Love or Country?
Something I began to ponder as I watched a show about England before it was England. The show is about love and Britain. For me, it helped illustrate the contrast between something fleeting and something eternal.
What we now call England was essentially governed by the Roman empire for almost 400 years. For the first 400 years or so of our calendar, there was no England really. There was the Roman colony of Britain. Roman law, Roman government. It was essentially part of Rome. And even if you know your history and you know that the Romans were once in England building roads and walls and such until a plucky young King named Arthur used a magical sword to unite the kingdom that would become England, you probably don’t really think of England as a Roman colony.
Ok, so only part of that is true, but the part that is is the part where we now think of the time the Romans controlled England as a blip in time. Just a few years in the long history that we now know to be English history.
The United States has been a thing for approximately 245 years.
In other words, we have another century to go before we even match the “blip” that was Roman Britain.
So, who will we be a thousand years from now? The beginning of a dominant world power or the nearly forgotten precursor to something more substantial? Are we an empire or a blip? Or an empire that will end up a blip? Does it matter?
Some things that seem massive and even eternal get smaller and smaller with added perspective. Like the earth seeming large until you get far enough into space that it becomes barely visible. Which means, those things were always small. We just lack the ability to see it in the present.
It can seem so necessary and valuable to use our imaginary and temporary geographical borders and political constructs as a basis for judging what is truly important. Who matters. Who belongs. Who is worthy. Sometimes even, who lives and who dies.
But we should never base these things of great importance on something that is likely no more than a blip in history.
It is not that America does not matter, just like Britain under any rule mattered. But we should not delude ourselves into thinking it is anything more than something waiting for perspective to reveal it as small.
By contrast when you consider love, especially as a shorthand for how people treat each other when we are at our best, you see that perspective reveals that it is even larger and more significant than we imagine in the moment.
The first human stories were about love. The most enduring stories: also about love. The teachings that have lasted the test of time and human evolution and progress have most often focused on love. When you step back and examine all of human history, what you find is that love, unlike nations and cultures, actually grows larger with perspective as you can see it everywhere. It touches everyone in every corner of the globe, at every point in our existence.
The story of love is the opposite of that of national pride. Today your particular tribe seems important, huge, dominant, everlasting. But over time, it is likely to be barely remembered and its significance relegated to footnotes.
On the other hand the love you experience or share seems small, passing, almost insignificant. But the smallest kindness can change everything and with perspective can be seen to connect you to all of history and all humanity.
So, as you consider your country or your status or your cultural identity or heritage, consider whether it truly deserves a devotion that would have you making choices on who is most deserving of love and belonging.
Devote yourself instead to that which is eternal so you are not distracted by something less significant on your way to connecting to that which matters most.
The greatest empires will be largely forgotten, but love will endure as long as there is humanity. Choose your allegiance accordingly.