Feeling the oneness of yourself with all things is true love. ~ Eckhart Tolle
“Can I ask you a question?” My friend was sitting next to me in the car; he was looking out the window, contemplating something.
“It’s not a trick question,” he added. This was his way of telling me he wanted to ask something, but it was to cover up another, deeper question — one he didn’t feel comfortable asking.
“Sure,” I said, my tone instinctively light to offset his serious tone.
Just then someone swerved in front of the car, and our attention was diverted.
We narrowly missed getting hit. Jumbled by the car’s jolting movement, we continued the ride in silence as we gathered our wits about us. My friend cleared his throat several times.
“Did you want to ask me something?” I said, breaking the silence.
“Oh, yes,” he replied. “I had forgotten all about it.”
He cleared his throat one more time and asked, “Do you love everyone the same? You know, animals, people, your family, your friends?” He stumbled over his words. His discomfort was palpable.
I had just finished reading him a letter I had written. The letter was to a dear little beagle who had graced my life for only 5 days. I could hardly read the letter out loud without tearing up. I would read and then have to stop to catch my breath. He had watched me intently as I read. Now, his question about love hung heavily in the air.
“Well,” I started, measuring my words carefully because I could feel the real question underneath, “I would say that ultimately I do love all beings the same because love cannot be divided into parts. It can’t be measured by more or less.”
He took in those words and then blurted out the real question: “How can you love an animal as much as a person? How can you love an animal as much as you love me?”
His words were tinged with hurt, and he had tears in his eyes.
He continued, “I don’t get it. I have loved my wife, and I love my children. Well, I really don’t have a good relationship with my kids, so I can’t say I love them as much. When we had a dog, I guess I loved him like family, too.”
I could tell he was completely perplexed by the depth of love I felt for a little dog whom I had only known a few days.
“Richard,” I said as gently as possible, “I do love you, and I love others as well — both animal and human. In my world, there is no hierarchy of importance, no good, better, best. At the end of the day, underneath all personal love, animal love, friendship love, romantic love, global love, whatever-you-want-to-call-it love, there is simply a powerful energy flowing in and out of our lives without labels or restrictions. It is freely given and comes from a limitless source. Underneath it all is simply love.”
He sat in silence for a few minutes. As we neared his house, he reached over and touched my hand. It was a sweet gesture; it reminded me of when his wife had passed, and, at the funeral, he had silently reached over and held my hand. I looked down at his hand now; it looked so much older, so much more fragile. His holding my hand was a gesture of love, silently communicating itself freely, unencumbered by any labels or names or levels of importance. And it was just enough.
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