The musical refrain “Come on people now, Smile on your brother, Everybody get together, Try to love one another right now.” Has been looping on my mental jukebox the past several mornings. The version of “Get Together” most of us remember was released by the Youngbloods. That version was a minor hit in 1967 and its re-release showed up as a top-ten hit two years later.
Basically, the song asks us to choose peace and brotherhood over war and hate:
“…If you hear the song I sing
you will understand…listen
You hold the key to love and fear
all in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
Its there at your command…”
–Chester Powers and Chester Powers, Junior
Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
The ideal of everyone loving everyone else in the world is an ages old concept. However, we realize that every person loving every person on Earth might not be a realistic goal. Such a social condition would be perfection, and nothing is perfect in the world nor the known Universe. Yet most of us think that to have everyone not hating each other and living together in harmony is a worthy state to aim for. Many of us rhetorically ask, “Why can’t we at least try to love one another?”
These days, we are inundated with divisive speech and writings. There seems to be an epidemic of polarization in the political and religious spheres. The struggle for dominance of ideological and belief opinions is ubiquitous. We are the only species that kills one another because of ideas we harbor in our heads.
The sticking points with people is that while we idealize the concept of loving one another, we fail miserably at it. Even the people we are closest to, don’t always get our love. There are gaps. Real love takes deliberate thought and effort, most love in the world is conditional.
There’s the cringe-worthy platitude, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Such a condescending recommendation does not engender universal, unconditional love because of its insinuation that some forms of love are invalid. On the one hand the speaker implies judgment and on the other hand the target picks up on the sanctimony of the proverb. Generally speaking, sanctimonious speech doesn’t foster harmonious relations among humans. The recommendation comes off as obligatory and not spontaneous.
There’s a common perception that loving everybody is some sort of steady state that humanity will arrive at. To achieve this state would require some sort of all-encompassing mental mechanism of mind-control. Such a thing is not presently possible and, in fact, seems like a monstrous idea. The truth is, that loving one or all people requires conscious, constant thought. To love one another, we have to mindfully decide each moment to love people who are lovable and people who are not lovable.
Too frequently, its our human nature that presents the main obstacle to honestly loving each other. We each have some sort of agenda to which we are intimately attached. We believe that others should change so they can be worthy of our love. Of course, this is a selfish attitude. Our pride and love of our opinions gets in the way of authentically loving others.
The truth of the matter is that nobody is under any obligation whatsoever to change who they are in order to please another person. Attempts to forcefully change others are generally counter-productive. Mandatory conformity will be met with strong resistance. In the same vein, mandatory universal, unconditional love will find itself tangled up in resistance.
All of that said does not mean I’m a pessimist about people loving each other. I see examples each day of people who choose to love everyone. There are people who truly do regard everybody on Earth as fully human. There are many individuals who, regardless of religious or ideological conditioning make the conscious choice of loving everything and everyone simply because they understand that is what the nature of love is.
Although many things and many people can be very disagreeable, compassionate love is limitless and without conditions. Love is something we actively choose. This is one reason we have songs that implore us to love one another right now.