It has become distressingly easy to lose faith in things this year. We seem to be overwhelmed by a constant flood of increasingly horrific images, and news stories. Very soon Iraqi security forces are going to push ISIS forces out of Mosul, in a battle that will inevitably be intense, and brutal.
Men, women, and children are being slaughtered daily, and randomly in warfare we in the comfortable west have not seen in over 70 years. National politics in the UK and USA have disintegrated into a state of Lunacy. Nothing seems to be changing. Yet above all, it strikes me as fundamental, as vital that we retain a feeling of hope, of goodness, and love for all things. Nothing else matters.
By love, I am of course not merely talking of romantic (or certainly not sexual) love or desire, but a love of common good, of humanity itself.
I'll be honest with you, this will be very sentimental, but such sentiment is a useful shield against cynicism, an easy reaction that tears down, and can't build. A useful shield against the colossal inhumanity of hatred. A useful shield against the terrors of the realisation of our ultimate insignificance and inability to affect change. Love is the solution, it seems, to unifying humanity.
As much as humans are social creatures, they are fundamentally creatures of love. It is itself, a motive, goal, and resolution. For many it's a reason to be, and it is the only reason that I think we can combat, or in the very least, remain sane in the constant horrors of our present world.
This too will not be a substantive analysis but a praise of common goodness and humanity, here I define as love. In these aforementioned stories of horrors, soon to be happening in Mosul, happening right now in Aleppo, there are always, relatively rare, but ever present acts of love.
From those running towards the bombing with desperate hopes to save people to unexpected, remarkable people like Rami Adham who smuggles toys for children in Aleppo. This is not to discount the evils of the situation, as much as there are acts of love, there are acts of barbarism. This is clear.
Those barbarians will have to live with themselves after all this is over, however it ends, with their inhumanity. But were there not acts of love, by now there would be nothing left, this species have come through worse and have survived impossible conditions, with nothing but love and a feeling of common humanity, and in this way humanity has thrived.
Take for example: Viktor E Frankl, famed psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. A man who had seen humanity in a worse state than it had ever been, in places whose names have burned into our collective imagination, places like Auschwitz, places like Dachau. As he survived there, he noted those who gave away their last scraps of food to others, who didn't let themselves fall to hate and cynism that would have been far too easy in a situation, those who did so tended to survive despite the odds.
Years later, in his book Man's Search for Meaning he wrote this:
"That Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love."
In this sense I believe nothing else matters then, love is almost a species survival mechanism.
Again he wrote:
"For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best."
This "best" I believe is only attainable, or even imaginable through love. Someone wouldn't put themselves, or their current security and happiness at risk for a stranger if there was no sense of love for common humanity, yet people do so, so frequently that it's scarcely reported because commonplace events are not newsworthy. I'm sure we can all picture or remember moments, perhaps some of us have seen events like this in person. Someone running into a burning building, diving into a freezing river to save someone, a soldier putting down their rifle to pick someone up and out of battle. Stories are commonplace.
We all saw in the aftermath of the horrific terror attacks in Paris a year ago, a father comforting his terrified child. He said:
"It's okay because there are bad guys everywhere...they might have guns but we have flowers...everyone is putting down flowers, it's to fight against guns...it's to remember the people who are gone yesterday."
Though I have only quoted the father, his son realised that despite the acts of a few evil men, there is enough common good to make live worth living, living unchanged and unbeaten. This isn't simple human single mindedness, but love.