The following text was first performed on 12/15/2007 at the inaugural Westhaven Christmas party as part of the talent portion of the evening. It's delivered in the manner of a sermon -- Westhaven was originally a community church -- but hopefully with enough interplay on it to not be didactic, to be and honest and persuasive expression of the ideas presented.
The best fortune cookie I ever got told me that that "The first love is self-love," which I think is true knowledge. Like most good fortune cookies, It's true in bed (or at least I hope so) but it's true in a bigger way in life as well.
It's a lot harder to love yourself, to love who you are, what you do, love with a capital-L, love, to really love your life... that's a lot harder than just practicing the fine art of self-love. But it's no less important if you want to get anywhere. And that's what I want to talk about.
A few weeks ago, I was at this big friend-thanksgiving with lots of food and old friends and a good communal feeling. There was one mom there, a parent of someone I just met that night, nice lady. During the round of toasts before we ate she raised her glass to salute "the future of America," clearly implying that it was present in the room. This brought a kind of downcast demurral of a response, everyone sinking their chin into their drinks, ducking the compliment, or maybe the responsibility.
It was a little awkward, but we drank up, and the moment passed quickly, and the food was delicious and the party that picked up afterwards was truly a classic good time, and no one was really bothered by it. But I thought about what she said.
I honestly don't know whats going on with with country -- It's a mystery -- but America or no, we are with out a doubt the future. And I think... well, I think we're pretty great. I like that we're the future, and I think maybe if we loved ourselves a little more, were a little more confident, a little more strong, things could really work out.
But what's happening? Well, I don't want to get all heady and pomo on you, but it occurs to me that we're the most acutely self-aware, self-conscious and therefore self-critical generation to ever walk the face of the earth. We suckled on the teat of satire and received daily supplements of irony. Deconstruction is in our nature and and we can and do pick anything and everything apart, including ourselves and each-other.
This makes things hard. It's real hard to be an optimist, because shit's bad, and everyone knows it, and more to the point we know it well enough to know we're implicated. There are no saints among us, and whether it's the miles you get per gallon or the beers you drink per night, everyone knows they could be doing better.
And that's true, you know. The challenges of our lives and the world are huge, and it's probably good to know that, but it's not good to let that beat you down. The first love is self-love, but so is the first hate, and if we're going to get good things growing in our future, we all know which one of those the world needs now.
It's got to be Love, right? But love thy neighbor, love thy enemy, love your lover, love your friend, all this starts with letting you love yourself. I'm not talking about Pride. That's a sin. And I'm not talking about narcissism or pretension. I'm talking about self-love, true self-love, TSL, and that blows all those other things right out of the water. It's the first step on the path to grace.
Obviously I'm no better at this than any of y'all -- I am my own daily punching bag -- but I know it when I see it in other people. Sometimes it makes me envious ("look at that happy bastard; who does he think he is?") but mostly it just makes me glad.
And this is possibly the greatest thing about love: the thing that makes it such a force, and such a legitimate source for hope: it is contagious. Love literally creates light. It makes people shine like beacons. It lets us rise up and overcome the shitty circumstances of life, to do right and have pure deep fun, to be truly and honestly happy. And more than that it lets us take other people along for the ride, and we all get higher for it.
This is what the future has to be all about, because otherwise its just the rat-race, exploitation and war. To be blunt we've got better things to do. The best of all possible worlds is inside of us, and I don't think we should duck or dodge on that one, even if it is an awful lot of responsibility. I think we should own it; I think we should embrace it; I think we should love it, breathe life into it, and bring it into the world. I'd like that toast to really mean something: to the future; to us!
(raises a toast to audience)
It's a time of year for giving gifts, for reflection, for connection, for relating to one another with open hearts. It's also a time of stress, obligation disappointment, so when you're out there in the flurry, remember the fortune. And don't be afraid to love yourself, and don't be afraid to help your brother or your sister or even your enemy get over that hump, take that first step on the path to grace. Every day is a good day to fall in love.