Though this may sound rather hokey, lately when I’ve been out for walks, or just spending time alone with my own thoughts, a recurring thought has been entering my mind, “love is the currency of life.”
This is such a big topic and I have no idea how to really approach even talking about it. So as you’re reading this, keep in mind that I’m not trying to be comprehensive or anything, but am moreso sharing a sort of stream of consciousness, where each different idea points to the same conclusion.
Basically, no matter where I look these days, I see people looking for love in some form or another. I’m not speaking of romance. Maybe I’ll put it all within a broader framework? One of my favorite books was written by an American psychologist named Abraham Maslow entitled Motivation and Personality. In it, he tries to uncover what motivates people to do what they do. This leads him to develop the hierarchy of needs, which most everyone has probably seen.
If you look up ‘love’ in Wikipedia, you’ll find many different attempts to define the idea. The philosopher Gottfried Leibniz defined it as, “to be delighted in the happiness of another.” I like that idea, and when I look at Maslow’s hierarchy, I see different aspects of love in effect.
Though I’m speaking rather abstractly and vaguely, the bottom levels of the pyramid deal with a loving relationship between your physical body and the universe — a sort of unity and flow with the physical world around you. As one moves up the pyramid, we are directed into the realm of mind. The “Love/Belonging” tier deals with being loved and respected by other conscious minds. The “Esteem” tier deals with loving yourself, and the final tier at the top of the pyramid is about feeling a sense of unity and love for the universe.
Though this “hierarchy” of needs is typically depicted in that pyramid structure, I don’t think it is a pyramid and neither did Maslow. In fact, Maslow never mentioned the pyramid and it’s not needed. To me, these things are more like a web. The more of those things you have in this world, the more “connected” you are. That’s a buzzword I hear a lot — “connection”. When I hear it, I immediately think of all of this.
Maslow really nailed it. I’ve never read a book that opened my eyes to deeply understanding people. I can be very dense and lack common sense, but when I’m given a framework like this to help me sort my thoughts, for the first time in my life I began to understand people.
When I look at our modern world, our society and culture successfully implements the bottom rungs of that pyramid, but the rest is painfully neglected. Most of us (though still not all) have our basic survival needs met. We have a place to sleep, we have food, and our physical bodies can survive, etc., but there’s far less “connection” in the other tiers with the world. People struggle their entire lives to establish those deeper connections, many never finding them at all.
With all that in mind, this is where I start rambling. In the past, when I was young, even into my early twenties, relationships with people was moreso a feeling, but I didn’t understand why I liked certain people and disliked others. Maybe it’s just a part of getting older, but now I can rather quickly tell why I like certain aspects of someone, while disliking other things about them. After studying all this stuff, it’s all conscious in my head, and I can analyze it all and understand it. It’s helped me a lot. I can give you the short and sweet answer — the people I like are love dispensaries, in some form or another. When I see them extending out feelers of “love” out toward me, I respond in kind and things are good. That’s why I call it the currency of life. It’s what’s valuable. It’s what makes life worth living. If you look at the people I like, their words, actions, and deeds create a web where more of that stuff in Maslow’s hierarchy exists or has the potential to grow and exist more fully. Things that destroy that existing web of connection or inhibit growth of more good connection brings sadness to everyone involved.
Take politics. Why am I so against war? It destroys so many aspects of connection in that web of goodness. You disrupt the social systems in place which provide for them — you blow up their grocery store and school, and that stresses them out. They don’t know where they’re going to get food. You kill their loved ones, destroying the most important people in their lives. It wrecks them emotionally. You fill them with fear, and that’s going to destroy the ability to form bonds and good relationships with them in the future. They’re not going to want to deal with you. They’re going to hate you. Then when they hate you, they’re going to attack you because they want you to understand the pain you’re inflicting upon them. Then a vicious cycle goes on and on, and it’s nothing but misery. This is a simple example, but it’s easy to see how it destroys that web I’ve been talking about. I don’t see how our politicians fail to realize such a simple principle. If you bomb countries to oblivion, killing hundreds of thousands of people, blowing up schools, hospitals, etc., how can you not expect blowback of some kind?
Anyways, the more you understand about this web, the better your life becomes. Those who have read my blog over the years know that throughout most of my life, I’ve been a loner, at least for the last 15 years or so. I later became aware of this “web” and my relationships with everyone I’m around has gotten so much better.
