On May 17, 2013, Willie Harris (WH) graciously spent time with The Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy (BM) to discuss his views on love, compassion, and how people can increase both. This is the transcript of their conversation.
BM: Briefly tell us your background. What would you like others to know about you?
WH: Well, such a complicated question. Simplistic but complicated. What would I like people to know about me? I’m a personal trainer. I have roughly around 26, 27 years in the business of exercise physiology. My love for the weight room happened quite accidentally. I was a basketball player and ended up injuring my knee, and the strength and fitness coach pushed me to the weight room. And from there, just the sheer energy that, I used to walk into the weight room, it was like a burst of energy going on in the weight room all the time. It became part of my fabric. It’s quite addictive. So that was my introduction into exercise physiology. What would I like people to know about me? I mean, that’s all a great quarter of my life, but it’s not actually everything about my life. I think as we’re going through our youth, the energetic phase of our lives, we have that sense of invincibility about us and we think that the world pretty much is conquerable, by our own hands. But you know, as you mature the events that happen in your life and the experiences you have teach you the value of just how precious life is. I think I have a pretty well balanced approach to my expectations out of life.
BM: Would you consider yourself a spiritual person?
WH: Very much so. Very much so. I think that man is much more than just body. We are too complex of a creation, too complex of a human being. We live in this very, very complex ecosystem to come to the realization that all of these things came together by chance. We talked about, in the first question, how when we’re young and we see this sense of invincibility with our youth. But as a body, as a person, – and this doesn’t happen pretty much chronologically with years, this happens pretty much with experience – but as you begin to get older and older, I think the mortality part educates you to enter into the realm of the spiritual aspect of it. Spirituality, for me, it’s a very, very real component. So the question is would I consider myself a spiritual person? Absolutely. Absolutely. There are too many complex things that I have been exposed to that leads me to believe that it is something way beyond my ability to grasp this whole universe, how complex everything is that has been set up. My rational mind wouldn’t allow me to think this is, basically, all by chance. Spiritual person? Yes, but of course.
BM: Most religious traditions 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, just as I have loved you, you are to love one another.” Do any of those statements resonate with you?
WH: Yeah, you’re right. Most religious traditions are based on the value of love. I would agree pretty much wholeheartedly with that universal truth. Both statements seem to be pretty clear. But let’s take the latter statement, “the Bible tells us, ‘a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.”’ Let’s take that one. You are looking for my explanation of that?
BM: Yeah, what does that mean to you? Not necessarily how would you apply it, but just at face value, what do you think that means?
WH: I think that what this says essentially, at its essence, is we are all connected in one sense or another to the human fabric, to the human gene, and I think until we all see the value in each other as creations of our creator, which I’m more than 100% sure that we weren’t created to hate each other. That [hate] only comes through pride. Pride is the gateway to many other unfortunate human emotions. And the thing that I’ve seen, I am most in awe about the human being is that we have this amazing capacity to feel emotions, unlike any other species. We have this vast, vast sea of emotions that exist in our hearts and in our minds. It reminds me of a statement that Robert Redford said. I was listening to an interview once with him and the interviewer asked Robert Redford about love. And he began his answer, speaking with clarity of course, and then he came to the point. He said, “I think man has the ability to feel this thing called love, and it transcends walls.” He said, “Emotions” (if my memory serves me correctly, and I want to get this as close as possible), he said, “there is a point where emotions can not reflect what’s in words.” And I’ve thought about that. Wow, that is very, very true. Words bring you to the very edges of that emotional feeling. But there’s a point at which the emotions become so concentrated, that it goes beyond what simple words have to say. Every society has tried to define this concept of love, from the dawn of time, since we first began to explore written text. As a human race, we have tried to define what love is. And I think that with every society, their focus was on what love isn’t. We have somewhat discovered how deep and vast the human heart really, truly is, and I don’t think we’ve come to a point where we can actually say what love truly is, but there was a novel that I read that came pretty close. I would suggest anybody read the novel about Cyrano de Bergerac.
