Where All Roads Lead to Greater Love

We know all too well from reading the daily headlines that there’s plenty of negative news to go around. There are six or so current wars, there have been around 700 mass shootings in the United States this year alone, and there is an alarming grassroots movement to topple democracy as we know it in this country in favor of autocratic rule. These are just the tips of the iceberg.

But a recent period in the United States was also beset by a bloody, prolonged war; mass civil unrest; and horrific political assassinations: the 1960s. However, unlike our present times, the spirit of the Sixties held out the promise of three things that are conspicuously absent from today: universal love, hope in a better future for all, and idealism that sought a peaceful, even utopian world.

In December, we celebrate two religious observances that are grounded in hope: the Jewish Festival of Lights, known as Hanukkah, which celebrates a miraculous occurrence; and the Christian birth of Jesus, which similarly celebrates a miraculous occurrence, and which also has brought hope to millions of people for two millennia. Thankfully, we hear of universal love and the ideal of peace for all humankind being preached in various religions. Yet, much of institutional religion has lost its unifying influence, and people argue over petty denominational differences. And, all too frequently, and most sadly, we witness religious wars, where many are killed in the name of God, which is utterly reprehensible.

Moreover, the current social climate is more divisive and splintered than ever. There is no single guiding principle that can unify the many wrangling, fractious social groups, often composed of self-serving special interests. Where can love and peace be found amid these quarreling factions?

Stepping back from all this, I recall several songs from the 1960’s that actually contained the words “Love one another” – “Get Together,” “People Got to Be Free,” “Pete’s Song,” “Sweet Cherry Wine.” (“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” comes very close.) You can google these songs to identify the musical groups and lyrics if needed to jog your memory. There are also Jackie DeShannon’s two anthems: “What the World Needs Now is Love” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” And of course the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.” Love, peace, hope, and similar idealistic principles were a staple of the radio airwaves back then, extending into the early ’70s. Where can similar idealistic-based popular songs be heard nowadays?

Reminiscing like this isn’t just some schmaltzy, hippie-dippy, bead-wearing, flowers-in-your-hair, retro-throwback to the Summer of Love, or a wistful wish to live in Pleasantville. Rather, I’m noting a marked contrast between the undercurrent of universal love, hope, peace, and idealism that fueled much of the Sixties, and that of today’s world in which such ideals are sorely lacking.

Some may argue that the free-spirited approach of the Sixties is responsible for many of today’s woes, but an argument could be made against this as well, as there were violent oppositions back then as well as now. Such upheavals always seem to occur whenever oppressed groups struggle for greater rights or, mindbogglingly, when people protest for a peaceful world. (Or, as in the case of India’s independence, when peaceful people struggle for their right to freedom.) I’m simply pointing out that we need bridge-building and unifying principles to forge a society of trust, mutual respect, and hospitable relationships. “Love one another.” Or, at least act with civility toward one another by practicing the Golden Rule.

The roads in our society now diverge in all directions that are strewn with an abundance of hateful signage. But a roundabout can be constructed that unites them all. This roundabout must be paved with goodwill, compassion, and tolerance. When this occurs, we will travel down a convergent highway where all roads lead to greater love.

2 thoughts on “Where All Roads Lead to Greater Love”

  1. That was moment (the 60s – early 70s) that held so much potential for human growth… it is both sad and inspiring to look back on what we tried to accomplish then.

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