Love is Our Mother | July 17, 2022 by Rev. Dr. Kathryn Benton
The opening music is a song my mother sang with her best friend in harmony, at times when we were together. We were very close to this family calling each other aunt and uncle, though we were not biologically related. My mother and Aunt Carol singing this song is etched upon my memory, as is the genuine delight my father took in hearing it. Like no other song, this song reminds me, not only of my mother, but of the nature of the universe…as a universe that birthed our solar system, our planet earth and each one of earth’s creatures. This birth was and is the birth of love…of awe…of wonder…of mystery. It is a song that represents connection and love…the ability to treasure one another.
In his book, The Universe is a Green Dragon, cosmologist Brian Swimme wrote:
In order to approach love, we must start with our common context, the emerging universe in which we find ourselves. This realm of existence is our ultimate home…Love begins as allurement – as attraction.
Swimme goes on to say that this love…this allurement is a basic law of creation. Without it the solar system would fall apart…our home would collapse. This translates, he says, to the human experience in our connections with each other. He continues:
By pursuing your allurements, you help bind the universe together.
The unity of the world rests on the pursuit of passion.
The pursuit of our passion…we can see this as our romantic love attachments, but also as our love of family, of friends, of pets, of gardens, our art, our activism, our pursuit of peace and justice in this fragmented time. In responding to our attractions…our passions…in participating in a connection to those around us, we are helping to bind the universe together!
Well, at this time of separation…of contradiction and dichotomy, but also of violence…of hatred…of alienation, I can think of nothing more important that binding the universe together…of loving each other into being. Rumi wrote:
Love is our mother and the way of our Prophet.
Yet, it is in our nature to fight with Love.
We can’t see you, mother,
hidden behind dark veils woven by ourselves.
It is this reality, I think, that we are seeing today…a fight with Love…a misunderstanding of what this Love is…and a turning away of our attention to an alternative universe…one that only exists in our minds…not in our bodies…not our earthly existence. We have hidden our mother…our passion…our love behind a dark veil that we have woven ourselves.
I saw an example of this recently during the time of my mother’s passing in Massachusetts. After my mother took her last breaths, my brother texted his daughter who lives a short distance away. She had been very close to my mother all her life. My mother even cared for her as an infant, as she was the first grandchild. My niece’s response to hearing of her grandmother’s passing was, “OK, thanks for letting me know.” She did not reach out to her father on the telephone…she did not come to the house to be present during this sacred transition. I found this odd, given her closeness to my mother, but decided that she might come later. I also thought that she might have been unable to take it in right away. It reminded me of a song my father played when I was growing up, You Always Hurt the One You Love by the Mills Brothers. There was evidence of this truth all around me…evidence that we do fight with Love.
I had further evidence of this truth later that day when my brother had a look at Facebook. He saw there that his daughter had posted an outpouring of feelings about the death of her grandmother, sharing memories and expressing grief. We did not see her until the calling hours several days later, and then there was also no expression of sadness, of grief…no acknowledgement of the pain that her father, aunt and uncle may have been feeling. Now, I don’t want to point fingers. This is not about criticizing my niece. It is illustrative, I think, of the veil…the protection that so many in the Western world have woven...with this veil possibly acting as a cocoon or armor. This armor can also include weapons and ideologies that serve to wall in our vulnerability…and our open expressions of love and care for those we encounter in life. I think I understand this…it is a reminder that we, as human beings are soft and sensitive, as well as strong and courageous…we are both…we are a contradiction…just like the reality of our political, social and spiritual lives.
It is at times like these when we would do well to be reminded of our strength…internal spiritual strength and the external strength of love…our friends, families, partners…our pets and perhaps our plants or gardens…those we have been entrusted to care for. When I was feeling vulnerable…soft and sensitive after the death of my mother, I was reminded, not only of her song, but of songs that my father loved as well. They were, in a sense, one person, they were so connected. One of the songs was Daddy’s Little Girl by the Mills Brothers, one of his favorite artists.
This song really hits me hard. It is a reminder of whose child I am. Not only am I my mother’s and father’s daughter but I am the child of love…of allurement…of passion…the passion of the stars and the creation of the universe. This was one of the messages I got growing up…the sure knowledge that I was special and I was loved…by my family but also by the all-pervading presence of the universe. This was the message of the music I heard. We are, in the words of Meister Eckhart “royal persons”. According to Howard Thurman, “A crown is placed over our heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to grow tall enough to wear.” We are constantly striving, it seems, to reach this level of greatness…the greatness expected by our parents and by the Great Spirit of life…our creator. It is our reaching for the stars…the same stars that we are now gaining a scientific understanding about, but also the same stars that can take our breath away that my parents were trying to point to. This is the reality that is beyond. The reality that has traditionally been called “Our Father” or “The Holy Mother”…”the great spirit”…”the absolute”.
One of my teachers, Neil Douglas-Klotz wrote in his translation of the Lord’s Prayer from the Aramaic various possible translations of the words Our father which art in heaven:
O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
you create all that moves in light.
O Thou! The Breathing Life of all,
Creator of the Shimmering Sound that touches us.
Respiration of all worlds,
we hear you breathing – in and out- in silence.
Source of Sound: in the roar and the whisper,
in the breeze and the whirlwind, we hear your Name.
Radiant One: You shine within us,
outside us – even darkness shines – when we remember.
Name of names, our small identity
unravels in you, you give it back as a lesson.
Wordless Action, Silent Potency –
where ears and eyes awaken, there heaven comes.
O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos!
These translations remind us that there is more to life than meets the eye…there is much more going on when we experience Love…connection…relationship with others…there is mystery…there is still a reason to ask why? And when we are able to voice this question…when we are able to show our vulnerability as human beings, in the context of love…of the pursuit of our allurements…our passions…it is then that we can start to “bind the universe together”…it is then that we are able to form what Howard Thurman called “contacts with fellowship”. Thurman said that when these warm and loving relationships are built…true, authentic relationships, we are able to combat the distance and ultimately the hatred that we see today. Thurman wrote:
…it is clear that much of modern life is so impersonal that there is always opportunity for the seeds of hatred to grow unmolested. Where there are contacts devoid of genuine fellowship, such contacts stand in immediate candidacy for hatred.
He also pointed out:
Of course, it must be borne in mind that there can be an abundance of sentimentality masquerading under the cloak of fellowship. It is easy to have fellowship on your own terms and to repudiate it if your terms are not acceptable.
This is I think what is happening with social media…a distancing that comes from “virtual” contact. Although this has been necessary during the spread of COVID, It is my hope that a new reality will dawn. One that includes the dreams of my parents…the allurement of love that is large enough to include the Great Love of the Universe that birthed us. I leave you with the interpretation of this dream of love by the Mills Brothers.