WH: Yeah, the novel, not the movie. There’s a pretty good movie rendition of it, starring José Ferrer. He did a pretty good spin on that. But get the novel, the original text by Edmond Rostand. And I think he describes that aspect, in word, about as close as I could possibly identify with.
BM: That’s a great recommendation. I’ve never heard anyone recommend that book before for that reason. Thank you very much.
BM: What role can love play in the world today?
WH: Wow, wow. This one is almost as complex as the one that came before. These questions are constantly getting tougher and tougher, buddy!
BM: [Laughs] Well, I’m trying to keep you on your toes, and exercise your mind as well as your body.
WH: [Laughs] I love that, man. I love that. Exercise starts in the mind first. What role can love play in the world? I think we can actually rid society of a lot of the tyranny and oppression we find from border to border, from seashore to seashore, around the globe, until we can just stamp out tyranny and oppression. What role can it actually play? It plays a very, very crucial role in all our lives, ’cause we all need that aspect of it. I think a lot of times we get love and affection confused. A lot of times we have these terms, these somewhat synonymous terms, equated to what love is. Infatuation doesn’t equate to love. Affection doesn’t equate to love. These are components, or gateways, into what the realm of what love is, but not what love actually is. So what role can it play? I think the world has a great opportunity, and as we evolve as a species, I hope that my children and their children, and the sons and daughters of their children and their children will grow into a world where love is predominately the main factor for how people relate to each other. Not necessarily in love, because loving and being in love are two different concepts.
BM: What stops people from being more loving and compassionate?
WH: Pride. Laziness. Everything that is the antithesis of what love is. That’s really as short and to the point as I can get it.
BM: Do you have recommendations regarding how someone might cultivate a spirit of love over the long term, but also put into practice a spirit of love right now so that he or she could make a positive difference right away?
BM: I agree with you. Who do you look up to the most when you think of the power of love?
WH: If I were to pick an individual that I had intimate contact with to represent that, I would pick the very first person that I had the opportunity to love, which is my mother. She encapsulated what I think love truly was: dedication, the sheer ability to move away from the most selfish way, to always make sure that I had the best opportunity to do the things that I needed to do. It was the very first love that I experienced. And that’s the only truly sad thing about mankind, right? We only place value on a specific thing after it has departed. And if I had the opportunity to turn the hands of time back just a little bit, I would do a little better at being a better son to the woman who nurtured and loved and protected me when I couldn’t even do it for myself. When I think of the power of love, that would probably be the one thing I would hold as my beacon, as my north star, so to say.
BM: This almost fits in with the question previously. Would you recommend, then, that sons and daughters take another look at their parents?
WH: Hmm. Hey, Bill. Absolutely, bro. Absolutely. It’s something that will not only affect the lives of the ones in that intimate environment, but it would begin to radiate and send ripples and waves throughout the community and the society as a whole. Because, as I said, I truly believe that we are all connected in this big fabric of life. Until we actually get that, that we are all one species, that we are all connected in this way, things won’t get. But it has to start at the very bedrock of it, Bill. And the very bedrock of it is where we are first educated about what we think or we feel what love is. Where do we get that example from? We get it from our first educators, our parents.
BM: That’s a very good point. The last thing I ask you do you have anything to add that I haven’t asked?
WH: Man, you had a pretty tough list, bro. [Laughs]
WH: I would just like to thank you and Udana for bringing me into this. I’m just appreciative of being included in this. If I can shed some real, minute light on such a vast subject that it would illuminate somebody else’s way, and they wouldn’t have to waste a lot of time chasing what Hollywood would probably paint as love, because it’s much, much more than that. If the readers truly wish to find, develop and perfect love, then they should find, develop and perfect their love of their Creator! For there will never be any love that will give a human being that kind of Peace and Serenity. God first… and everything else falls into place.