A few times each week, I drive over to Brownsburg to pick up our granddaughter Madeline at her other grandparents. I take her back to our house on the back roads, the long way round, so we have more time to visit, because once we get to our house and she sees Joan, she throws me over like a wet Kleenex. We were driving along and she informed me she had been thinking of getting married. She knows a lot of married people and it apparently looks fun, so she’s been mulling it over. She hasn’t settled on anyone just yet, three being a bit young for such a large commitment, but she is starting to realize it might well be in her future.
She asked how me you knew when you loved someone. I told her there was a little buzzer inside everyone, we’re all born with it, that doesn’t start working until we’re 25 and out of college, and when that buzzer goes off in the presence of someone else, that’s how you know you’re in love. She believes me for now, though I suspect she’s going to wise up before long. But it got me thinking about how we know we’re in love. Of course, there are all kinds of love. I love chocolate chip cookies, and I love my wife, but it’s not the same kind of love. Just as there are different types of love, there are probably different ways of knowing you’re in love–you stare at someone, you think about them all the time, you want them to be happy, etcetera, etcetera.
Well, this week I came across an article in the British newspaper, The Independent, that identified another way to know you’re in love that was discovered by a team of researchers at the University of California, at their Davis campus. What they learned was that when people are in love, their heart rate begins to beat at the same rate as their beloved. Their heart beats synchronize, they harmonize. Isn’t that fascinating! Not only do their hearts beat at the same rate, their hearts beat at the exact same moment, each heart mirrors the other.
Last week, we began thinking about the fruits of the spirit, described in the fifth chapter of Galatians. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We said these qualities are a measuring stick, are virtues against which our lives can be measured, that they are standards and benchmarks that indicate our priorities as both Quakers and humans.
This morning, we’re thinking about love, which leads me to this question: What does your heart synchronize with? Remember, synchronization of two hearts is only an indication that love is present. But the presence of harmony doesn’t indicate the ethical, spiritual, or moral quality of our love. We can love something that is destructive. Our hearts can resonate with something that is grim, dark and evil, if that is what our hearts treasure.
In 1930, in Marion, Indiana, two black men were lynched by a mob on the Grant County Courthouse lawn. Thousands of people were present, laughing, smiling, and cheering. I’ve seen the picture. Their hearts, I can tell by looking, were, on that Indiana summer evening, in love with evil. Those people were inhaling, exhaling, and pulsing in perfect harmony with wickedness. Now it takes a certain kind of person to find synchronicity with evil, but it happens, it happens when we pay little attention to what our hearts treasure. So if you were to ask me if love was a good thing, I would say it depends on what we love. At the height of their power and influence, I suspect Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler awakened each morning in love with their jobs.
Jesus believed our hearts could be found right alongside what we treasured. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” he said. (Matthew 6:21) When we treasure evil, our hearts will be found right alongside it, beating in rhythm. Now here’s the thing. Most people don’t treasure evil until they’ve convinced themselves it is good. Hitler didn’t tell 67 million Germans the Holocaust was evil. He told them it was good. He told them it would save their nation, protect their children, expand their economy, improve their global standing. He said it over and over, in 121 public speeches and rallies all over Germany, until the German citizenry permitted themselves to believe black was white, up was down, and wrong was right. Until their hearts were beating in harmony with evil.
What does your heart synchronize with?
If we are going to be champions of love, then we must be careful what we love, what we treasure. We must be careful what we let excite our hearts.
On this day, 100 years ago, World War I ended. Europe lie in ruins. 16,000,000 people lie dead. In the Argonne Offensive alone, over 26,000 Americans were killed, the equivalent of 8½ 9/11s, in one extended battle. All of that agony, all of that loss, all of that pain, could have been averted if the citizens of the western world had paid careful heed to what their hearts treasured. But because industry loved wealth more than justice, because patriots loved nation more than humanity, because politicians loved power more than peace, their hearts were synchronized with evil.
My great-grandfather, my mother’s grandfather, perished in that war, thereby never knowing the pleasure of driving with his granddaughter through the countryside talking with her about love.