First love is akin is exploring a new galaxy—everything is new and wild and exciting and colorful and expansive.
Now, I’m 43, and that sort of love—any romantic love, really—feels far away. We all go through these cycles, of course—but as we grow older, whether single or married or parents or what—we enter new galaxies of a different sort. We get to know our inner selves, and, if we’re lucky enough to be in a meaningful relationship, we can explore our partner’s fundamental goodness and character and neuroses.
This, in Buddhism, is what Chogyam Trungpa called the partner’s role as “messenger for the phenomenal world.” Because our partner trusts us, and we love them, and we have time together—we alone are in a position to stick with it, and get to know our partner fully, and help them grow up, and tell them what the world might have to say about how they’re showing up, and do so with love.
So whether you’re in a romantic relationship, or not, any time you show up as a true honest friend—honest, but loving—well, that is the deepest manifestation of love. A kind of love that can help societies heal, from the inside out. A kind of love that can help even 43-year-old bachelors grow up, from the inside out.
And it’s that kind of love, believe it or not, that is manifest in our work lives, too. Whether we’re a handyman, artist, teacher, or a journalist—communicating honestly, with love, is our highest duty.
Too often, in our society, criticism is not welcome. Communities clam up in self-protection, like those Roman shield-bearing troops, or a tortoise, or the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand (do they really do that?).
But, on the other end, merely being positive or optimistic isn’t enough, either. We have to combine honesty and love in our communication. Just the first can be too sharp, and mean. Just the second can be dishonest, and not helpful.
We practice this in Elephant Academy—communicating sharply, but gently. Joining our work with a higher purpose—to be of benefit. Find a way to connect our dreams with paying the bills. And doing so honestly, and with love.