A few weeks ago during this recently completed Christmas season I was introduced to a wonderful quote. It is from an American writer and lecturer by the name of Hamilton Wright Mabie, who lived from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. The quote describing Christmas is, “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
The phrase, “a conspiracy of love” is what caught my attention in this quote. The word conspiracy is usually associated with an activity that is criminal or hurtful, such as a conspiracy to overthrow the government or a plot to undermine someone or something. If you look up the definition of conspire the first meaning matches this thinking, “to agree together, especially secretly, to do something wrong, evil, or illegal.”
The second meaning of conspire expands the understanding of the word beyond something secret and illegal– “to act or work together toward the same result or goal.” This meaning clearly comes from the root meanings of the two words that combine to create the word conspire, con meaning “with” and spire meaning “spirit.” So to conspire means for people to act together with the same spirit, a meaning that is clearly captured in the quote I shared at the beginning of this column, when it talks about the season of Christmas being a time the whole world is engaged in a conspiracy of love.
The headlines in the news this week have again been filled with stories of people committing unbelievable acts of horrific violence. What happened in Paris is evidence that, in fact, people can conspire together to do evil. Yet the response of the thousands of people that showed up just hours after the shootings for a spontaneous gathering to honor the victims, risking their own safety in the process, showed that people can also choose to conspire together to do good and spread love in the world.
With this week’s events in Paris and with of all of the other hundreds of local stories of violence and hurt we need a conspiracy of love now as much as ever in our world. Love is spread the same way hatred is spread, by people individually and collectively deciding which spirit will be their guide and deciding which spirit they are going to radiate out both at home and in the world.
These last few days I have been reflecting on what kind of spirit am I spreading into the lives of the people I come in contact with. I invite you to do the same. I have been reflecting on the difficult fact that I, like most all of us, am capable of spreading a spirit of negativity, and of unhealthy criticism. At the same time, I also, like most of us, am capable of spreading a spirit of love and healing. It’s not easy to take an honest inventory of ourselves, but in the end it is a worthwhile exercise as it helps us to recommit to engaging in a conspiracy of love, the kind of conspiracy our homes and our world desperately need right now.