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December 2008 Archives

December 9, 2008

That Insidious Nut Grass

For years I have cultivated acres of gardens in my backyard, and in the process I have discovered that certain patches of ground have been more resistant to my guiding hand than others. Throughout the yard there is considerable variation in the soil, drainage, light exposure, and other conditions that affect plant life, and because of my ignorance of these conditions and their interactions I have--on many occasions--planted flowers, bushes, ground cover, and trees in places where they were unable to thrive.

In one particular patch of ground--shaped like a triangle, maybe forty feet on a side, on a hillside not far from the main entrance to our home--I have planted several varieties of groundcover in succession, all of which have eventually declined and died. A couple of years ago I planted a groundcover in the triangle that the nursery called monkey grass - blue monkey grass, actually, although I soon left out the "blue" part, because the green leaves had no hint of blue that I could see. To my delight, this new grass grew beautifully and began to spread.

I was quite pleased with myself, but one day as I stooped to admire my patch of grass, I noticed something disturbing. What I had thought was a prolific growth of monkey grass, filling in the spaces between the plants I had originally planted, was really a growth of a pesky weed called nut grass. I hadn't noticed this earlier because the leaves of nut grass are almost identical in color, shape, width, and length to the leaves of monkey grass.

No other weed could have succeeded in growing to such an extent in my triangle. Only nut grass could have pulled off that feat, because it masqueraded so well as the monkey grass I had planted, fooling me for quite some time. To this day, as I pass by that patch, I carefully inspect it for any sign of the insidious invader, carefully pulling out even a single plant, knowing that if I let it grow, it will take over the entire triangle.

And so it is with Imitation Love. The power of Imitation Love comes from its ability to imitate that which is good, specifically the beneficial qualities of Real Love. When people are showering us with conditional approval, for example, the resultant positive feelings we experience are not imaginary. Being flattered, praised, and accepted feels so good - especially in the absence of Real Love - that we simply cannot imagine that such wonderful feelings could be anything other than genuine love. When someone has sex with us - or even when they express desires for us - it is unthinkable that the feelings we experience might be weeds and not what we've been looking for all our lives.

Similarly, when we give Imitation Love, the potential for confusion is enormous. When I perform an act of service for you, how can I be certain how much of that act is motivated by Real Love - the desired plant - and how much is the nut grass of Imitation Love, which has crept into the mix without my being aware? And then, when we combine what we give and what we get into the ultimately volatile situation of falling in love, the fertilizing potential exists for nut grass to literally take over our lives. In that condition, people become quite blinded by their consuming needs for Imitation Love, to the point where they often can't tell the difference between nut grass and a mature forest of oak trees.

It takes only a little experience to distinguish between nut grass and monkey grass, but even then I have to check the monkey grass closely and on a regular basis to be certain that it's not being overrun by that masquerading weed. Considerable experience, on the other hand, is required to distinguish Imitation Love from Real Love, and then we must be careful for a lifetime to constantly root out the destructive effects that Imitation Love can have on our happiness and our relationships. There's no reason to do this in fear, but it must be done, because Imitation Love - like a weed - never sleeps. It's always there to seduce us, undermine our happiness, and sicken our relationships. The cultivation of Real Love doesn't require more work than Imitation Love does, but it does require constant and special care.

December 10, 2008

Compacting the Soil

Recently I completed a plumbing project in my backyard, which necessitated my digging a ditch eighty feet long. When I had finished connecting all the pipes, and when I was certain that the water was flowing properly, I began filling the ditch back in with dirt. At one point in the process, a friend happened by and asked me what I was doing. At that moment I was pushing pieces of clay under a section of pipe and vigorously pounding the clay down with the end of a piece of wood.

“What are you doing?” my friend asked.

“Compacting the soil,” I answered.

“What?” He seemed perplexed by my answer, explaining that he had filled in many holes and ditches in his life but had never done anything like what I was doing.

So I explained to him the rationale behind soil compaction. When soil has settled for a long time, it becomes densely compacted, through the forces of gravity, water, and other influences. When a hole or a trench is dug, the soil that is removed is dramatically loosened—by way of the introduction of air pockets and irregular surfaces to the soil—such that the soil removed cannot begin to fit back into the hole from which it was taken.

In some cases, it’s not important—or desirable—that all the dirt taken from a hole first perfectly back into the hole from which it was removed. When I dig a hole to plant a small shrub, for example, I wouldn’t want to put all the excavated dirt back into the hole. If I tried to force all the dirt back into the hole, I’d injure the roots of the plant.

In many instances, however, it is important that we get as much of the dirt as possible back into the hole. Actually, what matters most is not the amount of dirt we replace but the way we do it. In order to get all the dirt back into the hole or the ditch, we must carefully and sometimes rather forcefully push the dirt against the bottom of the hole as we shovel it in—a process known as compaction—because as we do that, we eliminate the air pockets and return the soil to the dense, tight condition it possessed before we dug it out of the hole.

Compaction can be done with your feet, with the end of a board, with motorized devices, or any number of makeshift tools, and if it’s done properly, the compaction must be done every time four to six inches of soil is shoveled into the hole or ditch. But many people try to shortcut the compaction process. They will, for example, fill up a six-foot-deep hole and stomp on the dirt only at the end of the project, not realizing that compaction then happens only in the upper few inches of the hole. Over time, rain and gravity will compact the remainder of the dirt, and as the soil settles, whatever rests on the top layer of the soil—a house, a road, and so on—will sink, usually in an uneven and unpleasant way.

