Lennon said, “Love is the answer.”
To any question you ask, publicly or privately, love is the answer.
Big questions: Why are we here? To give and receive love. What does it all mean? Love. What happens after we die? Love.
Medium questions: How can I have better relationships with my friends? Love them more. How can I deal with my parents who drive me nuts? Accept their love.
Little questions: What should I do tonight? Give love. Which shoes should I wear? The ones you love more.
Pay attention to yourself. When do you feel surrounded by love? When do you feel relaxed and warm and known? With one friend in particular? When you’re at lunch with your grandma? When you are by yourself listening to music? When you are on a long run? Seek out more experiences where you feel love.
Then pay attention to when you feel an absence of love. When do you feel prickly and tight and uncomfortable? With one friend in particular? When you’re alone? Avoid those activities.
That sounds simple, because it is, but far too many people struggle with it. They mistake other feelings for love. The removal of pain is not love. If someone is mean to you, and then starts being nice, you feel immense relief, but that’s not love. Lots of things can cloud love – drugs and alcohol can be fun and exciting, and can feel like love, but they’re not. Being included in a group you admire is ego building, but it’s not love. No physical thing will ever give you love – not food, or clothes or money – don’t waste time looking for love there.
Love is a still, small voice inside you. It only ever speaks kindly to you. It tells you that you are beautiful and your body is perfect and you are good and kind and strong. In your bravest moments you believe this voice, because you know love is the answer. But then you go out into the noisy world and louder voices crowd out that still, small one. Those voices tell you that you can’t do it, that others are better than you, that you are ugly, that no one would miss you if you were gone. Those voices are as far from love as it is possible to be.
Listening to that still, small voice will be the hardest work of your life. Letting it get louder and louder and eventually drown out those other, cruel voices, will be harder than any goal Churchill or Kanye could set. But the reward for living a life of love is far greater than any those men could promise. The reward is joy and sunlight all the days of your life.
John Lennon might have been a rock star who changed the world, but primarily he was a poet. Another poet, e.e. cummings, said, “unlove’s the heavenless hell and homeless home. Lovers alone wear sunlight.” Pay attention to the poets – every single one of them offers love lessons, for that is what poetry is.
I leave you with this immense and difficult task, you brave and wonderful and beautiful graduates who WILL go on to remake the world in your images. Your only job that matters is to love: love yourselves first, then love the people closest to you, your grandparents and parents and brothers and sisters and friends and eventually your significant others and your own children. Love them past reason and without fear. Third, go love people and animals and the planet you are gifted to walk on. Protect and love every heart you come across as if it were the most fragile and beautiful creation ever made, because it is.
And so are you.