On October 6, 2013, The Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy called Andrea Quinn, a Communications professional from Queens, New York. What follows is a transcript of that interview. Many thanks for your time, Dre!
AQ: I was thinking about that. Gosh, what do I want them to know? There’s so many different aspects to what makes up a person. Basically, I was born and raised on Long Island in New York, so I’m a native New Yorker. College educated. I have a lot of interests, I enjoy music, the arts, and I’m really crazy about cats as I’m sure you know – I love all animals. I do like to travel. I enjoy history. I’m an inquiring mind. I like to analyze and inquire about pretty much everything.
Have I discovered the cure for cancer? No. Have I put an album out? No. I’m a musician, but it’s certainly at this point in my life just a hobby. It’s the creating and creative process that I enjoy. Also, getting a college degree was a high point in my life. It’s a good feeling to accomplish something!
AQ: Yeah, I just try to get through life and work, and do what I can for the world.
BM: Would you consider yourself a spiritual person?
AQ: Yes, absolutely. Spiritual. Not religious. But definitely spiritual.
BM: Most religions speak of the power and value of love. For example, the Dhammapada says, “Only love dispels hate.” The Bible says, “A new commandment I give to you; that you love one another.” What, if anything, do those words mean to you?
AQ: That was an interesting question. I had to think about that for a minute. I had to really see where I come from with that. And what I came to was, basically, these statements don’t mean anything to me.
I look at these type of statements…although the first one is probably more from a Hindu, the Dhammapada –
AQ: Buddhist, right. I enjoy and embrace Eastern philosophy more any other religion. Certainly the second one, “A commandment I give to you,” basically in a nutshell, they’re just shallow dictates given by an organized religion that really has no value to me. And I can think deeper on it and think most of the violence and hate that we see in the world today is at the hands of religion and its attempts to control people. Not so much Buddhism, or Eastern religions but certainly the Western religions, there’s a lot of intolerance and hate built into their doctrines – it’s religious based. So yeah, they’re talking about love, but they’re really not.
BM: What role could love play in the world today?
AQ: Love. What role can it play. Well, it can never be bad to look at things with love. You have to break the world “love” down. Compassion, understanding, and such. So approaching the world with an attitude of love like that, compassion, understanding, reverence, valuing life, can absolutely work as a force against the negative. Both in the outward sense to people around you and even to your own sense as you think more with love and compassion and have reverence for your own life, you’ll treat yourself better. And when you treat yourself better, you love better, it reflects outwardly also. So it can play a big role.
BM: What stops people from being more loving and compassionate?
AQ: Well, in my opinion, my humble opinion, ego, selfishness, people being stuck in their own designs of how they think the world should be, not thinking for themselves, blindly following—this is where religion comes in, organized religion—people that just blindly follow the status quo, whether it be a religion, a cult, or even following their own earthly type of emotions, selfishness, jealousy, those types of things. That’s what stops people. They’re in their own way with their own earthly emotions. And many are following these organized religions, which tout themselves as the answer, so people, they dis-empower themselves and give themselves to these organized religions and just follow blindly. It’s almost as if people don’t trust their own intuition.
BM: Let me ask you something about that. Do you see all religion – let me ask it a different way. There are some people who could read this who belong to the First Baptist Church on the corner, who make it their life to go and serve others. They’re going to say, “Wait a second, our organization is very good. We’re very loving.” When you talk about organized religion, are you talking about it as a whole, sort of meta religion? Or do you mean right down to the local level, the tiny little churches on the corner?
AQ: I think in general. In general, I say organized religion as a whole, because I do know churches on a local level, and they do do good things. And again, like we read earlier with the scripture there are loving and not so loving passages. Over and above the scripture, people, they can and do do good things. Christians, they come out and they, for example, when hurricane Sandy came along, they helped victims. The churches, there is a lot of good there. Again, the organized religion, what the actual power of the Catholic church, or Islamic groups – the influence, the lobbying they do with government is not a good thing. But Christians, you know here they are helping people via charities, hospitals. The hypocrisy though is they’ll give a sandwich to a homeless gay man, but yet they’ll fight in Congress that a homeless gay man can’t marry, or that a gay man can’t marry. You know what I mean? Where again, it’s this inside out and upside down – I’m going to give you a sandwich, but try to control other things about your life. I’m going to help you and hurt you at the same time. [laughs]
BM: I understand. Do you have recommendations regarding how someone might cultivate the spirit of love over the long term, but also put love into action right now, so that he or she can make a positive difference right away?
AQ: Yeah. To cultivate love over the long term, I really feel that you have to look inward. Don’t look outward to religious books and the rantings of Priests or Imams. You can go to your church on the local corner, let’s say the Baptist church, if you want to feel a sense of community, and help if you give out those sandwiches, and stuff like that. But you need to look inward. I would suggest meditation. Again, this is where I lean a little toward, or a lot toward, Eastern philosophies. Meditation, introspection, become aware of being aware of yourself. And actually even studying psychology, understanding how your brain works, how emotions work, is a good way to help get in touch with your spirituality and control, and therefore knowing how, where and when to be more loving, to have more reverence for life, and reverence for others lives as well.