It is often because of poorly performed compaction that you see so many places in city roads where repair jobs have resulted in depressions in the road and bumps for all the drivers that happen by. Or you can look out over a cemetery, and you will see many monuments tilted this way or that—because of irregular or no attention to compaction during the replacement of dirt after digging. Many houses built on hillsides have had their foundations laid on dirt that was brought in to build up the ground for some part of the foundation. But if the compaction was improperly done, the dirt later settled and the foundation cracked.

And that was why I was compacting the soil under the pipes I had laid. My ditch was on a slope, and as I dug I found it difficult to keep the bottom of the ditch at exactly the same angle for the entire distance. When I laid the pipe, I therefore discovered that in some places the pipe touched the compacted dirt on the bottom of the ditch—as it was supposed to—while in other places there was a gap of several inches between the pipe and the bottom of the ditch. If I had simply thrown all the dirt into the ditch to cover the pipes, the soil would have settled over time and exerted pressure on those sections of pipe not touching the bottom of the ditch, bowing and distorting them, which would have created the possibility for breaks or separations at joints in the pipes. My compaction of the soil eliminated that possibility.

Building foundations of dirt is not entirely unlike building the foundations of our lives, which also must be laid carefully, layer upon layer, each properly compacted, or the entire structure may fail. I see the importance of these foundations as people come to me with the complicated problems in their lives, often conflicts with their spouses or children or co-workers or whoever that have burdened them for a long time. They want me to offer them a quick fix.

But there is no quick fix, and the problem is not complicated. Almost uniformly the problem is a basic lack of compaction. They’re having problems because the soil wasn’t properly laid down and compacted in the first place, and now they’ll have to do some work on the foundation before they can work on the walls or the roof. Before we can work on what we believe to be “complicated conflicts,” we have to learn to tell the truth about ourselves. We have to learn to find more Real Love in our lives. We have to feel more loved and become genuinely more loving. We must understand the Law of Choice and truly respect the right of other people to make their own choices because we really care about them. All this lays a firm foundation for genuinely loving relationships, and then conflicts simply begin to fade away. We discover that they weren’t really all that complicated, as we had supposed.

A man once came to me, eager to eliminate the anger in his life. He had been eaten up with anger for decades, inwardly fuming at the world for its many injustices and outwardly blowing up at everyone around him for all their many crimes against him. People were afraid of him, and he tended to isolate himself from them. He had virtually no long-term relationships, even with his family. He’d been through three divorces. He’d been to therapy, but his anger persisted. I suggested that we meet a few times.

I didn’t do anything complicated. I just loved him. We talked. I asked him to tell the truth about himself, and I just loved him. After a few meetings, he called and said that for the past week something had been happening to him, and he wanted me to explain it to him. He said that the same old stuff had been happening to him—his truck had broken down, his boss had yelled at him, the rain had washed out part of his driveway, some drivers had cut him off in traffic, and so on—but somehow he had “forgotten” to get angry. In the past all those things would have sent him into a rage, but now they just didn’t seem to bother him, and he couldn’t figure out what was different. Now he just didn’t care when those things happened, and he called to ask me why.

I explained to him that his foundation was now in place, so that each time it rained—each time somebody did some little thing to him—his foundation didn’t settle or wash out from under him, leaving him empty and afraid, after which he then reacted in the only way he’d ever known: with anger. He understood.

We have to compact our soil We have to tell the truth about our emptiness and fear and our Getting and Protecting Behaviors to people who will love us unconditionally. And then we have to practice sharing that love with others, so the love within us will steadily grow. And we have to do all that gradually, in steps, compacting the soil as we go, so that when difficult times come—which they always do—the entire foundation won’t wash away. And if we’re willing to do that, we’ll be able to build a loving home in which we’ll want to live, a place where we’ll want to invite others to share the love and joy we have. It’s quite a way to live.

December 21, 2008

Love and the Price of the Perfect Diamond

There was once a man whose life's ambition was to find the largest perfect diamond in the world. He spent decades in pursuit of his goal, not only looking for the diamond but also amassing a fortune large enough so that he could afford to buy it when he found it. Finally, his agents found a diamond that seemed to be the answer to his search. It was larger than any other diamond previously classified as flawless, and it appeared to be perfect, but no one could be certain, because it was a rough diamond. In other words, it has not yet been cut, so it couldn't be thoroughly examined for flaws on the inside. And the owner was selling the diamond in its rough, uncut state.

The man agonized over the purchase of the diamond, eager to realize his dream but also concerned that perhaps the diamond might turn out to have flaws after it was cut. It was a difficult decision, because he would have to sell everything he had in order to make the purchase. In the end, he decided not to buy the diamond, because he wasn't willing to make the sacrifice and assume the risk.

After he passed up the purchase, someone else bought the diamond. When it was cut, the diamond was found to be the largest perfect diamond ever discovered, and the owner sold it and the pieces cut from it for a greater profit than he could have imagined.

Real Love is a perfect diamond, and in order to enjoy it we must be willing to give up all of our unrelated possessions--our pride, our anger, our blaming, our defensiveness, and our addictive attachments to praise, power, pleasure, and safety. Giving up what we have--what has made us intermittently comfortable for a lifetime--to achieve something we're not entirely certain of is the very definition of faith, but without this faith, and without the sacrifices that always attend faith, we can never find the Real Love we require to be happy in this life.

We all want to feel unconditionally loved. We all do. And we want the joy that comes with being unconditionally loving toward others. The question is, what are we willing to pay to possess this diamond? Are we willing to give up all that we have? Are we willing to give up the blaming and instead tell the truth about ourselves? Are we willing to give up our selfish wounds and demands, and instead see the needs of others? Are we willing to trade our anger for joy? When we're willing to do this, our actions will tell the truth about our intentions, and the diamond will be ours.

About December 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Greg's Real Love Blog in December 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2008 is the previous archive.

January 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.