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110. A Year of Living Dangerously

Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. Oscar Wilde This week's tip is about love and the courage we need to express it. Last weekend, strange though it may sound, I was at a workshop on love. Our own personal love. We were in a chilly, brutally lit basement, not very conducive to the subject, but we wrapped up and listened, ready to learn more about this central, crucial, most wonderful and yet sometimes elusive, quality of life. After an introduction on the Friday evening, where we looked at our experience of love in our lives, especially our early lives, we were invited on the Saturday morning to investigate our thoughts on expressing love. How do you stop yourself from expressing love, we were asked, what is scary about loving, in what ways do you long to express love? When we returned from exploring these interesting questions, a man stood up in the large group and said: 'I realise now how difficult it is to express love at work, that in many corporate environments it just isn't appropriate.' 'Ah,' said our guide for the morning, 'well maybe you should learn the joy of being dangerous?' Well that delighted my subversive soul. I smiled all the way home. A few days later I was reading an article in The Independent about the Church of England vicar who conducted the funeral of Ronnie Biggs. This, as you can imagine, elicited some pretty strong criticism, especially as the Rev Dave Tomlinson went as far as to describe Ronnie Biggs as 'an extraordinary man.' 'Shame on you,' people said, 'you've disgraced church, you've insulted God.' But the Rev Tomlinson has made a bit of a career of being dangerous and was undeterred. 'Who are you to put yourself in the place of God and make those kinds of judgment?' he said to his critics. And to the congregation at the funeral: 'Jesus didn't hang around with hoity-toity holier-than-thou religious people. He didn't come for the righteous, he came for the sinners.' The Rev Tomlinson wants the church to abandon its doctrine and religious trappings and, like Jesus, focus on love. 'All the rest is window-dressing,' he says. So what are we afraid of when it comes to expressing love at work, or in any other place? Why is the expression of love, and its manifestations of kindness, empathy, compassion, so scary? What do we think would happen if we expressed ourselves in this way? Most of us would not disagree with the man at the workshop - corporate environments are not known for their focus on love. The very thought of saying or doing something loving in a board meeting would probably bring most of us out in a cold sweat. Peer into some of those vast glass buildings in the City of London, with their tinted glass and steel, and it's hard to think of a less comfortable environment for love to thrive. And yet, look beneath the surface of the average person and there it is. They love their spouse, they adore their children, they have a collection of model trains, ceramics, photographs that they would weep over if anything happened to them. They have a penchant for good wine, a thrill for foreign travel, they cried for a week when their dog died and they still get all emotional when watching Love Actually for the tenth time. What on earth made us think that all these loving feelings should be left at the door when we come to work? That we suddenly need to turn into logical, analytical people who make tough decisions, never cry, and keep our natural loving natures carefully hidden? 'Being good to each other is not wishy-washy,' says the Rev Tomlinson. 'It would be a good start if we had more of that.' Who could disagree? Try this: 1 What do you believe about work and love? 2 What is scary about expressing love at work? 3 What would being dangerous with love mean? 4 Plan a dangerous year! I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. Martin Luther King With love Anita