mother and younger siblings, a brother and twin sisters. His dad died young in large part due to the time he suffered as a prisoner of war in a camp hospital at Istanbul, where he was left unfed and, as a tall man, reduced to 35kgs in weight. By a stroke of luck, he was found among the dead on the day of the camp’s liberation, drawing attention to himself by moving his hand. Afterwards the doctors advised him that he could not survive a serious illness as a result of this trauma. And so, he readied Michael from an early age for the eventuality of his own short life and the obligations that would fall on his son’s young shoulders.

Michael was toughened in other ways too. He suffered TB in his school years and lived through the Blitz, war rationing and other privations common in England at the time.

Despite his medical history he determinedly talked his way into the army and become an officer. The army suited him and a lifelong career in the service seemed certain when he was offered the post of aide-de-camp to a general – just at a time when family circumstances forced him to change direction and take a job as a clerk with a brokerage firm in the city of London at the age of 24. He would go on to marry, raise a family of three children and become a successful partner in his firm, with bowler hat, briefcase and brolly in hand and a daily commute to the city, where business was conducted on a handshake and your word and wits were your most important assets. He built his life on his principles, values and his Christian faith giving him a strong sense of duty to family, community and country.

My wife Lalita and I paid him a visit a couple of days ago, walking into his sitting room as the end of the TV news programme he had been watching. After exchanging pleasantries and asking how he felt, we ended up talking about his life, the truth and his concern about the future.

“The world is getting worse, and more complicated,” he pronounced.

“But it’s always been like this, has it not? Different problems, different players—same shenanigans?” I replied.

“It’s true that the world, like me, has seen its share of troubles. C’est la vie, as they say, ‘that’s life.’ Times change, people change, things move on. I’ve seen plenty of that. But things seem stranger now… I think…”

I wondered to myself if this was the inflexible fixed-in-his-ways aspect of his age talking.

“And it’s not my age, if that is what you are thinking.”

‘Busted,’ I thought.

“It’s not a nice place. That’s all. And I am worried about my grandchildren. I want them to be OK.”

“There is a lot that needs to be done to make that happen,” I said. “Where do we start? What comes first?”

“Climate change,” Lalita offered.

“I thought you were going to say sort out Brexit!” I joked. “What do you think Michael? What needs to happen?”

“I don’t have the answers to such problems. It’s all too complicated. But I do know something that would help.”

“Go on.”

“The world needs love. In the end, it always comes back to love. We see it in history, I’ve seen it in my life. Man’s search for love and his perennial inability to find it, not so much in others as much in himself.”

“My dad is sounding more and more like you,” Lalita ventured.

“I’m not sure about that,” I parried.  

Lalita then told her dad about my own experience forty years ago.

My guru had recently passed away and I had left his ashram-monastery. I was sitting in my kitchen in upper Manhattan, confused and wrestling with my emotions and a few of life’s big questions. At least they felt big to me at the time. In retrospect I think I was just trying to make sense of my life. My monastic studies taught me to ask questions and probe deeply. I asked myself what might guide me in my new life and remembered a favourite saying of my guru, “God is love and love is God.” A simple thought then came to me: “be the love you want to see in the world.” And that has guided me ever since.

Michael sat and listened to the story and said,

“We do agree then. Love is the answer. It’s the only sane response to life in this world. The more we love, the more love we have.”

“When we choose for love, we find that we are always ‘in love’. Kindness, compassion and empathy is the grammar of a universal language that everyone understands.”

“In my long life I’ve found that kindness and care is attractive to anyone. There is nothing strange about love and kindness. I told you I had only simple answers.”

—Michael

 

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    proFouNd Michael ⭐️I have just returned from a Joe Dispenza meditation week where 1000 of us opened our hearts to LoVe – it’s probably the most powerful and explicable force we possess. You are So right – it is our FuTuRe ❤️

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