The power and need of brotherly love.
Over the last two weeks I’ve had three speaking events, a high-stakes presentation to client and a TV news interview. Upon reflection, it strikes me that the act of putting oneself out there and up on stage, creates a paradox of separation and intimacy. At once, we stand, deliver and speak from the heart from some podium or stage and share something significant of ourselves. It’s an act of service. And when doing so, we are creating a connection and a bond through the intimacy of the moment. We are literally giving of ourselves in these moments.
I’ve heard many public speakers say that when they are talking they are simultaneously giving their talk on a topic that comes from the heart and leaning into their intuitive self to read and feel the room for what they, the collective, is calling for. I imagine this like an energetic wave, going back and forth to and from all side of the room that feeds both the giver and the receiver.
To feel the intimacy among our fellow human beings is one of the great treasures and basic callings in our lives. Feeling the love of people whom we love fuels our lives. Abraham Maslow places belonging as a near-primal and essential human psychological need.
However, as the poet Pablo Neruda puts it “To feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses — that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.”
David Whyte beautifully echoes this essential idea in the following expert from his poem Refuge:
“Then in Galicia, it was a breath of warmth
from a kitchen door, palatial with light
and a daughter’s smile, the family behind,
asking you in, as if to say, of all shelter,
traveler, you’ll ever find on the road,
even with those you know,
the stranger’s love is best of all.”
This “stranger’s love” doesn’t tend to frequently appear while watching TV news (which I don’t recommend if you want to stay sane), reading a Facebook or Twitter string or the headlines in nearly any news media publication. But if you look closely, all of humanity is somehow, mysteriously or otherwise, deeply connected. We are tethered together by our common oneness. A connection that has been there since the beginning of time and will persist, regardless of our actions and differences, until the end of time.
The Greeks called this form of love, philia. It is the bond of love of human brotherhood. Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, is named from it and word philanthropy means love of humanity. To lean into this love and the power that it holds is to lean into one of the greatest strengths of humanity.
In this day and age of heightening racial issues, electoral sides being drawn and nastily fought for, global environmental urgency, and religious finger pointing divides taking place, I feel like we could, as a planet and a species, use a heavy dose of philia. Of course, these issues are real issues and need discussion and open discourse. But in the doing so, let’s not forget the basic truth that we’re all in this together. Our planet and our people is not an us against them, and issues will never be solved from this approach.
I want more philia in my life and my world. I challenge and invite each of us, when emotions are high, when we’re called to lash out and draw sides, to remember the primal, essential connection between us all; to remember to love.