Let Only Love Remain
The title of this essay comes from a new song by Ruston Kelly. The lyrics don’t really match anything in my life right now, but I recognize their bittersweetness. The title got me thinking about this question: “What needs to be cleared away so that only love remains?”
Let’s pause that for a minute and present the framework of an ecosystem. Every ecosystem has the built-in evolutionary trait of self-cleansing. A recent example is the remarkable transformation of Lake Tahoe. This is not just the life-death-rebirth cycle but it is the many lives and phases within an ecosystem. From hurricanes to menstrual cycles to fires to molting to societal shifts, change is relentless and constant - because it has to be to self-cleanse and prepare for the next cycle. Without this self-cleansing, stagnation occurs.
You can see this in many areas where nature collides with human interests. An example in Austin: a deer infestation caused by a lack of predators and sensible harvesting; leading to cuter but more destructive “yard rats” in neighborhoods and a significant increase in deer fatalities on highways (as evidenced by the big hole in the front left of our car).
Self-cleansing and ecosystems overlay well with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the baseline, self-cleansing is all about natural phases and cycles that sustain life and contribute to evolutionary progress. This is the classic ecosystem model.
In the middle tier, self-cleansing is about cultural and family dynamics, adapting to societal shifts, and the long and painful slog toward social justice. Democracy is an ecosystem. Much of the modern conservative movement in the US is about resisting change - to the point of authoritarianism and being anti-democracy, anti-artistic expression, and a general dogma of “different is dangerous.” You see it in many family cultures as well, where the patriarch fiercely holds on to being the authority and judge of right and wrong and sets expectations.
At the top is consciousness. I believe consciousness is also an ecosystem - with a similarly encoded evolutionary prompt for self-cleansing and change. There is pain, suffering, death, destruction, and chaos in nature, cultures, and consciousness. They are just experienced differently and for different reasons.
Interestingly, all indigenous cultures had rituals and practices for each of these kinds of self-cleansing. This tells us that we are an active part of the process. And as cliched as it sounds, it means it is happening for us, not just to us.
“There is a deep interconnectedness of all life on earth, from the tiniest organisms, to the largest ecosystems, and absolutely between each person.”
― Bryant McGill
All of which brings us back to letting only Love remain …
I’m certain that the real story of Easter is not about physical resurrection. It is about allowing old parts and roles to die in order for new growth the emerge. This can and will be a horribly painful experience but if allowed to progress (and many quit because of the pain), a new level of consciousness is revealed. In order to do this, it seems we need to burn away three specific things:
Everything that’s not true. This begins with being honest about our feelings - or maybe better said, getting honest about where we’ve been dishonest with ourselves and others about our feelings. It means getting rid of masking and pleasing. It means purging anything in life that the ego created to feel safe, in control, or to have an identity.
Everything that’s not regenerative. Consumptiveness and consciousness are not compatible. Sure, we need to consume food and fuel; and distractions and pleasure in moderation are ok. But the main point of consciousness is to create. It is to unlock the natural state of the soul to regenerate, to make art - in whatever form it takes.
Everything that does not contribute to wholeness. This often signals the end of coping mechanisms. Which can be extraordinarily painful and difficult to let go of. It is essentially putting the mind (and sometimes the body) on an elimination meal plan.
There are several elements that are a combination of all three. Examples: fully integrating your trauma, speaking your truth in relationships, and uncoupling yourself from old agreements that no longer serve you.
We are not intended to endure the pain and agony of the self-cleansing process alone. In my experience, you need three resources:
A friend(s) that can help you return to what’s real and to your true Self. All without a term I learned from Fereshta Ramsey: FRACKing (fixing, rescuing, giving advice, complaining, killing).
A friend(s) that can hold your suffering with you.
A coach/counselor/mentor (sometimes all three) to help create mindset and life frameworks to operate within.
Each of these is a very unique skill and is likely not found in the same person.
The pain of change within an ecosystem also contains the promise of new growth. This is often impossible to remember when in the depths of transition. But it is there. There is an end to the long, dark valley. Grace is present in the process and Hope awaits us on the other side.
If you are going through this, your job is to be deeply honest, ask for support, and most of all, keep going. And always remember that you are loved.