Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Call It Love

(Love) is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’ve experienced perfect happiness, usually in fleeting moments, felt as a joyful connectedness to everything. I usually call it love.

Happiness is not an emotion that stands up to much introspection. I can examine my sorrow or anger, while remaining sad or mad, whereas happiness tends to disappear the moment I become conscious of it. That suggests to me that the state of being unaware of my own emotions is an essential element to achieving happiness. I’ve most often experienced what I’d call perfect happiness during those times when I was operating outside myself, connecting meaningfully with the other living things, forgetting me entirely. And as much as I sometimes fantasize that I might find contentment in withdrawing from the world, I know that, for me, happiness requires reaching out and engaging the rest of you. I usually call it love.

I’ve long been aware that one of the fundamental, selfish reasons I teach preschoolers is that it takes so little effort for me to want to engage them. I easily lose myself in their world. Perfect happiness often comes to me when I’m lying on my stomach under the loft, taking dictation from a 3-year-old telling a sad story. Perfect happiness catches up with me in the middle of a song about a big ship sailing on the “Illy Alley Oh.” Perfect happiness is the hot and muggy co-mingled breath of a dozen kids engaged in the magnificent feat of an all-class group hug without anyone falling down or being squeezed too tightly. Perfect happiness is a child’s hot tears soaking through my shirt and onto my shoulder while she cries for her mommy. Every preschool teacher knows exactly what I’m talking about. I usually call it love.

In these moments, I’ve achieved a state of desirelessness, the Buddhist nirvana. It is enough to be there, with that person, or those people, helping them, or playing with them. I usually call it love.

The subtitle of this blog is “Teaching and learning from preschoolers.” The capacity for happiness is one of those things they teach me. Children innately know the answers to Tolstoy’s famous Three Questions and they remind me of them every day:

The most important time is now.

The most important person is the one you are with.

The most important thing to do is to be kind to that person.

Those are the conditions that produce perfect happiness. I usually call it love.

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Gina Osher said...

So beautiful, Tom. And such a great reminder about how being in the moment can reframe everything. Love it!

Mo Weinhardt said...

Tom, today is my first day of reading your blog. I'm an early childhood educator, and I know exactly what you're talking about. I hope that the kids I work with learn one tenth of what I learn from them.

Children invite us adults to experience a freedom, a spaciousness, a flexibility and inclusiveness that is so easily lost as we grow up. Children invite our complete presence which never ceases to open my heart.

Thanks for all that you call love, and for sharing these thoughts and experiences with the cyberverse.

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