Disillusionment, divorce, isolation – these transformational forces chewed on me over a five-year cocooning period. As I emerge into flight, I am animated by an imperative to love. To love above all. To love fiercely. To love in my work as a corporate finance lawyer.
I have learned the most about love from Thich Nhat Hanh (or Thay), who died recently. Even after more than 15 years of being around his teachings and community, I continue to struggle to live those teachings on a day-to-day basis, especially at work. But in my best moments, I recognize – as he taught — that I am not separate from my environment and other people. If others suffer, then I suffer. If others are happy, then I am happy. He described this reality as “interbeing.”
Love necessarily arises when I allow myself to feel into this state of interbeing, and this kind of love is boundless. We tend to limit love by categorizing it as appropriate in only certain kinds of relationships and situations. We don’t think of love, for example, as something that should inhabit business and finance. We think that love should not live in these places because these places are objective, rational, technical; they are dispassionate. And look where all of that reason and knowledge has led us – a global society facing existential crises of inequality, racism, and climate change.
Imagine if instead we led with love rather than profit. We think we are doing something when we make money. We thinking making more of it means we are achieving something. But is that true? What is the meaning in profit really? What progress does it really represent?
What would it look like to put people first instead. Not people and profit, but just people – period. Build everything around people and our natural world. Make money serve those things.
If we realized our interbeing at a societal scale, we would have no poverty. We allow poverty to exist because we feel distanced from it; but what if that distance is a misperception? Do we even know deep down the impact that the suffering of poverty has on us? Thich Nhat Hanh proposed that we cannot be truly happy if we accumulate wealth while others suffer from povertyFrom the fifth of what the Plum Village Buddhist tradition refers to as the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings: “Aware that true happiness is rooted in peace, solidity, freedom, and compassion, we are … Continue reading. We need to decide for ourselves if this is true. But at the very least, accumulated wealth feels like a lost opportunity. It is a lost opportunity to put love to work; to make love manifest in beneficial creations from investment and giving.
I have spent my entire professional career helping people to create and grow financial wealth. I now feel called to help people share that wealth, and to share it with the urgency that comes from knowing that someone or something we love will soon perish without our help. Because the truth is that all that we love is threatened with extinction. So now is not the time to hold back. Now is the time to reimagine everything. Now is the time to put love to work.
|↑1||From the fifth of what the Plum Village Buddhist tradition refers to as the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings: “Aware that true happiness is rooted in peace, solidity, freedom, and compassion, we are determined not to accumulate wealth while millions are hungry and dying nor to take as the aim of our life fame, power, wealth, or sensual pleasure, which can bring much suffering and despair.”|