The Non-Existence of Nothing, Fear, Darkness and Lies

WaterfallIntoOceanOne of my favorite stories as a child was The Neverending Story where Bastian is called out to save the wondrous land of Fantastica from total destruction. The Nothing is slowly but surely consuming everything in its path, leaving a void of nothingness where once was life, colors and joy thriving in harmony. Everything and everyone in Fantastica are trying to escape this unspeakable menace of darkness and destruction, all flocking toward the Ivory Tower hoping that the empress can save them from total annihilation.

The ultimate solution to stop this juggernaut of destruction is as beautiful as it is simple: Bastian must shout his dead mother’s name. This does not just miraculously restore all of Fantastica to its former glory but also ensures its neverending expansion. But why does it have to be his mother’s name? Why not something else? Because the love he feels for his late mother is the purest form of unconditional love that is available to him. His mother’s name is therefore merely a symbol. The real healer here is the feeling of unconditional love it triggers within him. It didn’t even go on to repair anything. It just miraculously undid the rampages of The Nothing as if they had never happened in the first place.

This is beautiful. And as a student of A Course in Miracles there is a lot to appreciate in the message of The Neverending Story.

What is nothingness? What is darkness? What is fear?

Most people would be able to answer the first one quite easily. Nothingness is nothing. It’s the absence of something, anything and everything. It doesn’t exist. It’s as simple as that.

And darkness? Does it exist? Although darkness can feel very real in the blackness of your bedroom it doesn’t change the fact that it is simply the absence of light. Nothing else. According to A Course in Miracles darkness possesses no qualities of its own because light abolishes darkness merely by showing you it is not there. You cannot pour darkness into a lit room, but you pour light into a darkened room every time you flip the light switch.

Conflict, close up of two fists hitting each other over dramaticThen what about fear? Arguably the single most dominant force in the world of man. Fear tears us apart emotionally. Fear judges. Fear leads us to war with ourselves, our lovers, our friends, and our enemies alike.

What if fear has a relationship to love that is identical to the one that darkness has to light? Could it be that fear is not the presence of an evil and negative force, but rather only the absence of love. Is fear actually merely the absence of something good rather than the presence of something bad? Could it be this simple?

Yes it could. And as a student of A Course in Miracles I am getting increasingly certain that it is.

The Course teaches that only love is real. All else is an illusion of the mind. But then how can all the fear, misery and suffering in our lives, not to speak of in the world as a whole feel and look so real? There is unfathomable misery experienced by the millions on our planet every day. How can this not be real?

Although something painful may in fact seem and feel very real, it is also a matter of perception. Fear and suffering is subjective, felt in varying degrees depending on who is feeling it. It is, however only felt by the one who suffers. Anyone else can only empathetically imagine it, but not experience it. It is not their reality. Yet, it can feel very real because it has been made by our mind, and we will believe in everything we make. All beliefs are real to the believer.

Consider this:

You can make up a lie. You can tell this lie to a million people and these people all believe you. That doesn’t make your invented construct any more true or real, although it will feel real to the the one million people who believe you. What happens when the light of truth shines on a lie? The perceived realness of the lie dissolves as if it never existed at all. Do you remember Bernard Madoff’s ponzi scheme where countless of people’s savings vaporized in thin air as if it were never even there? In truth their money was gone as soon as it was put in the hands of Madoff, and their previous belief in that their money was safe did not in any way alter the fact that their savings no longer existed.

If we as human beings can accept that fear and love share the exact same relationship to each other as darkness does to light, it will transform our entire destiny. Because we will learn that the only cure to fear and suffering is love.

The Course teaches that whenever you find yourself in pain, a very appropriate question you can ask yourself is where am I not giving love in this situation? Contrary to popular belief giving love freely is never painful. It is when we close our hearts and start withholding love that the pain begins.

Broken Heart on Roses - Faded

Just think about it. What if fear, pain and suffering don’t really exist, but are only constructs of our delusional and out-of-control minds? Constructs we insist on believing in like we believe in so many lies we individually and collectively have made up. What if we could eradicate fear in our own lives simply by just loving more? What if we, like Bastian, had a magical word that could undo all the negativity that diminishes our enjoyment of life?

Just what if?

What if we as a culture and as a species haven’t yet evolved into living in love and harmony with each other, nature and the rest of the planet? (See, it doesn’t sound as crazy anymore, does it?). And what if the one thing that is missing every single time something is out of whack is something as simple, but yet infinitely powerful, as unconditional love?

Now that would be a revolution.


Unconditionally Yours


Unconditional love. A beautiful concept, but what does it really mean?

It is really very simple: It means to love someone or something completely and utterly, regardless of how the beloved party acts, behaves, responds or otherwise treats you back.

This can be fairly easy to do towards recipients that are easy to love like a cat, a cupcake or a small child. The real test for most lies in unconditionally loving adult human beings, ourselves included, being that no one among us ever will be perfect in every way thinkable to us.

The ultimate challenge is to love one’s romantic partner unconditionally, especially in a society where separating is always a viable option. Many would claim to love their partner unconditionally but how many really, really mean it? How many will keep loving their partner after having been betrayed in the worst thinkable way? If you are not willing to forgive any action from your partner, then (I’m sorry to break it to you) your love for your partner is based on one or countless conditions, and is therefore not unconditional.

“Until we have seen someone’s darkness, we don’t really know who they are. Until we have forgiven someone’s darkness, we don’t really know what love is”Marianne Williamson.

