Love The One(s) You're With Just as all politics is local, so is all love local. Just as it is easier to work on world peace than to make peace with a cantankerous neighbor or relative, so is it easier to love all humankind than it is to love a person with whom you have a close relationship and a serious difference. "Love the one you're with" is the second phrase of a sentence in a popular song that said something to this effect: "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." The suggestion was one open to interpretation, of course, with sexual adventurism prominent among the possible interpretations. But here we are focusing on a more difficult concept: continue to work for world peace and to love all humanity, but do so wherever you are by projecting peace and love toward the one(s) you're with. This is not always easy. Three experiences drove this principle home to me recently. In the first, at a business meeting in Paris I suggested to the Canadian delegate and the U.S. delegation (three persons, one born in Taiwan, one born in India, and one born in Holland, me, isn't that a wonderful testament to the nature of the U.S.?) that if they were staying an extra day, I'd be happy to take them on an excursion into the countryside. I described my destination to them and suggested they accompany me to the in-house travel agency to obtain train tickets and a rental car. The next morning at 6 AM we were on a train platform awaiting a bullet train bound for Rennes, from where we headed north in a car, destination Mont St. Michel, a magical place dramatically set on a large rock that just up out of the silts of the bay that is formed where Normandy and Brittany meet. It is a peninsula because of a causeway, and if it weren't for that causeway it would be an island when a high tide rolls in. All the way out of Paris westbound, and subsequently driving toward Mont St. Michel, it rained. Buckets at times, usually lesser amounts but always driven by winds that chilled one just to observe them out of a train or car window. We laughed about it, but I hinted that I knew that we would sometime that day see the sea in bright sunshine. I was hoping. Our first reverent walk around part of the Medieval city on a rock we saw an amazing thing: blue sky to the west and rapidly approaching. Most of our time on the island/peninsula we were in bright direct sunshine. The only exception was when we decided to really tempt fate and took our lunch to the outdoor tables of the restaurant we had picked. One cloud appeared just over the roof of the restaurant on the windward side and thoroughly extinguished any residual heat in my raspberry-brandy soaked hot crepes. We went inside and it was sunny again. But the point was that with these three gentlemen it was real easy to be at peace and attuned to the Love of the Universe and to project peace and Love into their midst, and I felt their peace and their reverence for Life and Love as well. The four of us had a spiritual experience in that location, I am sure, although of course we were too manly to discuss this openly. But the peace and love in each participant was real and obvious. They were easy to be with and to love. The next day, Sunday, they all left (after little sleep since I got them home rather late). I stayed for another week of business, but decided that day that I needed to experience being in the Cathedral of Reims where Joan of Arc led her Prince Charles VII for his coronation, as she had been commanded by the voice of St. Michel, the very same dragon-slayer that had inspired the edifice I had visited the previous day. Joan of Arc, by the way, was well aware of the existence of the abbey on the rock at St. Michel and that although all the surrounding lands were under English control, the abbey and its village never were conquered. One of her war cries suggested her followers were engaged in expanding the borders of France back to the Divinely protected abbey at St. Michel where God decreed them to belong. On the way to this also magical place I sat alone in my train seat until a group of three American women came and sat around me. We spent the rest of the day together except for an hour or two during which we had lost each other. I wasn't worried, neither were they. We found each other again and shared a lot of personal stories and I told Joan of Arc history stories that would no doubt have any true historian cringe, but these ladies were fascinated and thrilled to be where some of these events took place or had their culmination. These three were spiritually mature in the sense that they knew who they were and what they were about. They were bright, energetic, funny, and like my male companions of the previous day they were at peace within and projected love without, Love even. They were so easy to be with and love! Returning to Paris rather late they were intrigued by my declaration that I needed to go up to the Montmartre to sit in my chair in a certain chapel in the Sacre Couer cathedral and meditate. They looked at each other and said they needed to go with, if I didn't mind. We went up and I sat in my chair while they continued to look over this