February Cover - Love

Love is not just a feeling or an experience. Love is an ”art”, a philosophy that is to be imbibed intrinsically by the individual. It is to be reflected in every action of the human being. In the world of development, love holds a significant position. When a development worker integrates love as a core principle in their working, it enables them to reach out to the community in a better manner.

Love is not just a feeling or an experience. Love is an ”art”, a philosophy that is to be imbibed intrinsically by the individual. It is to be reflected in every action of the human being. In the world of development, love holds a significant position.

When a development worker integrates love as a core principle in their working, they are able to reach out to the community in a better manner.

Psychologists & philosophers through the centuries have heatedly debated the nature of love. Some believed that love is restricted to the attraction that is sparked between two people who are “in” love. Others considered it to be something that transcends the senses into a more spiritual, metaphysical state of the human being. Yet, they all concluded that love is an omnipresent and omnipotent force in human life.

Spiritual masters and leaders consider love to be the centre of human existence. They say humans are born out of love and live in love. Jealousy, anger and hatred are only distorted forms of love and none of these would exist if human beings ceased to love. For the root of jealousy is in our inability to possess what we love, anger and hatred arise out of the harm done to what we love. History, as well as the world today, is replete with instances of war, conflict, poverty and cruelty towards certain communities enough to shake our belief in love. It is naïve to attribute to the modern age, the deteriorated existence of humankind. If anything, human existence that is devoid of a sense belongingness with fellow beings has only worsened in the modern age and only accentuated by ideals such as “individualism” and (negative) liberty. Of course, these ideals are rooted in a long and arduous struggle of the individual, the most basic unit of society, to break from the shackles of Church, State and societal institutions such as caste. But it is interesting and revealing to probe further into the prevailing disbelief in love and its many manifestations that humankind has imbibed and holds so dear.

While the concept of love is itself abstract and difficult to articulate, it is easier to understand that it manifests itself in various forms- compassion, cooperation, understanding, tolerance, respect, generosity, service, etc. All these acts are thought to be born out of love. And every human, even the cruelest dictator and the most stone-hearted criminal performs acts of compassion, generosity to some others. Somehow, individuals have failed to feel this kind of belongingness for all other humans and indeed all other beings on the planet. This partly explains why human suffering finds such an integral part in our world.

Being the most basic and most natural of emotions, ignoring love’s role in every sphere of human activity comes at a heavy price. In the economic sphere, love is in sharing of the available resources, in society, love entails considering all individuals equal. The modern world is riddled with alarming disparities and deprivation. The crisis of global warming is the culmination of humankind’s relentless and unchecked manipulation of natural resources. It is almost as if man had forgotten that he was just a part of a grander scheme of nature which was based on the principle of interdependence among various species.

The Vedic concept of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam espoused the values of compassion and a bond of kinship among all human beings. This philosophy considers the whole world to be a family and detests the idea of considering anyone as a “stranger.” At the heart of Gandhian philosophy is acceptance and respect towards all forms of life. Gandhian philosophy and other branches of socialism probe and explain why oppression exists in the world. While some of these philosophies advocate violent methods to “overthrow the bourgeoisie” most advocate achieving their ideals in a peaceful manner. The core principles of socialism are cooperation as against competition among individuals, fair sharing of available resources.

Similarly, all religions carry the message of peace and love. For this, one needs to scratch beneath the surface of the customs and practices that religion dictates. Unfortunately, most religious persons do not dwell into the deeper meaning and values of a religion.

The understanding of love in contemporary times is predominantly limited to it being romantic and as a sense of strong attraction between two individuals. This concept is reiterated through art and popular media such as television, music, cinema, etc. and has lead to crass commercialization of love. As Erich Fromm in his book “The Art of Loving” rightly points out, there is no greater endeavor than love that people start with great hopes but more often than not results in failure. Romantic love is born out of the liking individuals associate with particular traits of others- such as having a beautiful face or voice. Just as these characteristics are ephemeral and wither away eventually, so will the love associated with them. This combined with the forces of individualism and a strong sense of competition that has set in modern economy has further deteriorated the understanding and perception of love. Still, there are examples of Gandhi, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama who have strived to get across the message of true love among human beings and its importance for maintaining harmony with the world. Further, psychologists like Erich Fromm have attempted to deconstruct the myths associated with love and reveal what it truly comprises of. There is a consensus emerging that love is an important force for humankind and the entire planet.

