Love is an action

candle

Candle image from Wikipedia Commons; picture by Richard W.M. Jones

I think of myself as a sort of realistic optimist. I mean, I’m not a complete Pollyanna, thinking that everything will be just fine if you just think positively about it for long enough. Life is complex, pain is real and bad people do exist, after all. But I do think that most people are fairly decent, and that good exists in the world along with the bad.

However, I do think that, collectively and individually, the best ‘good’ happens when we do something to make it happen. We have a lot of entropy to fight against and, to paraphrase the quote, the only thing needed for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.

I saw a few things recently that got me thinking about this idea – of ‘good’ being the outcome of active choices.

One is a post that I saw on a social media site. The original post was a note that said: They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.

The comments were filled with anxiety and distress about being lost to time, but I don’t think memory and identity need to be the same thing. I think you can have an influence in the world long after your name is forgotten.

Despite my blog joking about how my name might live on in history, I honestly think that my name is unimportant compared to the effect I might have on the people I love and the world in which I live. All of us may go on in the world in ways we never anticipated.

After you’re dead, you may not have a name, but a kind word you had for someone, a selfless deed you performed, a word of encouragement you gave or the grace you had to truly listen to someone… those actions in turn can inspire kindness, good deeds, encouragement and grace in others, and so those good things are handed on and on and on. Maybe someone in your nameless future will be stronger and happier because once, even once, you took the time to care, and that act was paid forward.

The second instance was a friend’s Facebook update stating that she was tired of feeling depressed, angry, disenfranchised and essentially powerless in the face of persistent inequalities and injustices in Australian politics, society, and the world in general. She decided that she would try to focus more on the principle of ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

The truth is that if we decide it’s all too hard and too horrible and irredeemably awful, and turn our backs, nothing will change.

It’s only when we become engaged that we have a hope of influencing things. Maybe as an individual you can’t change the big picture – but we can act within our spheres of influence, and that can become collective. We can be advocates for the issues that matter to us and encourage others to participate in making a noise – and if we keep it up, making a change as well.

Hell, we can just engage with the people around us to be open, encouraging and supportive. Maybe we can’t change the whole world, but we can make one person’s world better than it was yesterday. We can make the time to listen, to say a kind word, do a good deed, make one choice to be the kind of person we want to see.

After all, love is not just something we feel. It’s not just a state. It’s a verb, it’s something we do as well as feel, or it should be.

And thinking about all of these things, I ended up writing something. Well, a song, to be exact.

For context about the song: in the last year I’ve been playing around with writing lyrics. I’m working on a multimedia project which involves a story about a rock band saving the world from monsters, and as a natural progression, I’ve been writing the material that they’ll sing in the book. However, I last played piano regularly around 30 years ago, so I essentially don’t play an instrument. I’m no great shakes as a singer either, but I come up with melodies so that the lyrics work as lyrics and not as a poem (they are two quite different disciplines).

For the book project, I’ve been working with my niece, Jessica Harris, since she is a proper musician, to turn lyrics into songs. This one, however, is all my own work. The melody is pretty simple

Which is all by way of saying, I wrote a song about choosing to be actively engaged in the world, even though it can be downright painful at times, and I’ve written a melody for it, which may be a bit simplistic because I’m not a proper musician. But for what it’s worth, here it is.

If you’re game, here’s an MP3 of me singing this, a-capella.

Battlecry

They say love is hearts and honey
It’s what we feel
We gaze at each other and we sigh
At the altar of Eros, oh we kneel

But love is not a state we are in
Love is not a wailing violin
Love is an action, it is a force
Love is a battlecry
Shout it until you’re hoarse

This is the world I love
I will fight for it
For wisdom and kindness
I will fight for it
Open my arms to the blood and the pain
And I will do it again and again and again

You cannot fight darkness with darkness, only light
The other side of fear is love and the end of night
For every act that is cruel, there is one that is kind
For everyone lost, there is someone to find
For every dark deed, there is one of grace
For the hope of all this, I will take my place

This is the world I love
I will fight for it
Compassion and courage
I will fight for it
And open my arms to the blood and the pain
Open my heart again and again and again

Love is an action, it is a force
Love is a battlecry
Shout it until you’re hoarse

You cannot fight darkness with darkness, only light
The other side of fear is love and the end of night
For every dark deed, there is one of grace
For the hope of all this, I will take my place
Love is an action, it is a force
Love is a battlecry
Shout it until you’re hoarse

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

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Posted on April 24, 2013, in writing. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. naturallydotty

    You are a musician, you’ve been writing lyrics and basic melodies and my dear friend its about time you accepted that you CAN sing. So there.

    I really like this song a lot.

    I now have an earworm “love is an action, it is a force”

    • Well, I do feel I’ve improved since I started. I need to find time to relearn keyboards. 🙂 I’m also inappropriately pleased to have given you an earworm.

  2. you should really be a folk singer, you do it well, want to start a band with me…………………….

    I know a good bagpiper and guitarist (though we might have trouble convincing hte guitarist to play folk)

  3. naturallydotty

    Folk singer. Perfect.

  4. naturallydotty

    I’m trying to think of a smart rhyme with “Harris” for your band name. The Harrassers springs to mind, a sort of anti-folk name.

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