There was a second part to that, too: what can they do right now? Volunteer your time and spirit. Give of yourself, an outward thing. Even stand up and speak out against injustices that you see, instead of falling into a collective PC thing. If you see or know of a family where there is abuse – the father beats his wife for religious reasons or otherwise, stand up for that. Stand up against that and speak out, and don’t be afraid of being labeled by the ridiculous world of political correctness, because when you fall victim to political correctness , when you don’t stand up and you tolerate injustice, and you are afraid to say anything about it, that manifests itself inside. You end up having self hate instead of self love, because you subconsciously know the right thing, but you don’t want to be ostracized by the community. So if a person, priest, Imam is molesting or abusing a child or someone, or beating his wife, and you don’t want to say anything about it, that is when you really should speak up. And love also means ruffling feathers. Love is not all cotton candy and kittens. So yeah, stand up for what you believe in, and volunteer and give of yourself in a good way.
BM: Here’s something that occurred to me while you were talking: How do you achieve a balance between excessive self-introspection and reaching out to help others? Do you understand what I’m saying? A lot of times, even with Eastern religions, people who only focus on themselves tend to stay there.
AQ: Yes, yes.
BM: How do you get past that, then?
AQ: Well, again, self discipline. And self awareness. Because I get what you are saying with the Eastern religions and excessive introspection. To counter that I think it is important to make it a point to be mindful of the world around you. Your immediate outward environment and the people in it. I’ll dabble in Eastern religion and philosophy, but once you go fully into that as an organized thing, like for example, you’re a Hindu, you go to the temple every day, again, you’re immersing yourself too much. It’s almost in excess, and you should never have anything in excess. Balance is key. Our brains have a habit, we’ll go into an excess, and that actually becomes in my mind a selfish thing. Like New Age types, Buddhists, oh, they’re so hip for wanting to be Buddhists, and they go to excess about the Buddhist stuff and buy the candles and the incense and they meditate, but like you just said, they’re getting too deep into that. So you have to have one toe in the spirituality and another toe on the ground. Definitely.
BM: That reminds of an old saying that’s usually applied to pastors: “they’re so heavenly minded, they’re no earthly good.”
AQ: Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah.
AQ: Yeah, I love it, that’s great. So true with Western religions. I find the Eastern religions tend to speak to this more: balance. Your yin and yang. Know your relationship, place, perspective to earthly life. You have to have balance. So yeah, you can’t get too caught up and heady with philosophy or religion. You have to keep your feet on the ground.
BM: Who do you look up to most when you think about the power of love?
AQ: This one was easy. [laughs] Myself. [laughs]
AQ: Yeah, yeah. I look to myself, and inward to myself, which is also easy because I don’t care for organized religions, Abrahamic religions. Although I’m educated about them, I have educated myself on them, because I kind of have to, because they’re everywhere, and they affect all of us. But for myself, again, looking into myself, trying to be aware of things, why I do the things I do. If I’m feeling sad or envious about something, I ask myself why, and try to dissect that, and rise above it, seeking the spiritual higher self, that voice. Reach to that invisible realm above my earthly senses. Meditation could be good for that, though I don’t meditate enough. It’s true, I don’t. But looking inward, it’s basically seeking to embrace the higher love. Not necessarily the earthly love, the kind that can sometimes be painful, but the higher form of wisdom and rising above the chaos that we see around us. I look to myself. I would not look to any organized religion or book. I just don’t. You can pick some things out of them, especially the Eastern philosophies, you can get some stuff and take some good things, but I wouldn’t follow anything wholeheartedly but my own intuition.
BM: Do you have anything else to add that I haven’t asked?
AQ: No, you’ve asked a lot. This was good, you got me thinking again, and thank you for that.
BM: You’re welcome.
AQ: Sometimes we lose sight. It’s hard to engage yourself spiritually and try to be introspective when the world around us is so chaotic. From the minute we open our eyes and every day you’ve got the chatter from the TV, you’ve got noises and static going on around you, religious people shoving their ideology on your face and life. Advertisers telling you what to think, like, eat and wear, so it’s hard, it is. You have to go to work, make your money, ride on the dirty, stinky subway, so it’s hard to separate yourself from the chaotic, but it’s crucial that you take the time to do it, otherwise you just get caught up and you don’t get to really get to know who you are. You just react instead of act, and love needs you to act, to think first, introspect, and then act.
BM: There we go. That’s what I wanted to hear you to say. [laughs] “Love needs you to act.” There’s the headline for our interview right there.
AQ: Oh, ok. [laughs]
BM: That’s perfect.
AQ: I didn’t know if I’d be any good for this. [laughs]
BM: I’m interested in talking to people from all walks of life, from all professions, from all religions. I want to see what people say in answer to the questions I ask. There are no “right” answers. So however you answered is just right. It’s you.
AQ: Yeah, yeah.
BM: So thank you for being honest and open. I appreciate your time.
AQ: Thank you.