Earlier yesterday I noticed a Facebook notification that a friend’s birthday had arrived. Along with that notification I noticed it was my mother’s sister’s birthday as well. I clicked on the notification where it allowed me to wish my aunt a happy birthday and typed, “Happy Birthday! I love you!” before clicking on the same place in the friend’s notification to wish him a happy birthday, too.
Then something happened that I didn’t realize until hours later when that friend “liked” my birthday wish to him. I am still not sure if it’s because Facebook auto-populated my greeting to him or if it’s because I was still half asleep when doing both greetings, but my greeting to this friend ended up identical to that of my aunt’s, “Happy Birthday! I love you!”
Almost instantly I could feel my face flush with redness. How could I have made such a goof!?!? This friend isn’t even someone I am close to. I haven’t seen him in person in most of a decade and when I did last see him we weren’t really more than friendly coworkers. Had there been chance for more to develop it would have flopped with 110% certainty: He’s a smoker. He’s a recreational drug user. He’s not taken care of himself AT ALL. And he has some other health concerns I’ll not mention here exactly. In so many ways he is someone who could never be a spouse to me, or even much of a good friend really and he’s someone I NEVER see or hang out with… And yet there I was saying, “I love you!” to him. Ridiculous.
Ridiculous? Why? I spent about 10 minutes in intense debate with myself: How did I let that slip? Should I edit my post to his page to remove the last three words? Is he laughing at me? Would others see this and wonder?
I remember when, once upon a time, I listened to “regular” radio in my car instead of satellite radio and usually had it tuned to a specific local station where the main host is a guy named “Dave Smiley.” The Smiley Morning Show had no shortage of antics and many were amusing. I recall that whenever they took a call from listeners, which could be hilarious or quite serious, Dave would always close the call by saying, “Ok. Thanks for the call. I love you.” He didn’t do it as a joke or facetiously or anything. He didn’t make a big deal out of it, but just said it. A time or two I recall some of the cohosts expressing how they are uncomfortable saying that to just anyone. And I recall thinking how mean that they wouldn’t want everyone they encounter to feel loved by at least one person. And yet there I was practically embarrassed that I “accidentally” said it to someone AND was concerned what they and others might think.
How ridiculous! Saying, “I love you” a hundred times a day to perfect strangers doesn’t make it meaningless or cheapened. Your actions surrounding those words are what do that. And I’m increasingly convinced, in today’s world, that those who reserve this phrase for a guarded and select few are as exclusive as the most hateful Abrahamic extremists because that reservation is a form of personal withdrawal that only serves to create more division between a group called, “Those I Love” and another one called, “Those I Do Not Love.” Whenever people have thought they knew the mind of God so well as to discern which other people would fall into one group or the other, then we’ve seen the foulest hatred and murder. This is not to say that if you don’t “love” someone then you automatically “hate” them. But please think about what it actually means to have those two groups in your life.
I’d like to say that my face went red because subconsciously I was ashamed of having divided my world into those I love and those I do not. That would be giving myself far too much credit, though. My face went red not only because I do have those two groups within my personal existence, but also because I was shamefully ignorant of this and what it actually means or implies.
Dear reader, regardless of your personal background – whether, your guidance tells you to “love your neighbor as your self” or to experience the same Atman within every living thing, or whatever – do try to love all, and do not, like me, be caught embarrassed by it.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha