Resurrection Sunday: On Tolstoy’s Law of Love and Violence

When I was young, we dipped and colored Easter eggs. I remember how my mother dropped the tiny tablets into plastic cups turning the clear water into yellow, green, red, blue. There were stickers, too. I remember years later preparing the same cups for my son and daughter and I remember my aunt who is now dead, hiding plastic eggs with money inside them around her house and getting animated as we searched. She was a ham and we loved her for it. After she died, the tradition passed on, like a form of resurrection—life after death. We tend to revive things that give meaning.

This year, I’m alone on Easter. My children are at school, grown up, my husband is dead and I’m living in another country. I’m reading The Law of Love and The Law of Violence by Leo Tolstoy, a small, old hardcover book I found with a friend in a quaint bookshop in London. It just called to me through the packed window. I hadn’t started reading it until this week. It’s funny because we recently discussed the war in Ukraine and Russian brutality and the topic of how absurd our practice is in the face of such crime, such shame. The question of whether there is ever an alternative to war came up and the futility of prayer or the feeling that some passive behaviors are self-serving. I was surprised to find that this is the main topic of Tolstoy’s book and further, it’s steeped in Christianity. Not the Christianity that burns crosses on people’s lawns or tortures and hangs people for blasphemy—the real Christ work of ‘love thy neighbor.’

At one point in the book, Tolstoy lists the names of conscientious objectors who sacrificed their lives for this premise. He argues a real Christian, a real man of conscience will not kill under any circumstance. This is a difficult concept to grasp in society when war is normalized and we have this business of war and whole careers are carved out of killing other people.

Tomorrow is Easter and although I don’t consider myself a religious person, I’m spiritual and aware. The life and teachings of Jesus Christ centered on love, forgiveness, healing and the kingdom of God being within you—resonate with me. So, I thought I’d take a moment to post and share a few lines from Tolstoy’s book. There are so many to choose from and I recommend you read it, but for now, I offer you three that raised my consciousness about the dilemma we face today:

"War will disappear only when men shall take no part in whatever violence and shall be ready to suffer every persecution that their abstention will bring them. It is the only way to abolish war."    (Anatole France. Daily Reading, December 29th, p. 49)
"The following objection is often made: “All that you say is true, but it will be possible to abstain from every act of violence only when the whole world, even the majority, will understand the disastrous, futile, and senseless meaning of violence. While waiting for that, what can a few isolated individuals do? Must we not defend ourselves, and let our neighbors be attacked by the wicked?” (p. 105)
"…Stop looking for an illusionary happiness by participating in the administration of the state, by judicial institutions, by instruction, by all kinds of parties who have the good of the masses as aim. Pay attention to only one thing, that which you need the most, that is the most accessible, which gives the most happiness to us and everyone: the increase of love in us by the suppression of vices and passion that keep it from manifesting itself…observance of this supreme law of love… (p. 112)

Leo Tolstoy was a great Russian writer and a Christian anarchist who continues to influence my thoughts and inner being. I am grateful for his life of service to humanity.

When The Soul Moves

We tend to distrust these feelings and avoid them at all costs because we are scared of being uprooted. We need to lose this fear.

Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully

Whenever I think of you my soul moves. Not just one, but very few of you and I’m open to more coming.

Perhaps you know what I mean? Your soul can move with your mate or it can move suddenly and out of place.

In my experience, when the soul moves it’s startling.

I’ve heard parents say the soul moves for a son or daughter. Twins who say their souls move in tandem.

However it appears, know it’s the soul moving inside you.

Focus on form rather than time or speed.

Focus on the now rather than eternity.

The soul conditions you to surrender to your hunger for food.

On a much larger scale, the soul opens your eyes to truth.

I have feared the soul, its ebb and its flow. The soul is mischievous and breeds in darkness.

The soul is a sublime piece of cake in a world where we count calories.

The soul can feel sneaky and disarming and I worry about gluttony.

It’s not wrong to pay attention to the movement of your soul because  you will want more.

Become aware and you’ll be alright.

Choose the soul and you’ll be satisfied.

But know this. When the soul moves, tears fall. The life of calories ends.

That is why we need soul stretching exercises. Learn how restlessness and uneasiness are stages of the journey.

We need to practice leaning in to the soul’s yearnings and loving unconditionally.

We need schools that teach a course on the workings of the soul so we can track its course and discover the treasure.



Love in The Dark Night of the Soul

“Real love always involves a transgression.” George Bataille

It’s always important to start and end with love even when we’re conditioned otherwise. Like, how we deal with this strange heaviness about us. This dark night of the soul.

Any experience of darkness needs to be looked at with love or else we might get lost, or worse yet, eaten up alive. Even in the worst of times, we must take care to look at our current life experience as a quest for love. Self-love and our capacity to love another.

Love is the driving force in every human being. It is the life force energy. Even those things we’d rather not see, like ugliness, stealth, pain or misery—we are talking about a love journey.

Everything is under construction. Everything is exploding. There is confusion and discord. Even language, our use of words is deafening.

My husband is dead and I’m aflame. A love sick puppy. Another Black man was murdered on the street. This virus is stifling. And there’s love.

Love makes life worth living. We want to be seen and loved for who we are.  It hurts when we don’t have these two fundamental things. When love is lacking, we are bored like the devil, restless and thirsty. Sometimes, we try to let go of this notion of love entirely. This happens at a very deep personal level or it can happen in large numbers poisoning society.

There are protests and riots on the streets. We’ve been poisoned by hate, fear and scarcity thinking. We uphold rules and social norms that stifle love with its freedom and creativity. We create institutions that are limiting and then we wonder why people want to break free. Where there is no love, there is no freedom, and our souls, our humanity wither away. We see all forms of escape from this dilemma. Some want to burn the house down.

This morning I went to the store for bread with five dollars in my pocket. I greet the cashier, a dark skinned African American lady. She rings me up and tells me, $5.50. I repeat, $5.50? The prices are inflated all over the city. I take out my roll and count as if somehow I’d have enough. How much do you need? She asks me. Fifty, I say, muttering. She reaches under the counter and pulls out a small plastic bag of coins from her purse. She counts out the change and rings me up and my eyes fill with tears and I’m grateful and ashamed. I’m thinking about her brother, son or husband who could have been killed by the police. How is it possible, dear God, that under the circumstances this woman is so kind and loving?

I’m living in my own suffering and she pops my bubble with her love and humanity.

She sees me emotional and tells me, Now is the time to do these things.