I was hired by the university this last semester to teach a course. I had no idea how that would go, or what the students would think of me, or what. Throughout the semester I kept this “web” in mind in everything I said and did, and by the end of the semester I was surrounded by students, many of them inviting me out to dinner, while others were exclaiming that it was the best experience in a class they’ve ever had. They were telling me their dreams, their career ambitions, they were wanting to hang out with me, and I was just blown away. This is quite shocking considering it was the first time I’ve even taught a course in any capacity. I just didn’t expect it to go so well.
I’ve been trying to understand why it went so well, and actually I attribute it to a Youtube video I watched of a middle aged woman’s near death experience. This isn’t the sort of thing you expect a physicist to be watching, but I found it fascinating. The woman died during some sort of surgery on the operating table, was dead (off and on) for like thirty minutes, until the doctors brought her back. When she died, she talked about disconnecting from her body and then seeing this tunnel of light. Eventually this light engulfed her, and as she moved deeper into this tunnel she eventually met who she referred to as God. This entity connected to her telepathically and beamed unconditional love into her with such magnitude and strength that it felt like something physical which then became the source of all the white light which engulfed her.
God showed her a sort of slide-show of everything she ever did in her life, and then beamed even more love into her as it communicated to her, “I love you, despite all that.” Then God began to teach her about love and showed her alternate time-lines of what her life could have been, and then even showed her lives she could’ve lived that were terrible, and God still told her, and taught her, in no uncertain terms, “I would still love you. Deeply. Fully.” Then what really caught my attention was what this woman said next. She said that she had always been seeking this very love but never could find it. She got married, hoping to be loved like that, but her husband wasn’t anywhere near that loving. Then she had children, hoping her children would love her like that, but though they loved her, it wasn’t anywhere like that. Then she talked about her career ambitions, and how she’d hoped to find respect and love from coworkers, as well as fulfillment, and it was never anything like what she found emanating from this divine being she encountered at death. That really struck me.
That all got me thinking, huh, that’s probably what I want. That’s what everyone wants. Maybe we all come from that higher spiritual plane and have come down to this physical existence temporarily for some reason and we all have a deep yearning to reconnect with that. I don’t claim to understand any of that, but it got me thinking about something — how do you bring this “light” into the world? What would that entail exactly? Specifically for me, what would I actually do? Then that lead me to think of Maslow’s hierachy of needs, and thinking of it all as this web of connection, and I thought well, what would happen if I tried to bring as much of that stuff into whatever and whoever I encounter? What would happen? Well, that’s what I did with that class.
First off, I made it a policy that every word that came out of my mouth always built up the student, making them feel that they were more than capable of understanding the information presented. Every word that came out of my mouth had the underlying message, “I respect you. The others respect you. You belong here. You can do this. I am here to help you.” But this wasn’t an empty fake self-esteem. I would give them honest evaluations of anything they turned into me, but there was one big catch — there was a huge policy of forgiveness. Try, try, and try again. That’s what the light did for that woman. The light showed her the mistakes and that things could’ve been done better, but communicated to her that it’s ok to fail and that you’re still loved, accepted, and belong, regardless. So that’s what I did.
I had the mindset of a baseball coach. I throw the pitch, they swing and miss. The student then goes, “Oh no, what about my grade? I’m going to go get a B or C in this class, I’ll lose my scholarships, won’t get into the grad school I want to get into. Everything’s in ruin!” And I’d then tell them, “I don’t believe in grades. I’m not even sure what a A, B, and C means. To me, they are unreal. But it seems there’s still something to this you’re not getting, and I know you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want to understand this stuff. Let’s do it again.” Then the sun sets, everyone’s leaving, and I stay on the pitching mound, willing to throw another pitch, as long as they’re willing to swing. And how many times did they do things over again? As many times as I had the time to deal with it. I have stuff to do too, but as long as they’re respecting my time and putting in effort, there were pretty much infinite do-overs.
All of this takes time. You have to make extra time for the student. I could’ve had the attitude, “I graded your work once. You should’ve done better. I’m going to spend my afternoon playing video games.” But I didn’t. I’d show up at the lab at weird times and tutor different students, walking them through things.
The course consisted of them working through these labs, building different types of physics experiments, learning electronics equipment, and interpreting results. There was one student, a rather frank and open young woman, who was very agitated. I went over to her station and she started ranting on how bad the labs were written. I hadn’t written them, as they’ve been used for years by the department. Once she started ranting, I could immediately see on her face that she was like, “Oh no. This isn’t just another student, this guy is the teacher. I shouldn’t have said that.” But what did I do? I showed no sign of agitation, and was completely friendly. Did I yell at her, “Read more carefully! Don’t be lazy!” No. I thought about what it was like when I was a student, before I understood all this stuff, and I sat down next to her, and then I asked her, “What is unclear?” Then I took notes, and made it clear to her that I understood her frustration, and even appreciated her feedback. Then I told her how the system worked within the department, but that I was going to make an effort to make the labs better and would be using the notes and feedback she gave me to do so.