When one is in the business of development of others and alleviate their suffering, imbibing love as a core principle is of utmost importance. We cannot have a mechanical approach to development. It is essential to appreciate the various social, political, economic and psychological dynamics in order to design and implement interventions that truly meet the requirements of the community. What has set legendary development workers apart from others is their faith in the community’s potential, ways of life and wisdom. They would not approach development of the community from an alien perspective, but would work together with the community in emancipating them. Examples of development workers living with the community to erase barriers between them and the community are galore. To serve the community better and for more effective development interventions, it is necessary that we understand love as a philosophy to be adopted in our approach to life itself.

Productivity is a defining feature of love. Love is in itself giving- i.e. love produces love. This orientation towards love is possible only when the individual has attained superior level of personality development and is not driven by primarily narcissist motives. The loving person derives joy in giving. For a human being, the greatest and most precious thing she/he can give to the world is herself/ himself- their time, skills, labour, etc.

In the “Art of Loving” Erich Fromm elucidates the characteristics of love as care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge.

Love, as care is most evident in the mother-child relationship. The mother’s care towards her child is what makes one believe that the mother does indeed love the child. Else, no number of verbal assurances would suffice to prove the mother’s love for her child. When we love something, or someone, it is in our interest to labour for it and help it grow. Therefore, love is the “active concern” for what we love.

Responsibility comes naturally towards what we love. When a responsibility is taken out of love, it ceases to be a burden or duty. When one loves others, she/he responds to others’ needs and feels responsible for others’ life. Respect for what or whom we love prevents responsibility from transcending into domination. To respect a person, means to accept her/him as she/he is. It does not mean exploiting that person to suit one’s own needs. It entails allowing that person to realize her/his innate skills and honing them to flourish into a loving human being. When one abuses another by virtue of being responsible for her/ him, one is simply asserting her/his influence over them to meet one’s own requirements.

Learning to be responsible towards the other and respecting the other for what she/he is possible when one is independent and does not require support from another to survive. In an exploitative relationship, the exploiter feels the need to exploit in order to feel complete. Responsibility in love has no space for such abuse.

Rendering this respect for another is born out of knowing that person. Full knowledge of the other is something that is attainable either through extreme sadism- i.e. absolute control over the person or through love. In love, individuals willingly open up to each other. In love, we know that the other’s anger is only a facade for her/his anxiety regarding something. This knowledge of the person, of human beings, is knowledge in love. Empathizing with the angry person, understanding the cause of that anger happens only when our quest for knowledge of the person is not truncated at the periphery but probes into the depths of human nature.

Khalil Gibran once said that “Work is love made visible.”

The action part of love is service. Love is an activity. An activity, that gives, without expecting to receive. However, in love, people generally expect to receive from others. They have certain expectations which, when not met disappoints them. In fact, this notion of receiving in love is so entrenched in our psyche that for most of us, it is unfathomable that love is in fact giving and not expecting or expecting to receive. By nature, love is free. A true relationship of love never binds an individual but lets the individual flourish. In this state of constantly expecting something from the other, most individuals fail to actually give. And the cumulative effect of this is distrust and ill- feelings among individuals.

When love is thus practiced, it makes the loving person reliable.  She/he would not make false promises. Love encourages the loved to introspect, analyze their mistakes and scope for improvement. A loving person always has faith in the loved. She/he trusts the capacities of the other to develop, this evident in the lover’s tireless pursuit and efforts towards what she/he loves. A loving person believes that only certain individuals are bad/evil but not humankind itself. This faith is empowering and educative to the loved.

