[Editor’s note: Every Wednesday, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
I dig your music and what you stand for, but I’m kind of getting sick of all the hippy-dippy love stuff lately. Please don’t take this the wrong way, I just think your whole message has kinda gotten corny. Maybe I’m out of line, but I don’t see how all this cheesy lovey-dovey stuff makes sense in the real world. You’re naive. Sometimes love just doesn’t work. Sometimes people need to experience a bunch of bad shit in order to wake them up and see the truth. You have to admit that sometimes violence is the only way to make real change and get people’s attention. Love isn’t always the answer, man.
Sorry for the harsh newsflash. But hopefully this helps you.
Dear No Peace,
Deep lasting internal change occurs when a spark is lit through a display of humanity — when someone who you expected to hit you hugs you instead — that causes real growth — that instills the realization that we really can love one another, despite our justified anger. No matter how tired we are, no matter how many reasons we have to hate and harm each other, we can still choose love. But we often don’t. Why?
Why are we so quick to doubt love? Why are so many of us calling love unrealistic, not powerful enough, lame and even “corny”? Why do we work so hard to talk ourselves out of being loving people and instead list endless reasons why love just won’t work?
We say we want progress and victory, but what sort of “progress” makes us question our ability to treat each other with kindness? What sort of victory divides us from our own hearts and belief in harmony? What form of intelligence makes us scoff at our otherwise highest potential mode of behavior? When love makes us feel awkward, what does that tell us about ourselves?
Where does all the awkwardness about love come from? Maybe it’s our frustration that something so incredibly simple as love could be so powerful. Maybe it’s our resentment that something we didn’t invent ourselves could be the answer to our most serious problems?
These are questions each of us must ask ourselves in quiet moments of honesty. And before we list all the “because” reasons, we should remind ourselves of what we ultimately want. If we ultimately want love, we can’t just scoff at the possibility that love is the answer to getting it.
When we think about the growth of an individual, we start with the newborn child, who expresses and desires nothing beyond the most pure love and gentleness. When a baby reaches out for the embrace of its mother and father, all it wants is love and to give love in return.
As this baby turns into an adolescent, it might begin to question the idea of love and doubt that it really needs love. Perhaps someone close to this young person has given him or her reason to grow distrustful of love. The adolescent begins to weigh the usefulness of love against other “strategies” and sees love as an “emotion” or a “mood,” rather than as a universal truth at the heart of all life.
As the adolescent grows into an adult, this person may continue to lose further touch with love and seek only to use the emotional version of love as a tool for personal gain. Or perhaps this person has reached such disillusionment regarding love’s validity that he or she no longer believes in its very existence. For someone in this situation, love has faded into a fairy tale, and is not something that lives and works in the real world. Sometimes this means the end of love in this person’s life forever.
But sometimes something remarkable happens to the adult as he or she enters old age. There’s an awakening — a release of pressure — an incredible clarity that offers a greater perspective on what truly matters in life — and our elders, through their lifetime of experience and accumulated wisdom, often return to a full and complete belief in pure and total love. Just like the baby emerges from the mysterious source of life at birth, as we re-approach the abyss of creation in death, we’re reminded of what was true all along — that love is everything. Love is humanity. Love is truth. Love is life.
It would be wonderful if each of us wasn’t forced to go through such a long and arduous lifelong journey in order to rediscover and stay close to love. There must be a way to continue to believe in love, even in our most desperate moments of doubt and anger.
When our anger is inflamed, our immediate emotions tell us that we must lash out — that love is stupid and beneath us — that we must take extreme action — that we must do something big. It seems like love is too small and soft and meek to accomplish anything tangible — love seems like a cop-out. But love is the greatest and biggest action of them all. Love is above the intellect and superior to all other emotions and outpourings and efforts. It’s not an emotion at all — it is the supreme truth at the core of all existence. Love is the thought above all thoughts and the height of this thing called humanity.
You don’t have to agree with someone in order to love them. You don’t have to like someone in order to love them. Love is above opinions, feelings, and beliefs. Whatever actions we take, and whatever means we use to achieve our collective goals, must use love as our guiding principle, or else we simply continue the very things we’re fighting against.
If there are people that wish to oppress us, they want nothing more than to distance us from that all-encompassing feeling of love. If there are powers that be trying to control us and hold us down, they want nothing more than to see us fight — to divide us — and to have us believe that we have incredibly good reasons to hurt each other. They don’t want us to believe in love. They want us to think love is impossible, unrealistic, and “not the way the real world works.” Nothing would defeat our oppressors more thoroughly than all people living as one united force of true love, understanding, kindness, and togetherness.
Whichever way we choose to reach that end result of love, and however we each interpret and use love, one thing is certain: There is no greater promise for the survival of humankind than our own inborn ability to feel love for one another. The moment this type of unconditional and brotherly love is declared “naive,” or gets lost in the midst of our lesser emotions, is the moment we lose our humanity and evil triumphs over good.
We must hold on to love even in our most extreme moments of anger, frustration, and darkness. We must help each other to choose love and keep on choosing it, over and over and over again…
Especially when we have every reason not to.
More:Ask Andrew W.K.