In 2008 we started the “Heartbeat Mime Troupe” and started giving out “Love Rocks” in Izmir, Turkey. Not long after this we began holding informal discussion groups called “Love Talks“. In 2010/11 we have continued with these on our sabbatical in California. This blog entry will give some of the background of how this began.
In the first few days of 2006 I received a phone call telling me that my mother was in a coma after being hit by a car while out jogging. I flew back to California… and she died a few days later without coming out of her coma. This began a time of soul searching. I saw that I had not placed enough value on my relationship with my mother while she was alive. I began to also see how little I knew of intimacy and real love in any of my relationships.
Thirty years before, after a time of doubting and searching, I felt compelled to give up my belief in the non-existence of God (I was an atheist) and became a follower of Jesus Christ. In the beginning I noticed the emphasis on love in the Bible, but over the years love had become a very minor part of my daily spiritual life. Ever increasing efforts to know and do more right stuff, had gradually pushed out most of my first love.
For the love of God and the love of the people of Turkey my family and I moved to Turkey in 1997. Turkey is a secular democracy (since 1923) with about 99% adherence to Islam. Even the atheists seem to be Muslim, as they believe in the non-existence of Allah, and not the non-existence of Jehovah God of the Torah or the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament (Incil). It was in the context of my life in Turkey, as an olive oil supplier and over-busy businessman that I began my new quest for love. The realities of international trade had been crashing in on my dreams that I would someday become a world-changing example of fair trade and justice for poor farmers though my olive oil business. Now I realized that in pursuing my desire to change the world, I had been failing to see how much change was still needed in my own heart, family and relationships.
I began to re-ask some of the big questions. “What is intimacy? How can I overcome self-centeredness in my own heart and learn to love others as I love myself? What has gone wrong in my spirituality, that has allowed me to be so unaware of real love and the needs of others?” I also revisited old questions about God. “How could a God of love allow such suffering in the world?” This was one of the reasons that had moved me towards atheism years before. And what about hell? Could a God of love allow those He created to go to eternal hell? In my search for answers about love I prayed, read the Bible and read many books about love. I talked to my wife and children and friends. I watched movies and paid attention to the lyrics of songs about love. I looked for metaphors and ideas about love in every sphere of learning and in connection with every part of life… in physics, economics, technology, biology, philosophy, religion and chemistry. I wrote journals, poems and songs to express the new things I was learning. I tried to better understand my wife and children so I could love them better.
As I observed the people around me in Turkey I noticed that many of them were looking for love as well. Some were finding God to be impersonal and looking for a more personal connection with their Creator. Some where finding their relationships disappointing and having difficulty in loving and forgiving those who had wronged them. I began to wonder what people in Turkey thought about love. In many conversations I asked people about love in their family relationships, especially about their father’s love to them. I began to study the Koran’s teaching about love and contrast it with the Bible’s. I contrasted these ideas with ideas about love in Greek and Chinese philosophy, Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age spirituality, Materialistic Atheism, Secular Humanism, Jewish tradition, Islamic mysticism, Taoism and modern psychology. When I came back to the US on sabbatical I contrasted the ideas about love in the US with those I had been observing in Turkey.
In Plato’s allegory of the cave people are chained in the dark and they can only interpret reality by the shadows they see on the wall and the echoes of sound from the wall. When they are freed from the cave and see reality they are overwhelmed and have a hard time taking it in, having become used to two dimensional shadows and dim reflections. In a similar way, as I have begun to find the love I was seeking, it has sometimes been overwhelming.
I won’t explain the details now, but in my pursuit of love I began to see that God’s love for us is greater than all of our sorrows and pain. I began to see that all people desire to be loved and to love in a profound way. God is love. The love that people show for others, even very self-centered people, is a reflection of God’s image in us. God is love. We love because He first loved. I saw that the root of all of the biggest problems in the world can be traced to a lack of love. As anarchy and selfishness increase love is growing colder in our world. Our technology, urbanization, science, political and economic solutions, education, luxury and escapism, religion and all of our “progress” do not seem to be able to cure the deepest wounds in the human heart. In fact, many times we make it worse. I saw that “without love I am nothing.” We feel alone and isolated and our false views of God, of ourselves and of reality keep us locked in a cell of utter loneliness. This loneliness is so overwhelming that we fear to even admit it is there. We try to drown out the “sound of silence” that echoes in our hearts with empty pursuits and superficial relationships. We believe lies and make up lies to tell ourselves to cover over the terror of our worst fear: the fear that we are absolutely alone in the universe and that this loneliness will last forever. We fear that: “No one really knows me. No one really cares. No one really loves me just for who I am.”
We started the Heartbeat Mime Troupe because we wanted to find a universal form of communication that we could use to stir people up to consider love and its’ Source. Marcel Marceau called pantomime “the language of the heart.” It is a perfect way to communicate heart to heart between people of different languages, ages, cultures, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. Pantomime focuses on universally understood expressions and movements to bring us in touch with our deepest joys and sorrows.
After the performances we wanted to give people something that would allow them to carry with them what they had experienced. That is how we started giving out “Love Rocks”. We wanted something that was inexpensive and easy to reproduce in any nation. Rocks carry very little value of their own. But when we paint a heart on them by hand they become a symbol of love. Without love there is no difference between the $5 worth of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and trace elements that make up my body and a lifeless rock. We give the rock with a heart on it to others as a “24 hour love test”. We tell them that there are two condition for taking a free “love rock”. First, they must carry the rock with them and love everyone around them as much as they love themselves for a full day. Second, they must give the “love rock” to someone else who will agree to the two conditions. We all carry inside of us a tool for knowing how to love others. That tool is this: we know how we would like to be loved. The “love rocks” are serve as a reminder of this. As we seek to love others, including those who cannot pay us back and even our enemies, we start to learn what real love is. We love poorly and incompletely, but we do love. If we, who are selfishly motivated, know how to love our children, how much more does our Father in heaven, who is love, love you and me?
We then started “Love Talks”, open discussion groups about love, to try to lead people to discover the importance of love and to change their life course to purse real love and love’s Source. As part of the research for the book we are now writing about love, we have also been conducting surveys on college and high school campus, and in other public places to encourage people to think about love and pursue it.
For many of us the pursuit of love leads us to Jesus Christ, because we see that greatest love anyone can show is to lay down his life for his beloved. And we see that Christ laid down His life, not just as a moral example of self-sacrifice, but to pay the debt for our rebellion against our Father and Creator. He loved us while we were enemies and died so that we could receive forgiveness of all of our wrongs and be restored to an intimate relationships with our God and Father. He became the “Lamb of God” (Kurban; Eid-al-Adha) who takes away all of mankind’s evil and selfishness by bearing the load Himself. We learn that He was willing to be forsaken by the Father and to suffer alone when He died on the cross so that we could be brought near to God and never be left alone again.