This kind of love requires courage and patience; courage to put in the required effort for the required period of time without expecting to receive much in return. It requires courage to accept one’s mistakes and act upon them, the courage to bear frustration, pain and discomfort.

Practicing care, responsibility, respect and knowledge in love are all characteristics of the mature individual. A loving individual lives and breathes all these principles. By nature, these values are closely intertwined; an individual cannot practice any of them in isolation. The individual who understands love in this sense is humble, not driven by avarice and realizes that only a share of the resource pool and not all of it is available to her/him.

An individual can work towards learning this “art” of loving. It requires discipline, concentration and patience. For this kind of love to be realized, one should attempt to dissolve the differences between various facets of life- personal and professional. For the development worker, the development of the community should be her/his interest and not just a task at hand. When this realization occurs, development will happen on its own. For the lover relentlessly toils and pursues what she/he loves. One needs to develop sensitivity, that whatever other work is at hand, the core activity is to give love. One’s attitude should be like that of a mother’s towards her child. Whatever else the mother may be involved in, she instinctively knows when her child needs to be fed, what it requires.

A loving person always has faith in the loved. She/he trusts the capacities of the other to develop, this evident in the lover’s tireless pursuit and efforts towards what she/ he loves. A loving person be- lieves that only certain indi- viduals are bad/evil but not humankind itself.
Love, in this sense is a much desired quality in a development worker. Many a time, we adopt a mechanized approach in our efforts to reduce poverty & suffering and build egalitarian societies. Many interventions fail because we do not take the needs of community into account. When we adopt love as an integral part of development, we create space to learn and understand the needs of the community. Love removes the barriers between the development worker and the community. Love offers no space to judge the other, it only allows us to accept and respect the other. When the development worker loves the community, she/he is not judgmental of the community’s habits or lifestyle. She/he finds means to help the community within the existing order rather than changing it to suit her/his needs.

The development worker should use her/his proficiency in a manner the community also considers fit. A process wherein the two parties reach a consensus must be adopted. The development worker only facilitates the process of development. She/he allows the community to learn. The development worker supports the community in the development process but never dictates what is to be done.

Man is born as a freak of nature, being within nature and yet transcending it. He has to find principles of action and decision making which replace the principles of instincts. he has to have a frame of orientation which permits him to organize a consistent picture of the world as a condition for consistent actions. He has to fight not only against the dangers of dying, starving, and being hurt, but also against another anger which is specifically human: that of becoming insane. In other words, he has to protect himself not only against the danger of losing his life but also against the danger of losing his mind. ( Erich Fromm)
The challenge is not limited to only ensuring physical infrastructure and benefits to the poor, but also creating an atmosphere that allows them to grow. Focus should also be on how these communities are made to feel secure and not live in the constant fear of external factors infringing on their rights & resources.

In all the talk about mainstreaming the vulnerable, we are actually suggesting that these communities give up their ways of life and take to a stream of life that is entirely alien to them. Naturally, they are bound to fall behind and perceive the disparities in society. And it is here that conflict arises. To make these communities feel loved is to create spaces for them to grow at their own pace and within their own contexts.

The development worker’s love should not be reserved only for the community but also for his colleagues and co-workers. When one adopts love as an intricate part of their life, it is impossible to love only one individual. This love is for all individuals one is associated with. To show this love to co-workers is to respect them, their skills and giving them space to hone their skills. This understanding and cooperation between co-workers automatically reflects in the quality of work produced.

Love is an important, defining characteristic of a development worker. The significance of love in a development worker’s approach arises from the fact the she/he works with the community with an intention of making their lives better. For such an activity to be effective, it is necessary to love– to respect, care, be responsible and to know the community well. Inculcating this kind of love is not easy. It requires tremendous will, discipline and perseverance to build. It requires one to set their ego aside and let the community grow and learn from mistakes. The development worker needs to put the cause above herself/himself. The development worker may not receive much appreciation for their work, but this should not deter them from giving their best and continue to strive to work for the community’s develop