I was outside Dottie’s on Friday at 8 a.m. for breakfast. Arriving earlier than my friend, Corky, I waited for her on the street when a man passed wearing like a necklace a sign that read, “I Am Loved.” My first thought was 12 Step Program, quickly followed by admiration and then a “What If” question. What if we all believed that we were loved? What if we all knew that, as John Welwood* says, “boundless love always manages somehow to sparkle through” our imperfect selves.
By the time I thought of running after the man to ask about his belief that he was loved, the man was almost to Market. I couldn’t chase him down and keep my place at the front of the line that was forming behind me, the line that would eventually turn the corner down the alley.
What about that very public proclamation: “I Am Loved.” Is it wishful thinking? In which case there’s something silly and sad about the misconception that what you wish for is actually true.
To think wishfully is to interpret facts, reports, events, perceptions, etc., according to what you would like them to be rather than to the actual evidence. The Skeptic’s Dictionary goes so far as to declare that if wishful thinking is done intentionally and without regard for the truth, it is called misinterpretation, falsification, dissembling, disingenuous, or perversion of the truth.
But I think knowing you are loved and saying so is not wishful thinking at all; rather I call it “worshipful thinking.”
John Welwood says in Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, “Absolute love is a light that shines through us, from what lies altogether beyond us, the ultimate source of all. We are the channels through which this radiance flows. Yet in flowing through us, it also finds a home within us, taking up residence as our heart-essence.”
Until that morning I had not seen any persons disheveled or sprawled on the sidewalk so clearly show that they know they are loved. For many, pain and suffering has sent them into addiction, or they have been swallowed up by mental illness. Perhaps the recognition that love is their nature has eluded them.
To see the extremes of the human condition reminds me that extreme is different only by degree from the condition of all beings. We all have pain in our pasts; many of us were not loved and have struggled to maintain or become ourselves. And many of us are lucky, lucky not to have been overwhelmed by the ragged aspect of ourselves.
The man whose jewelry says “I Am Loved” really states the obvious. Mostly we think love is outside ourselves and needs to come from other people if we are to experience it. In fact, love and loved is who we are already.
Welwood says we have perfection at the core of our nature. For me it is good to be on Sixth between Mission and Market. Looking at the distress that exists along the street can be a reminder that some kind of breakdown is usually necessary before a breakthrough allows us to experience a new way of living less encumbered by past conditioning.
Before long, Corky joined me, and we were seated at a communal table in a crowded Dottie’s True Blue Café. I told her about the man with the sign saying “I Am Loved” and she told me about words once scratched into the cement on the sidewalk along Castro Street, words she said have been paved over but could be rewritten with colored chalk. “May you feel loved just as you are.”
That is my wish-filled thought for all beings on every street, in every neighborhood: be they lying, sitting, standing or walking. That is my wish for Corky and my wish for me.
*John Welwood has published more than fifty articles on relationship, psychotherapy, consciousness, and personal change, as well as eight books including Journey of the Heart, Love and Awakening, Toward a Psychology of Awakening and Ordinary Magic; and Perfect Love; Imperfect Relationships.