“Compassion is priceless in the truest sense of the word. It must be given freely. In abundance.”
– Itkovian Otanthalian, Memories of Ice
Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Steven Erikson
I was going to share this quote last week, but it struck me that it’s just too perfect for Easter. Like Christmas, Easter is ultimately about the triumph of the light of love over all the darkness of the world.
Without going into some fairly long and complicated explanations, suffice to say that Itkovian is a very good, selfless man. This is why he’s been gifted by his god, I think, with a magical ability that lets him take burdens of misery and agony from off the shoulders of other people’s souls, both the living and the dead. He doesn’t just remove it though, he takes it onto himself, and processes it. It is a taxing ordeal, one which has previously pushed him to the brink, but now, at this moment, it is about to kill him. He knows this, and he is doing it anyway, to try and lighten the immense suffering now felt by an entire people, thousands of them, who have born a terrible burden for hundreds of thousands of years. It has left them all but emotionless, devoid of any joy or hope. Until Itkovian comes and gives his life to given them back a little bit of the humanity they lost.
Itkovian says these words when they ask him, “Why?” Why is he doing this for them, a people he has never known before? He answers that humans do not understand the value of love. They know it has value, but in so knowing they believe it must be held close and given only when it has been earned. That is wrong. Love is the greatest of treasures, yes, but there is no limit to how much love one can give to others. It does not run out. Indeed, the more it is given, the more of it there is, while hoarding actually diminishes it. So let it be given to all, even complete strangers, holding nothing back, and thus it shall be the greatest treasure humanity has ever known. That is what makes truly makes love so priceless.
How wise is that? Indeed, I find it to be nothing short of profound.
How many of the world’s problems continue because people don’t properly love each other?
I mean, a child, not yet burdened by the boundaries that adults set up, will love anyone and everyone equally, without pause and without measure. I will never forget a story I was told in elementary school, when we were beginning to learn about the Civil Rights Movement. A young, black boy played every day with his young, white friends, until the day that his friends’ mother met him at the door and turned him away because, “You’re colored, and we’re white.” That boy grew up to become a leader in the peaceful fight against Jim Crow, standing before of great crowd in the capital, with the eyes and ears of my nation on him, and spoke boldly of black and white children playing together with naught but love between them. That was his dream.
I’ve seen a video of a Palestinian man urging his child, barely more than a toddler, to harass armed Israeli guards, who did not harm the child in return, or the man who was teaching his child to hate and hurt Israel. This shows the truth behind the words of a modern Israeli Prime Minister, who said, simply, that when the Palestinian loves their child more than they hate Israel, that is the day they will have peace.
Out of all the terrible atrocities in our history, how many would never have happened if people had just loved each other more, regardless of any “differences” that could be found?
I posted last week about the cycle of hate. Hate really is, or has become, the root problem of much of our suffering. And I believe such hatred is not truly natural, not completely. As they say in South Pacific, children have to be “carefully, carefully taught” to hate others based on whatever arbitrary lines have been drawn by their parent and ancestors. They do not come by centuries-old grudges born of ancient family feuds without such hateful teaching.
What if, instead of children learning to hate as adults hate, adults learned to love again as children love, so freely, easily, without hesitation, and without distinction? How many walls would come down so fast? How many hatreds would end? How much more good would we be able to do together, no matter how much we might disagree? How much suffering might we alleviate from the ravages of illness, age, disability, and catastrophe? How much pain would future generations be spared from? Quite a bit, I think!
If we all just realized that we are all the same, and all in this together… no, even more basic, more elemental than that… if we all just loved each other as human beings, first and last, would this world not become practically a paradise?
“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another even as I have loved you.”
The ultimate message of Easter is the encouragement to love each other, and bear each others’ burdens as He has born all of ours. That is the way forward. For all of us. Not one group or another. All of us.