Is “Unconditional Love” Even Possible?

IN A WORLD ROOTED in causes and conditions, one must ask whether “unconditional love” is really possible. On the face of it, certainly, it seems impossible. How can anyone have unconditional love for men like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Putin and other ruthless dictators like them when such brutes consciously choose to slaughter tens of thousands of men, women and children all in the pursuit of achieving and keeping worldly power? How can we love mass murderers, torturers, rapists and oppressors unconditionally? How can we love hypocritical religious leaders, abusive spouses, pedophiles and hatemongers unconditionally? How can we love a person unconditionally when that person perpetrates crimes against their fellow human beings in so many callous and unloving ways?

It certainly seems impossible.

The Great Religions of the Earth, nevertheless, tell us that “God” does indeed love everyone unconditionally, which sounds wonderful and ideal certainly, but the actions of the followers of these Great Religions — to trot out that terribly tragic and tired cliché — do not “practice what they preach”. After all, it is a historical fact that the world has witnessed countless cases of carnage by those who subscribe to certain religious “doctrines, dogmas and principles”. We have seen violence fomented by these religions against people of other religions in the form of crusades, jihads, various forms of sectarian violence and outright genocide, time and again. Such acts litter the history of the world in the West and in the East. There is simply no question that atrocities and murderous barbarisms have taken place around the globe in the past and that they continue to occur in the present. Every news cycle carries the proof of this assertion.

Despite this, religious leaders still have the audacity to stand before their members and proclaim their “faith” in a “Creator God” who loves every single human being who has ever lived or who lives here and now in the present.

Sadly, this is pure hypocrisy.

How we wish it were otherwise! How we wish it was true that unconditional love was and is for real!

Some days recounting our present woes and historical horrors leaves one agreeing with Mark Twain, who wrote in Letters from the Earth, “There are times when one would like to hang the whole human race and finish the farce.”

It does feel like a farce at times, does it not? Does it not, some days, feel as if humanity is so flawed in so many ways that it leaves you despairing and feeling that the situation is utterly hopeless?

Certainly, this is what compels us to wonder why life is this way and what keeps us asking question after question. If “God” really is an infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent Supreme Being, one who is not bounded by a conditional existence as we humans are, then why does this God allow such actions to go on? Why are we humans thrown into such a cauldron of turmoil by such a God? Where is the unconditional love of this God for each and every one of us no matter our race, our beliefs, our struggles, our challenges? Why does this God not protect us and prevent all these horrors?

We say maybe this God simply loves every soul unconditionally. Maybe this God sets us free to find our way as we will. Nevertheless, we must note that this God cannot be abused, wounded or killed as we humans can. Indeed, we humans can be abused, wounded and murdered at will by any fellow human being who is heartless, cruel and bent on destruction. We can be deprived of our human rights, our freedom, our very bodies if one of our fellow humans wishes it no matter what the laws of the land say. We know this happens every single day in every land on every continent all across the globe and that is the reality of our situation. There is no way to sugarcoat it and pretend otherwise. There is ever and always a segment of our species, who for a myriad of reasons carry grudges, are filled with racist and religious hatred, believe that “might makes right”, are brimming over with anger, jealousy or a savage form of envy which prompts them to act maliciously and to do so with what they believe is “righteous” and “justifiable” acts, including homicide, which is simply another way of saying that they rationalize their viciousness and their defense of that viciousness.

In other words, those who commit violence and murder on the world stage and then rationalize it when confronted never fail to cite the conditions that have compelled them to act as they have acted.

Even those of us who are never physically violent feel outrage at times and we, too, will cite the causes and conditions which underlie our outrage.

The brutal truth is that life for each and every one of us as we experience it here on this earth is ever and always about being immersed in cultural conditions which affect us physically, mentally and emotionally. How, then, can we possibly love everyone unconditionally?

It seems quite impossible.

Nevertheless, what is possible is for each of us to intellectually understand how certain conditions can cause a fellow human being to suffer. When we do that we can — at the very deepest level of our own being — empathize with the hardships which surround that suffering and such an insight can move us to feel unconditional compassion for that person. Of course, we can understand that people are wounded inside, that they have been hurt physically or mentally in some way, that an injustice has been perpetrated against them or their ancestors or the loved ones they seek to protect, that they might well be victims of indoctrination, authoritarian bias, tribal prejudice or that they just plainly harbor distorted notions about reality that have led them to act irrationally in the extreme. No one is perfect. We all have feelings. We all experience pain at times; we experience suffering in some form and that is life in a realm where duality reigns, giving us positive and negative aspects to our reality; giving us good and bad, right and wrong, truth and falsehood, and so on.

This is what is possible: that we can feel unconditional compassion for those who suffer, are misguided, who are like lost souls struggling simply to survive and provide for themselves and their loved ones, who seek happiness, but keep getting knocked down or knocked back or undermined in some way. This is the reality which countless people, often through no fault of their own, experience.

At the end of the day, then, we can understand that life is tough for all of us, that we all struggle to survive and thrive, that we all have our “issues”, and that we all want the best for ourselves and our loved ones.

An overriding fact about our lives is this: none of us knows the absolute truth behind the causes and conditions in which we find ourselves. For that reason, life on Earth is a great mystery and, while there are countless theological and philosophical theories which make every effort to explain that mystery, none fully succeeds to the point where a collective human consensus has been, or can be, reached that finally solves that mystery. This is a truth which we simply have to live with and so we really are wise to have unconditional compassion for ourselves, above all.

What can we do, then? We can keep an open mind and stay centered in the heart. This is a way of fostering unconditional compassion for all our fellow human beings and finally, just to say, we must not fool ourselves about love. We can want to love everyone unconditionally and that intent is unquestionably laudable and noble, but for it to be genuine we must transcend the very causes and conditions of our existence and that is a very tall order. That is a very tall order, indeed.

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