Peace and love are founded on consent. As Tom Jones sang, “Love is a two-way street.” Peace and love require freedom and agency. They cannot come about by domination. They arise from the harmonization of our interconnectedness with our unique individuality. The following excerpts by Max Stirner and Thich Nhat Hanh illustrate the individual freedom that is the foundation of love and peace.
by Max Stirner
I love people. Not merely individuals, but every one. But I love them because love makes me happy, I love because loving is natural to me, because it pleases me. I know no “commandment of love.” I have a fellow-feeling with every feeling being, and their torment torments, their refreshment refreshes me too.
If I see the loved one suffer, I suffer with them, and I know no rest until I have tried everything to comfort and cheer them; if I see them glad, I too become glad over their joy.
Because I cannot bear the troubled crease on the beloved forehead, for that reason, and therefore for my sake, I kiss it away. If I did not love this person, they might go right on making creases; they would not trouble me; I am only driving away my trouble.
How has anybody or anything, whom and which I do not love, a right to be loved by me? Is my love first, or is their right first? Parents, kinsfolk, fatherland, nation, native town, etc., finally fellowmen in general, assert that they have a right to my love, and lay claim to it without further ceremony. They look upon it as their property, and upon me, if I do not respect this, as a robber who takes from them what pertains to them and is theirs.
But love is not a commandment, but, like each of my feelings, my property. Acquire, purchase, my property, and then I will make it over to you. A church, a nation, a fatherland, a family, etc., that does not know how to acquire my love, I need not love; and I fix the purchase price of my love quite at my pleasure.
Whether this can still be called love? If you know another word for it, go ahead and choose it.
Only as one of my feelings do I harbor love; but as a power above me, as a divine power, as a passion that I am not to cast off, as a religious and moral duty, I – scorn it.
My love is neither holy nor unholy, neither divine nor diabolical.
(From The Unique and Its Own, 1844)
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Often, when we say, “I love you” we focus mostly on the idea of the “I” who is doing the loving and less on the quality of the love that’s being offered. This is because we are caught by the idea of self. We think we have a self. But there is no such thing as an individual separate self. A flower is made only of non-flower elements, such as chlorophyll, sunlight, and water. If we were to remove all the non-flower elements from the flower, there would be no flower left. A flower cannot be by itself alone. A flower can only inter-be with all of us. It’s much closer to the truth. Humans are like this too. We can’t exist by ourselves alone. We can only inter-be. I am made only of non-me elements, such as the Earth, the sun, parents, and ancestors. In a relationship, if you can see the nature of interbeing between you and the other person, you can see that their suffering is your own suffering, and your happiness is their own happiness. With this way of seeing, you speak and act differently. This in itself can relieve so much suffering.
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Loving someone doesn’t mean saying “yes” to whatever the other person wants. The basis of loving someone else is to know yourself and to know what you need. I know a woman who suffered very much because she couldn’t say “no.” From the time she was young, whenever a man asked her for something, she felt she had to say “yes” even when she didn’t want to. It’s important that loving another person doesn’t take priority over listening to yourself and knowing what you need.
(From How To Love, 2015)