A few weeks ago I was spending some time with my children at a friend's home. My friend Leigh also has two daughters and the five lovely ladies were in the bedroom playing a game they call 'murder in the dark'. I was outside the room listening to the giggling, shouting and general commotion when my 5-year old daughter Lottie came out with another of her many classic lines:
"Turn the dark off!" She said.
There was a moment's silence as everyone took it in, then everyone burst into laughter at her innocent little mistake. Fortunately, Lottie was having far too much fun to be offended by the laughter.
Thinking back on that moment tonight, it struck me that hidden within that sentence there is a deep lesson to be learned. The mistake that Lottie made was a mistake that many of us keep making again and again throughout our lives. Not only individuals, but nations too make this mistake. Consider the following concepts:
The war on terror = turn the dark off.
The fight against crime = turn the dark off.
Neither of these seem to be working very well, nor can they. Why is that?
On a personal level also, we often try to deal with negative emotions such as fear or anger by trying to fight against them. We try to force negative thoughts out of our heads. We get more and more frustrated as we find that trying to fight against them is impossible. So frustration adds to the negativity and there is a downward spiral of struggle, failure and frustration. Often this leads us to take the only other solution we can think of, which is to suppress and deny that they are there at all.
What is our mistake? We are trying to 'turn the dark off' instead of simply turning the light on. The light in this case is love. You cannot get darkness and throw it out of a room. Why? Because it does not exist. Darkness is simply an absense of light. You cannot do anything with negative emotions either. Why? Because they don't exist. They are simply an absense of love. The only way to deal with negative emotions effectively is to turn on the love. When love is present, fear, anger, jealousy, frustration and other negative emotions cannot exist, just as when light is present, darkness disappears.
So let's stop trying to work on things that don't exist and work to bring more of the one thing that is real - love.
And governments, please, please stop spending billions of our taxes trying to turn the dark off and channel it instead into serious efforts to turn the light on in this troubled world. Give us the fight for love. Give us the struggle for beauty. Train us an army of dancers, singers, comedians, poets and artists. Build us fewer destroyers and more love boats.
"Only love can conquer hate." - Marvin Gaye
Pete is the father of Erin and Lottie, a writer, a part-time juggler, a conduit of love and a bit of a poser when it comes to photographs. He enjoys hopping (left leg), overuse of the word 'absolutely' and waking up, thinking it is time to go to work, then realising it is Sunday.