This era in which we live has been called the Information Age, and certainly we are swimming in knowledge. Surrounded by computers, books, telephones, satellites, faxes, and television, we can learn almost anything while sitting in the comfort of our homes. In an instant, we can see the latest transactions of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, learn how to cure a myriad of diseases, or track the current migration of humpback whales.
But with this ocean of knowledge, are we genuinely happier? Ten to twenty percent of us are addicted to alcohol or drugs. We greedily pursue the pleasures of money, power, and sex. More than half our marriages end in divorce. Staggering numbers of our children feel unloved and alone. Clearly, something is missing.
I’ve had the opportunity to become intimately acquainted with many people of all ages. I’ve known their hopes and fears. One of these people was Matt, sixteen years old. He was a bright child whose behavior was utterly baffling his parents and teachers. He was rebellious and angry. He acted out in many ways that were socially unacceptable. He was often withdrawn and moody.
I spoke with Matt and was impressed with his intellectual tools and skills. He’d read a great deal and surfed the Net to acquire a broad scope of knowledge about many things. After a short time together, I took his face in my hands and asked him a question: “Who loves you without any conditions? Who accepts you completely no matter what mistakes you make? Who cares that you’re happy?”
This child dissolved in tears. No one had ever shown him that kind of concern. Instead they expected things from him, pushed him, and were disappointed in him when he made mistakes. Despite his wealth of knowledge, he didn’t feel loved and certainly didn’t know how to love others. He was a frightened and lost little boy who was acting out only to gain some feeling of power and place in the world.
Children and adults sit in front of their computers and televisions for staggering numbers of hours in a day. Exposure to all that information and entertainment, however, is worthless if we’re not happy, which comes from feeling loved and from loving each other.
Information itself isn’t bad, but we get distracted by it. The more we know, the easier it is to convince ourselves that we’re accomplishing something when we’re not really going anywhere that matters. Without Real Love, the world is a dark place, no matter how much information we have.
I’ve stood at the bedside of many people as they approached the end of their lives. I don’t recall a single one of them wishing they’d learned more about physics, or spent more time on the Internet, or made more money. The only thing that matters to them is the people who love them and the people they love.
Our children certainly need an education, but even more they need our love. The time and acceptance we give them are much more important than computers and job skills. No amount of knowledge and power will give us happiness if we’re not loved and don’t know how to love others.
When we see that knowledge without love is useless, we can begin the process of finding love and learning how to share it with others. Only then can we bring light to the darkness that is choking us and the world around us.