beautiful, also magical, cathedral. As soon as I sat down I had the feeling I was doing something wrong: as long as you have living beings with you, be with them and love them, don't be selfish and seek solitude now when in just a while they will be gone. I immediately took after them and escorted them to several nearby places that they also enjoyed seeing. Then it was goodbye as they got off on their Metro stop and I continued to mine. No further contact, but while with them I loved them and they loved me. We worked on world peace and on loving humanity locally. As it should be done. Later that week I thoroughly enjoyed my wife's company. She flew over and we took a trip into the South of France and Andorra. The countryside in its fall foliage was so magical that loving the one I was with was no challenge at all. All of nature, as well as the beautiful cities, villages, and friendly natives conspired to stoke love and peace within us and between us. It was glorious. It was easy. Then, a few trips later, trips without anything to compare to the spiritual feasts of these French adventures, comes my flight home from Washington DC after a long day and just under four hours sleep the previous night because of last minute demands that needed serious work overnight. I spent some quality time with several people, both in a personal and business sense, which all led to a state of near exhaustion and my really looking forward to a long flight home with a pillow propped against my cherished window seat. So imagine my surprise when I get to my seat and a cute blond is in it. We compare numbers and she is supposed to be in the window seat on the opposite side. I said not to worry, we would just swap seats. I put my carry-on away and throw my book into my seat, a book I did not plan to read. I waited for the lady in the aisle seat to arise and let me in. She said "I'm handicapped, you'll have to climb over me." I did, and as my butt passed her face I heard a muffled sound behind my rear end that seemed to be saying: "and how much overweight are you?" I sat down and said "what" and heard the question again. I said that one doctor said 60, another said 40 and I switched to that doctor, and both said they'd be real pleased if I lost twenty. She didn't laugh, only said: "I'm 65 pound overweight." I was frankly surprised it was only 65. I can be very rude and judgmental when deprived of sleep. The way she looked at me and, I realize now, had gently touched me as I had crawled by, it suddenly dawned on me that this was a person very hungry for human contact and I looked longingly across her to the other side of the plane and saw the cute blond in my assigned seat. I was longing for the seat, of course, not the blonde interloper flaunting sleep in that seat. (Your disbelief does not bother me in the least.) I made minimal conversation and pretended to go to sleep. Soon I woke, and we were, to my delight, well on our way. Looking at my watch told me we had waited some before taking off. We were arriving 40 minutes late said an announcement. That announcement as good as said to me that my sleeping time would not be subtracted from the anticipated flight time of nearly five hours. I thought I could perhaps return to slumber, but I made an error: I looked left into a direct gaze from the aisle seat that as much as said: "It is about time you woke up, I have been waiting to talk." And, then, she said as much. She said I had had a long nap and was lucky because she hadn't slept in days. I asked why and a few minutes into the answer I realized that I had just pulled a finger out of a proverbial dike. What I learned over the next 4 hours was a tragedy of Greek proportions. Did I encourage this conversation? Well, not initially. I picked up my book and read a bit, and when I looked left because I felt I was being observed I saw two eyes fixed on mine and a mouth moving. As I began to tune into the words being spoken in my direction it came to me as silent and noisily as revelations often do: "Love the one you're with!" I inwardly protested that that was a saying I really believed in when in the presence of beautiful people that were easy to love. By contrast, this woman started out insulting me, had a couple of sparring contests with a befuddled stewardess that completely misunderstood that what she said is not what she meant, and had managed to get her hand indelicately swatted off the head of the person in front of her when she had gently stroked that head after it protested her pulling him roughly awake in order to get her bulk upright using his chair. This was a person that couldn't get up to let me in but who managed to go to the bathroom four times. Three of which were problematic: once when the stewardi announced that we couldn't move until everyone had sat down and strapped in. Once just as the dinner cart tried to came by, and once when the drink cart was right beside her. As the headset extensions were being picked up just before landing she said "it is about time you brought me that, I've been waiting for hours." The stewardess said she had turned it down before and now it was time to pick them up before