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.

Our Light World

For John

Think of yourself as a lightbulb, a vessel, a generator of light. You’re round, fragile and require electricity. The amount of light you have depends on wattage, voltage and frequency. In human speak, we’re talking about presence and your capacity to illuminate reality. The human light bulb is a clever device indeed!

We generate light by tapping into electricity. Electricity comes from specific human activities. We can choose light generating activities with a basic understanding of our inner and outer workings. In brief, each of us is made of three equal parts that are interdependent and unique. There is Mind, related to thoughts and reasoning. There is Body, related to health and biology. And there is Spirit, related to intuition and creativity. Each activity you choose channels energy to one or more of these three; and the quality and regularity of your activities determine the power of your light frequency.

All human beings have the capacity to produce light and to illuminate abundantly. The good news is that when we engage in light generating activities, we’re not feeling like we’re working hard or waiting to experience joy at some moment in the future. Rather, light energy activity feels good and nourishing in the moment. In fact, that’s how you know if you’re tapping into light energy because is makes you feel happy and healthy. Think about the act of making love and the potential joy over time for development. Both are equally exultant.

Each one of us hand picks and chooses which activities are light generating. They are uniquely ours and personally fitting. The more we recognize and appreciate who we are in our totality—the more we choose activities that are light producing. In human speak, we are talking about choosing experiences that produce joy and healthy feelings which increase our lightness of being.

For example, some of my personal light energy activities include: reading, philosophizing and language learning which satisfy my Mind. Running, yoga and sex make my body feel strong and refreshed. Writing, painting and teaching enlarge my Spirit. As you see, some of my light energy activities embody more than one category which can make the experience intense and overpowering.

For this reason, in the smorgasbord of life, we practice how to metabolize, distribute and balance our energy. Each step of the process including balancing should be experienced as natural and healthy which is why we have a sense of humor. Think learning how to ride a bike or ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancing, which involves another person’s energy can be tricky. Why? Because all human beings like light bulbs are round, fragile and require energy. So, there’s a difference between being alone and being in company. Trust yourself and honor what you need first to feel joyful, healthy and at peace. Your clever design will alert you to imbalances in light and frequency. The greater the risk, the greater the learning—the more light you will need. Choose aloneness and people wisely.

Abundant light energy is subtle and breathtaking. It is clarity. It is mystical familiarity and peace. Experiencing the luminosity of another person has such a warm and loving feeling! These interactions are profoundly life changing.

If you ever doubt your capacity and light frequency— recall that warmth that you gave and received. Recall that profound mystical feeling. Remember it with awe and just keep going.


Dear Ukraine

My heart bursts in flames for your suffering. It’s impossible for those of you on the front lines of war to see how the world is recoiled in pain. We cry even while we recognize that your suffering is greatest of all. Ukraine is a vital organ in our body and the injury is burning. Please forgive me for I’m not running from my home or watching my brothers and sisters die on the street, but can you possibly believe that you are not alone, that we are here with you languishing?

We are here ! bearing witness ! watching live streams and hearing things. We’re living this terror again and again and it caves into our heart; the fumes of separating families. What great sadness is now! How much more can we take? This steady barrage of fear, death, dominance and economic instability. Is this what we have to show for our collective humanity? How can we pay attention to love and empathy when we are down on our knees? How can we even think to find meaning in this suffering? How should I act or think?

Dear, Dear Ukraine! I am so sorry for your pain and grief. Please know you are not alone. Please know we are asking the same things, like: where are the hundreds and millions of troops protecting families? We, the ones with simple and ordinary lives, the people like me and you want to know: when will this suffering end? Will we ever feel safe at home again?

I am sad and ashamed that yet again another million people are displaced. I feel helpless while praying, sitting still in the quiet light of grace. I beg you for forgiveness, that this is all I have to say… Please know, Dear Ukraine. Please know that so many of us are here, with you, knowing full well what its like to lose home, to watch a beloved disappear or walk away forcefully. Please know, that your suffering is our suffering and that this war is a global wound, being torn open again and again.

I am nobody, I know. But, I’m sitting here…every day… with you in my thoughts, in the light of grace and I just need to tell you that I’m suffering with you ! and I will not rest until you find home again.