By Julie Spangler
My grandfather used to say, "You can't love things. You can only love people." As a child I understood that he was saying that we can't have a relationship with things, that what we might mean when we say we love something is perhaps not really loving but more appreciating or valuing, or even desiring. I can hear myself saying, "Oh, I LOVE that dress!" or, "I LOVE that song!" It was to the true nature of love and the proper use of language that my grandfather was pointing.
But from what I have experienced of the world, a world in which everything is sourced from love, I do think we can love the things around us. It is easy to love the trees and flowers in the natural world around me in which things are alive and I can relate to the life within them. But what about rocks? Have you ever felt love for a rock or mineral? There was a large boulder, flat and smooth on top, which sat in the corner of the driveway of my childhood home. That rock was very big to a four year old and was many things to me — a house, a ship, a safe haven, a warm spot in the sun, a place to stand and feel bigger. This rock was a friend. Did I love it? Not in the way I loved my cat, but I did have a sense of welcome and safety with it. There was a sense of connection. This rock was mine, not in the sense that I owned it or had to "have" it, but in the sense that on this rock I could be secure in myself, supported in my inner world.
Now, many years and experiences later, I am aware of a fondness I feel for certain things in my environment. They create a sense of home and belonging for me. I have chosen these things to have in my field of awareness and they help anchor me in my world. But some things I feel a special connection to — my grandmother's table brings me to a feeling of connection to her. But if I turn my attention to loving this table, I can feel a life presence within it. It has been lovingly handcrafted out of wood, carved, sanded, polished and has also spent some generations in the care of my grandmother's family. There is a lot of love stored up in this artifact. Does it love me personally? I don't think so. But when I touch it with my love, I can feel a connection with the love that it holds. There is love present between us. I am sure that if I were to pass this table on, it would carry within it the love I have felt for it. My grandfather would not define what I experience as love. But for me love is much more than an emotion. It is a quality, an essential attribute. So when I experience love with or for an object, then the love that I am experiencing is that same love that started the universe and is embedded in all things.
Our machines can be another perhaps more tangible example of loving an inanimate object. The first vehicle I ever bought new was a Toyota minivan. My husband and I'd had our first child, and we needed a vehicle which would carry four people and baby paraphernalia strollers, diaper bags, playpens or travel beds, etc. I have to say, I loved this van the moment I first drove it. Because of the placement of the motor under the front seats, the front of the van sloped uninterruptedly from top to bumper. It looked like something from space, so I called it the Lunar Lander. It was beautiful to me.
We had this van for 21 years. It drove us on many adventures, through many carpools, road trips and camping adventures. It became the "cool car" when my boys were teenagers. I felt like it was a part of the family, and yes, I loved it. I would talk to it, and appreciate the service it gave. I would pat it and say hello when I walked past it, or went to use it. I always felt at home in it, and safe. Did it respond?
To answer that question, let me tell you a story about this van. With four young kids as a distraction, getting the oil changed was not on my radar. The poor van would be way overdue for some attention when I would finally call our guy Casey to ask him to do the service. He would note how low and dirty the oil was, tease me and scold a little, "Cars need oil!" Usually I would only remember oil when the van began making terrible noises! During one particularly bad patch of noise, I called Casey to schedule an oil change. At that time, Casey would come to our house to take care of it. He came to the door when he finished, shaking his head, saying,"Julie, not a drop of oil came out when I took out the plug. Not one drop. It was dry as a bone! I filled 'er up again, but if this works I will be a believer!" He left laughing in disbelief and still shaking his head. There were no repercussions from running out of oil! She started up and ran just fine, but I never forgot about oil again. The van ran smoothly without a glitch for another 11 years before it was broadsided and rolled in Seattle. Thankfully, no passenger was hurt. But to our sorrow the grand old van was totaled or I am sure she would be running still!
Was it love that kept this friend running so faithfully? Did this car develop heart because we engaged with her as a member of the family? I can't say. But I do think the love given was absorbed, and the presence of this vehicle was enlivened such that perhaps it had its own will to live.
So, grandfather, we can love things, and things can return that love in their way, blessing us with their beauty, their function, their presence and uniqueness. The more we do to touch our world with love, the more we enable the life within things to emerge and perhaps develop a kind of consciousness.
David Spangler's book, Working with Subtle Energies, contains a series of exercises for learning how to work with subtle energies, cultivate subtle perception and explore methods of energy hygiene--all from a place of standing, sovereignty and reverence.