landing. She panicked and looked at me and said: "she is lying isn't she?" And I said, "no she isn't, but look at it this way, had you accepted that piece of plastic you would have watched a movie and I would have never heard of your marriage to a monster, having a Goddess for a daughter, and having had half your brain cut out. I would have been less of a person had you accepted that cord." She smiled a big smile and her eyes disappeared as she said: "I talked too much, didn't I?" I honestly said: "I was interested in your life story." The eyes disappeared again. Oops, got ahead of my story didn't I? Well, after being fully awake it occurred to me that if there was ever a person needing some love, this was that person. So I allowed myself to become engaged in conversation in earnest and I learned some very disturbing things. She spent twenty years in an abusive marriage until she finally got the courage to leave. He was well off and arranged for her to get nothing at their parting. He abused and ruined her children, she said, keeping them from being happy in their growing up years and making them rather strange creatures even now. The last one --a daughter-- being so negatively affected that she avoided relationships with men until just recently, and she is almost 40. Her boyfriend is such a rare, gentle and generous soul that he bought a bed for her mother, the one speaking to me, to use while visiting her this week for the Holidays. For the first time in her life she has high hopes for her third child becoming a married lady. I had told her the important thing was for her daughter to be happy, married or unmarried. She said she agreed, but preferred happy and married if that was an achievable choice, since it would mean to her, the mother, that this daughter had finally overcome the damage done by her ex-husband. But there were more gruesome revelations. She divorced this creature whom she calls a monster, but for whom she feels pity more than contempt because he never learned that living was being connected to your family and friends (yes, she actually said that). He never learned that it was not living to charm, conquer, and leave women, and to cheat people in business just to be able to buy more things. After her divorce she splurged and bought her very first new car and was looking forward to getting back into painting and bicycling and all the other things she loved and had put aside in order to keep peace at home. She attributed her frequent headaches to the stress of her last few years of married life. But when she saw a doctor he diagnosed a brain tumor, a large one. It was successfully removed, but left her optic nerve and central nervous system damaged. She could not see to drive. She could not handle a paintbrush with her hands. She could not see well enough to ride a bike, nor could she use her hands and arms and legs well enough to allow biking even if her eyes had worked. She had difficulty eating too, but put a lot of effort into doing a lot of that since it seemed one of the few pleasures left to her. (At this point I understood why the question of my weight had come up as my butt moved slowly in front of her, just a few inches away from her eyes. Had she gotten up and let me in she might have thought me beautiful!) And, she said, the operation had made her stupid and unintelligible to others. I think I knew what she meant, the incident over the headset cords came later but even earlier when she had heard German coming from another seat she stood up, rousting the man in front of her again, and asked the German-speaking man if he knew a Hans Schmidt. He said no and she was genuinely confused and said, "well, he told me he was German, so why don't you know him?" When the man said he was Dutch and only speaking German to his neighbor (the man who had swatted away her hand) she was quiet until she asked where I was from and I told her "Holland." The she asked if I knew Vermeer the painter. I said of course I knew of him, but I didn't know him because he has been dead a long time. She seemed perplexed and thoughtful for a second. Then she said that was what she meant. By the time we landed I was as anxious to see her daughter as she was. Not because I was trying so hard to get her passed off, but she spoke so highly of this daughter, about how beautiful and smart and gentle and successful she was that I thought I was going to meet a veritable Goddess. In helping her to her wheelchair and going back to wrestle my bags out of the overhead bins I almost missed their reunion. As I walked by them she beamed, "here is my traveling buddy" and a tearful daughter looked up and very genuinely smiled at me. It was such a touching scene I almost cried myself, and all I could say is that "your mother is sure proud of you." We said goodbye and I hurried on and did not see them again. And so came to an end another opportunity to love someone I was with. An opportunity taken, even if against my initial will and better intellectual judgment. How would I have felt had I insisted on sleeping all the way? Better rested in body and poorer in spirit. And I would have had nothing to say under this story title.