Marianne Williamson sums it up beautifully here, I think. Every single person we meet is going to have sides that we are not too crazy about (or darkness, if you will) if we knew about them. Loving someone regardless of their dark sides is what I call unconditional love.

But doesn’t this mean that we would settle for less? Doesn’t this condone unacceptable behaviour? Wouldn’t forgiving betrayal set a poor standard for similar escapades in the future?

It could and it probably would if we were forgiving from a place of fear. Fear of not deserving a faithful partner, fear of being alone and fear of being abandoned. I am however not talking about forgiving someone for fear of these things. Forgiveness must come from a place of love, and more specifically love for yourself. You don’t forgive because someone else deserves it, you forgive because you deserve to be free of whatever was done to you.

LavenderFieldPinkSkyIt may sound paradoxical but loving unconditionally is the ultimate empowerment in the romantic department. Why? Because the other person has no power over your feelings for them. That power lies in you. You are the one who decides who and when to love. And when not to love. No one but you can and should be responsible for your happiness. When we humans realize that the complete power to decide our reactions rests within each and every one of us, that is when we find true freedom to be who we really are.

As a species we are diligently trained to react in very specific ways to a lot of specific things. And deviations from society’s norms are sadly not regarded as a sign of strength. If I hit you, then you should hit me back. Or at least yell, get pretty angry or possibly send someone in your place to reciprocate. If I say something nice to you, you are supposed to swell with joy or else you are arrogant. Who is really in charge in these situations? Well, it is certainly not you. I say, take your power back! Only when you decide if and how you want to react to other people and stop depending on default programming, only then will you be free of other people’s power over you.

To my future partner I want to say the following: My happiness does not depend on you, so you’re off the hook. I can never be happy because of you, but I will love to be happy together with you. Although I may not love what you are doing every moment of our time together, I will always try to see you as who you really are – not as you are in this moment. Quite frankly, I love you so much I don’t care what you think.

Terms and conditions do not apply.

Unconditionally Yours,


Shining lighthouses


Lighthouses don’t go running around an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there, shining.  -Annie Lamott

Many of us have an almost innate urge to help (read: save) others from toxic relationships, difficult life situations, destructive addictions or just simply themselves and their (in our humble opinion) faulty judgement. We want to give them much needed guidance and help to get back on the right path. I hate to admit that yours truly is no exception.

So why do we do it? The motives are of course plentiful and not all of them are based in an unhealthy desire to control our surroundings to fit our idea of what is right and good. Watching someone you care for facing difficulties can be truly painful and trying to help is often the most natural thing to do. But what do you do when the stray person declines your help? Do you just mind your own beeswax and get on with it?

silhouetteBeing at the receiving end of someone’s good intentions may not exactly be a confidence booster. We all want to proudly showcase that we are in control and to display the best possible façade we can (even though the cracks may be visible from space). After all, who likes to admit defeat? That they actually cannot do something alone? Receiving help gracefully is an art not mastered by the many.

But does someone’s refusal to accept your good assistance mean that you should just walk away? Leave them be?

Unless related by blood, walking away is perfectly OK in Chinese Confucian tradition. As a matter of fact, it is not just OK, it is the right thing to do and complies well with the Chinese attitude of not interfering with the internal affairs of others. By all means, observe it and talk about it. But get involved? Hell, no! What happens in other people’s houses, businesses or countries for that matter is their business. Not yours. Gossiping about it is however very much allowed.

In Catholicism however you are given a totally different licence to act. The Sin of Omission says that the bystander of injustice is as guilty as the perpetrator. Knowing the right thing to do and failing to do this is in other words not just morally questionable; it is in fact sinful. And helping someone, albeit unwilling, would probably be classified as the right thing to do by the righteous. That there in most cases exists no universal truth for what is right and wrong is of course highly irrelevant.

I don’t think that either of these extremes offers much help when it comes to helping the ones close to you if they don’t want your involvement. I think it is very important to be honest about one’s motives to do this. Who are you actually trying to help? Are you trying to help someone solve a problem or are you in fact trying to help yourself feel better about yourself? Are you trying to show yourself off as the saviour of unfortunate loved ones? That many people are trying to help others in order to avoid looking at their own problems may be a well known phenomenon. However, admitting that our unfortunate friends in fact are tools primarily used to deal with our own pain or boost our own egos may be hard for most of us.

Nobel Peace Price Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi once said “If you feel helpless – help someone”. Noble indeed, but seen in this context this excellent quote is not without its flaws. What is your motivation? Is it to actually make a positive difference in someone else’s life? Or is it to feel better about yourself? Really?

Many people’s noble intentions may be rejected by the recipient with the result that the generous helper may get upset, insulted or both. After all, we are only trying to help. Again, who is this really about?

Marshall Point Lighthouse at sunsetThis is where the metaphor of the lighthouse comes in and beautifully sums up what I believe to be the more loving approach. I believe that when someone you care for needs help, the only thing we can do is to gently and steadily put our hand out and let them know it’s there. That’s all. If they choose to grab onto it, then that’s wonderful. But if they don’t grab it right away or even push it away we can still keep it out there. Close enough for them to grab onto if they change their mind, but far enough away to give them space to find their own way. We don’t help people by forcing them to fit into our perfect picture. We help them by standing by them with compassion, not pity, as they face their own consequences, make their own experiences and paint their own picture of the world.

Loving our friends, family and partners only when they act the way we want them to, is not love. Loving them in spite of their human flaws is. We love them for who they actually are and not for whom we would rather have them be. This is unconditional love.

Till next time: Love before you help!