The stance wasn’t, “I’m the superior, do what I say.” It was more of a stance that we’re equals, the same sort of people living on this Earth together, and let’s figure out what’s wrong and fix it. It didn’t matter if the lab made sense to me. It wasn’t written for me. It’s written for them. How can I make it more clear to them? Well, how could I ever figure this out? The answer’s simple — here’s someone telling me what’s wrong with it. It wasn’t time to bark orders, it was time to listen.
Guess what happened? Others overheard and watched this event take place and saw, “You can express how you feel to Jason and he won’t get angry or take it out on you.” Then the entire class was giving me all kinds of feedback on everything. What made sense, what didn’t, which diagrams made sense to them, which didn’t, what they thought was fair, and what wasn’t. What was familiar to them, what wasn’t.
It makes me think of this picture.
Look at that picture above. What really struck me reading that was ‘the light of the world’. See, there’s me on one side of the wall, and there’s the students on the other side of the wall. You can build walls and live in your own world, or you can have real, messy, complicated relationships with people. I’m just an ordinary nobody, with no axe to grind, and nothing to prove. I suppose it’s painful when you’re teaching and the students aren’t learning, or you come to learn that the materials you put all this time and effort into creating are no good, etc, but you have to remember Maslow’s hierarchy. Part of a self-actualized person is know reality as it is, not how you wish it was for your own self-esteem needs. You don’t build walls, you tear them down. That’s why it’s put at the top of the pyramid — you’re strong enough to accept reality as it is, not as you wish it was. You love the world and the people in it as they are, as things really are, and you do the best with what’s really there.
If you extend the right sort of “feelers” to the students, you can form a connection with them. Then you’ll get honest feedback. And if you’re a kind and respectful person, most of them will treat you with the same kindness and respect. Love is a universal language. When you speak it, others always appreciate it. They don’t always know how to speak it back to you though, but that’s ok.
A common reaction would be, “Well, the students are just lazy. If they tried harder, they could understand it. They don’t study hard enough.” And maybe that’s true? I can’t say. But I had another policy — I always give the students the benefit of the doubt. I assume they’re smart and hard-working. I assume they’ve put some adequate time into understanding the material. I always assume that, and treat them in that way. Look back at Maslow’s hierarchy — people need respect. I respect them. As for them not knowing something, if it becomes clear to me that they’ve forgotten things we’ve covered before, I simply remind them of the lab we covered that in, pull it out, and show it to them again. And who knows? Maybe they didn’t understand fully understand it that first time around. That’s my que to discuss it with them, make it clear, help them understand. That is what I’m there for, after all. I don’t put them down for forgetting, or make any sort of big deal about it. In fact, I assume they’re busy with other classes and all the other things in a person’s life, so I don’t assume the world revolves around just me and what I’m doing in my course. Also, I don’t see much point in any other reaction. I’m being paid good money to teach them, and that’s my job – to guide them to the right information they need. What good does, “You’re not working hard enough” do? It just closes communication between me and the student. They just think, “If I go to Jason for help, he’s just going to look down on me, thinking I don’t work hard enough.” What does that accomplish?
Well, I’ll quit talking about teaching. This principle isn’t really just about teaching — it’s literally any aspect of life where other people are involved. There’s so much more to say about this topic. Understanding how this “web” of love and real connection works, it’s a very powerful toolkit to have. Not in the manipulative, controlling sense, but in the ‘making things better’ sense.
Now I’m going to pretend like I’m a guru or something. You want great relationships with people? Just be the same sort of light that woman saw in her near death experience. And if that sounds sort of vague to you, I’d recommend going on the Youtube channel ‘NDE Accounts’, and watch lots of these sorts of these near death experiences and people’s encounters with the light. That’s what I did at one point. I watched a lot of NDE’s. Then you just think of what that divine light would do if it came down where you are standing and was in the room, wherever you are now. Then you just do that. It’s not necessarily easy to do, but it’s relatively easy to understand. I’m still in awe at how well things went. The more you do it, it sort of becomes easier to do, because most people respond so positively to it. That was my experience anyway.