How. This is a question I was obsessed with when I was younger and saw the world through the pain that I was in at the time. Everything around me seemed broken, and I could not stop asking how.

How did violence begin? How can violence end?

How can so many people be silent when injustice occurs? How can I overcome my own fears of speaking up so that I am no longer one of the silent?

How do we so easily forget as we grow up what we knew so clearly when we were born: that the person beside us is our equal. Infants, like the sun, like the earth, share without distinction. No face is denied a smile, no body is denied the feel of light upon their skin, no foot is denied a place to stand…at least, not by any decree of the earth itself.

As I grew older, the search for the answers to all of those “hows” sent me, like an explorer, into times and places near and far. I scoured history books and spiritual tomes. I spoke with Holocaust survivors and a Palestinian man imprisoned and beaten by descendants’ of those who had fled atrocities themselves. I learned from the students I was asked to teach: immigrants and refugees from the world over. I was lucky enough to set my feet upon many different lands. I was human enough to fall head first into abysses where I searched seemingly endlessly and hopelessly for light. In the end, I found only two answers to all of those questions of how: one is fear, the other is love.

Scared of everything as a child, from spiders in the house to strangers on the street, bullied at school, I knew fear very well. I thought that everyone and everything had the potential to hurt me. As an adult I learned: this is true. But so is the reverse: everyone and everything has the potential to love you.

How, if given the choice between fear and love, could we ever choose fear?

Perhaps because love isn’t an easy choice, for love is not some gentle breeze that lullabies you to sleep and serenades you to wakefulness. Love is a hurricane. It blows your roof away and leaves you susceptible to the storms of life. It shakes the beliefs that have become the foundation upon which you stand and then razes that foundation to the ground. In the ashes you find questions. Nothing is safe from how: not the people who raised you, not the place where you pray, not the deepest corners of your mind or the darkest shadows in your heart. Love rattles you so thoroughly that your clenched hands open and everything that you clutch, everything that is supposed to protect you: your home from the cold, your food from hunger, your clothes from exposure, your accomplishments from the reality of forgetfulness and impermanence, your life from death, is gone. And we stand as we are: utterly vulnerable, our lives in each other’s hands and hearts.

When this fear, manifested in the form of hatred, surrounds us, speaks daily to us, promises to hurt so many and sets in place plans to do so, it is easy to give in to fear ourselves. It is easy to lose hope. It is easy for sorrow to take hold, and for us to close in upon ourselves, and to doubt the goodness in life. Fear and hatred are easy. Love is not.

But love was never meant to be easy. It was simply meant to be. It was meant to be storms and tornadoes and maelstroms and fires. It was meant to make us braver and stronger than we ever thought we could be. It was meant to show us the vision of the stars: that everything is beautiful and clear from a distance. It was meant to remind us of the wisdom that we knew at birth: that beauty also exists up close. It was meant for us to profoundly know abysses and heights, and to keep the company of valleys and mountains, so that neither they nor we would ever know true solitude. It was meant to help us create the only wall that life ever decreed should be built: a circular one formed of people linked hand in hand in kindness and solidarity to protect any sister or brother under attack. Love was meant to give. Love was meant to live. Love was meant to survive, and it will, for it always does.

How. I thought it was a question to be answered when I was younger. In truth, it is a choice to be made. How lucky are we that each and every one of us is born with strength and courage enough to always choose love: over any coward that should rule; over any law that seeks to take from anyone the power and freedom they were given at birth; over hatred; over cruelty; over indifference; over fear. How lucky are we that we can always choose love. How lucky are we that we can always choose love.

Originally published at