What will it be in this New Year: love or fear?

My question will be an over-simplification to many, but I maintain it’s a fundamental dilemma for everyone, regardless of circumstance. With any situation we might encounter in 2021, which basic human impulse will prevail: fear or love?

Goodness knows, there’s been plenty to fear in the past 12 months. Not just the coronavirus pandemic, but the seeming inability of our country to come together to successfully tackle this and so many other momentous challenges. Love, on the other hand, has not received nearly as much press. Thinking back, I’ve seen love displayed in the sacrifice of front-line workers, especially those in medical settings, to care for the most vulnerable. And I’ve seen it in many others who set aside their own fears to do what needs to be done for their families and neighbors. They are what love-in-action looks like.

My question isn’t a new one. For centuries, philosophers, teachers, and artists have often pointed to this (or a similar choice) as the essence of our free will decisions. In the novel The Night of the Hunter by David Grubb (later turned into a movie), the protagonist is a violent former convict pretending to be a preacher. Con man though he is, he seems to grasp the essential dilemma, and has two words tattooed on his body, one on each hand. Here he his, explaining the tattoos in a sermon:

H-A-T-E! It was with this left hand that old brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. L-O-V-E! You see these fingers, dear hearts? These fingers has veins that run straight to the soul of man. The right hand, friends, the hand of love. Those fingers … is always a-warring and a-tugging, one agin t’other.

Rock musician Bruce Springsteen came along decades later and, inspired by the same novel, decided to modify one of the two words. Here are lines from Springsteen’s song “Cautious Man,” from his 1987 album Tunnel of Love:

Bill Horton was a cautious man of the road

He walked lookin’ over his shoulder and remained faithful to its code

On his right hand, Billy’d tattooed the word “love”, on his left hand was the word “fear”

And in which hand he held his fate, it was never clear.

If love is your choice in 2021, I salute you. It’s not as if we can eliminate fear, but if you set your intention to let love win, we will be sisters and brothers of the same spirit. Drawing on the riches of the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions, Center for Spiritual Wisdom teaches tools that help us consciously choose hope and love instead of despair and fear.

May it be so for all of us, dear ones, in the coming days and weeks.

Rob Field