"The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do." ~ Eric Hoffer
Shield and Strength: The Power of Love
Exclusive to STR
March 10, 2008
"Love is the central ingredient in building a strong and resilient personality. It equips us with the mobilizing chemicals such as dopamine that allow us to be aggressive, to establish goals and pursue them, to stand up for ourselves and have the energy to accomplish things. It accounts for self-confidence, a 'can-do' attitude. It prevents the need for drugs later on, such as cocaine, that do what dopamine should have done had there been adequate supplies; had there been adequate love. Most drug addiction, and the choice of drugs, is an attempt to normalize a system that is unbalanced. If the inhibitory/serotonin system is deficient then pain-killers will be the later choice for addiction." [Emphasis added]
~ from The Biology of Love by Dr. Arthur Janov, 2000
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The Economic Shield Begins to Collapse
More bad economic news was reported this past week, continuing the trend of bad economic news since the first of the year. Prices are moving higher for almost everything; oil is holding above $100/barrel (just over $105 as I write this) and mainstream sources see $200/barrel as a real possibility; peak oil combined with increased Asian and other demand make it likely that prices will stay high. Global food shortages are adding to concern over rising food prices. The housing market continues its collapse with damage to millions of homeowners and to mortgage holders and others including the construction and home-improvement industries. Many banks and other financial institutions are feared insolvent (such as Carlyle Capital, in the news last week, and mighty Citigroup -- at risk for bankruptcy even after recent multi-billion-dollar cash infusions from Middle Eastern sovereign funds); the muni bond market is imploding, putting yet-more financial pressure on America's cash-strapped towns and cities; the stock market is trending downward and dollars themselves are worth less and less against most other currencies, not to mention against food, oil, coal, metals, and other real goods.
All this comes on the heels of ominous economic events reported throughout most of last year. In turn, that news followed inevitably from previous years and decades of bad news -- which sometimes looked like good news, as with the run-up of economic bubbles (for example, the Roaring Twenties or the recent housing boom). Nearly all of this bad news was created, directly or indirectly, by corrupt U.S. laws and policies since, oh, about 1913 (see also here). Our current disaster has been almost a century in the making, or even longer depending on the particular start-point you prefer.*
Americans have long been shielded from many of the pains and problems of life by our nation's breathtaking prosperity, generated largely by unmatched economic freedom and strong respect for property and other rights. With American freedoms now having mostly faded into myths and slogans, the prosperity we once created is now also fading. Prosperity has already vanished for millions of Americans, often with shocking speed. The chill wind of joblessness, of rude calls from creditors, of higher prices for necessities, of lost pensions and withered investments, of homelessness and hunger and bleak, stomach-churning fear, is growing stronger.
As I have said before, a storm is coming, and the leading edge of that storm is becoming more difficult to ignore. Most Americans -- including those who still hold decent jobs -- are increasingly uneasy about the future. These fears are perfectly sensible. If anything, the situation is worse than most Americans believe -- perhaps far worse.
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A Shield and Strength of Another Kind
Most visitors to STR have already seen articles (on this site and elsewhere) about how to prepare for what is coming. The advice is typically related to finances, food storage, relocation (Should you move out of the city? Into the city? Out of the country?), self-sufficiency, investment strategies, and other such things. The actions that seem appropriate depend on your view of how things will play out, and choosing a course of action can be nerve-wracking in part because the shape of the future is always blurred. Prepare for scenario A, and you may expose yourself to scenario B.
Yet there is one strategy you can pursue which will serve you and your family well regardless of what happens. This strategy provides a powerful shield against hard times and other difficulties; it creates a core of strength to meet whatever life may bring and improves the quality of life far more than money ever can. This shield will not stop bullets or creditors, nor will the strength I speak of allow for leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Yet this strength is real and profound, and it can indeed shield people in important ways from the pain and hardships of life. If you look carefully, you can see this strength at work in the lives of (some) people today and in history, and you can see the problems and harm caused by a lack of this strength in the lives of others.
You can make use of this strength yourself, and can to some extent give it to those around you, including especially to your children. As with a financial shield, this one requires time and effort to create. This strength, this shield against the hardships and sorrows of life, is rooted in an ancient and profound biological ability: love.
Love is the other half of freedom; the yin to freedom's yang. Love and freedom require each other despite the commonplace denial of this truth. A free society without love -- a sociopathic society -- will not long remain free. An unfree society -- a police state or other tyranny -- is toxic to love.
The most persuasive evidence for the power of love is impossible to convey in words, just as the taste of cinnamon is impossible to convey in words. You can say words on such topics -- for instance, "cinnamon has a dusky yet spicy taste" -- but unless you have actually tasted cinnamon, no description of the spice's taste can convey the experience to you.**
This points to a basic human truth: we can only hear what we already know. Without some level of shared experience on a given topic, two people cannot really communicate.
The difficulty -- the impossibility, really -- of fully conveying an experience in words to someone who has not had (or does not remember) similar experience is shown dramatically in the response to teachings on love and compassion. Telling people to "love one another" (as the major religions teach, for instance) can only have so much effect -- even for someone who sincerely wants to follow the advice. The limiting factor is mostly, although not entirely, the extent to which a person's ability to love has been fostered or harmed, especially in childhood and infancy. The child, after all, "is father to the man." Despite this, admonitions to "love one another" can be helpful in at least two ways: by encouraging positive changes in behavior and, in some people, by awakening their connection to the deeper levels of consciousness in which love mostly resides.
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Part Two of this column will include descriptions of love at work in the world, and thoughts about how to bring more of love's power into your own life. For now, consider browsing this collection of items on the power of love -- mostly described by the harm done by un-love, as is typical in studies on the topic.
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* For those interested in a more detailed look at the epic financial implosion now underway, or who want to check my predictions from a year ago, see Destruction by Paradigm: How the United States wrecked the world's most robust economy and impoverished its own people from March 2007. Gold was $652.20 then; as I write gold is $972.40 -- a gain of $320.20, or almost 50%, in a single year. You can check the current price at 321gold.com. For a shorter article on the same topic, see Money from last October.
** In addition, your experience of cinnamon (or of other foods) may be different from mine, so my description might actually be at odds with your experience; for instance, I have a visceral dislike for the taste of peanut butter, but most people apparently enjoy the stuff. (I always assume they're kidding, but they insist otherwise).