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Love is the beginning and the end of it all. You will learn early on in your life about love. You will most likely have a novice view on the emotion. Your inability to comprehend what love truly is, is something I can not fault you for. If you are a man of conviction you will never doubt the love you hold deep in your heart. I commend you for that, but I hope this lesson can serve you to expand that comprehension.
God willing, your first experience with love will be the love your mother and I share with you. That love will be expanded on and reinforced by the wonderful family that surrounds you. I hope your understanding of love expands in the ways you witness how I treat your mother and all of the other women in both of our lives. I will do my best to set the greatest example possible for the way you should treat women, as I myself have learned those lessons the hard way. We will discuss the love of women further but for now I ask that we consider love in terms that expand beyond that of man and woman, or between other family members.
The best lesson I ever learned about love was displayed to me in the book “Gates of Fire” by Steven Pressfield. I cannot wait to share with you, the stories of mankind’s history, and the amazing feats many men took part in when the chips were stacked against them. The 300 Spartans of Thermopylae are towards the top of this list, and you will know of them early on in your life. Pressfield’s depiction of love’s power in his book is what we will focus on for now.
In the book during the days leading up to the Spartan’s battle with the Persian empire at Thermopylae, one of the lieutenants named Dienekes, constantly questions his men about fear. Many times throughout the story he asks, what is the opposite of fear. His men quickly respond like I did and assume you would, claiming fearlessness to be the opposite of fear. Yet, the lieutenant reminds his men that fearlessness is only the absence of fear. Therefore the absence of an emotion cannot be the opposite of it. Much like the difference between bravery and courage is that courage is seen as being scared but having the will to go on anyway. Bravery is considered to be an adjective describing a person acting in the absence of fear.
I encourage you to take the time to ponder this in your own mind for as many days as you can before reading on. Take the time to work through this question in your own head and attempt to develop the patience within yourself to appreciate the journey this question takes you on.
Later on in Gates of Fire, after one of the worst days of battle just before the conflict would culminate Dienekes and his men surround a camp fire ruminating on the day’s events. A squire of Dienekes, nicknamed “Suicide” begins to discuss his beliefs about the Spartan men he admires so much. In discussing his nick-name Suicide says to the men, “For what can be more noble than … to extinguish the selfish self within, that part which looks only to its own preservation, to save its own skin.” Suicide delves into the concept more deeply and states;
“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart has truly achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.”
For an emotion to truly be the opposite of another emotion on the spectrum it cannot have multiple opposites. If we concede that sadness is the opposite of happiness, in the same vein happiness cannot simultaneously be the opposite of fear. Dienekes conceded to his men that he is not all knowing (willingness to admit you don’t know something when you are in charge is yet another lesson to discuss another time). Yet, he claimed that he believed he had determined what the opposite of fear was after witnessing the Suicide’s proclamation by the fire. He proclaimed it to be love.
Love is the opposite of fear. Fear cannot exist in your heart when it is filled with love. The focus of that love is so strong that a fear of what events lie ahead or surround you cannot exist simultaneously with love. I am fortunate that as your father I was never required to go to combat. Doing so may have led to the absence of my existence and consequentially yours too. I have served in the profession of arms though and I do believe I have experienced the love that exists between warriors. It is almost the most powerful form of love that does exist. The only forms of love more powerful are those you will hold in your heart for your mother, for the woman you choose for a wife, and the love you hold for your first child.
Now, those days are far off for you, as they should be. It is my hope that you are able to experience love in its many varieties so that you too are able to love yourself and those around you more deeply. I chose love as the first lesson I would endeavor to teach you for a reason. It is the Alpha and the Omega. It will drive you through your entire life. It is the seed of all emotions and all actions you partake in. Be they positive or negative I promise they are rooted in love. I hope you love hard, and feel the hurt that love brings. Coincidentally, that hurt will drive you to feel the joy that it brings and most importantly its ability to drive out fear. Love, son. Love, and one day you will be a great man.
To read Lessons For My Son: #2 … God; click here
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