What “All You Need Is Love” means to me

I remember the Beatles. 

I mean, I am only 30 years old, so I don’t mean I remember them, I mean I remember finding them.

I was in France, probably about twelve or thirteen years old, and I was staying the summer with my cousin where I would spend the day sprawled out on her bed and listening to her father’s Beatles Box Set. I don’t remember if it was the first time I had ever heard them, but I loved their songs. This was before we had such easy access to lyrics, so I had taken it upon myself to grab a notebook and listen to the songs while hitting “pause, play, rewind, pause” as I scribbled away the lyrics to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Penny Lane and other favorites. 

As I grew up, they were my all-time favorite band. To me, it felt like they had figured out the secret to life, and that secret was love. 

Yeah! Love…who wouldn’t get behind that? Never mind that they didn’t explain what that meant, that it was the ultimate hippie anthem, that people would roll their eyes because “love doesn’t pay the bills”. I thought, “that is all you need. And whoever doesn’t get that is just bitter.”

My love for them stuck with me throughout the years. When I graduated University the first time, the party we had included dinner and a movie, and the movie we played was Across The Universe. The last scene of the movie is the main cast of the movie getting together and singing to the police that is trying to stop their demonstration that “all you need is love”.

As the first chords started to play, I had such a visceral reaction to the song –I’m getting goosebumps just writing this– it was like something in me was being reborn. Once again, the Beatles were causing something within me to react, they were whispering to some deep part within me. I cried during the entire song, not really understanding why, but after the 25 years that I had come to know myself, I knew better than to question sensitive reactions such as this. 
The song versions in Across the Universe (don’t tell anybody I said this) turned out to be my favorite version of those songs, and to this day I can’t listen to that version of All You Need Is love without it moving me. 

Eventually, I stopped listening to The Beatles as much, and the magic I felt towards them began to fade as I heard different types of rumors about John and Paul…about how they were not the men they had made themselves out to be, that they were vain and inconsiderate, one of them maybe even violent. I don’t always pay attention to rumors so I still kept saying that my religion was The Beatles. But I did feel a little confused about how to continue to follow my “religion” if I felt disenchanted with my four evocators and their message. And because of this, it felt like every word against them started to weigh down on me. 

Then, when the relationship I was in back then (which had an abundance of love) began to falter, my worst fear began to come to fruition. Was love actually enough?

And my immediate answer became no. Love was not enough. 

There needed to be so much more, things that had nothing to do with Love, and all to do with Life.

I didn’t understand why I wasn’t letting go of the thought that all one needed was love. That song had moved me, it had whispered something in me. It meant something to me, something personal, something magnificent, something…True. 

I tried not to let go of my beliefs, but I questioned them. I questioned them as I continued my education in Spiritual Psychology, I continued to question myself and everyone else. Eventually, there was a shattering of my beliefs, and then a disillusion as I began to realize that no one else truly knew more than myself when answering my questions. I was looking to my boyfriend as some type of authority on “true love” because it was easier to believe in his loyalty to himself than it was to believe in my own. I was looking to my professors as the authority on my own spirituality because I did not believe in my own authority to know what I needed. I was looking to my parents to guide me because I did not believe in my own capacity to provide for myself. 

Around the same moment, (“coincidentally”) I was trying to define what God meant to me. 

I had already established that I didn’t believe in the God that “God-fearing Americans” had displayed to me. The term on its own seemed ridiculous. God-fearing? Why the hell would we fear our creator (if that’s what God was). Why would that be the basis of our belief? Logically speaking (ironically), it made no sense that this All Powerful Entity would also be so unbelievably immature that it would smite you if you didn’t go to this building on Sundays to say some chants or if you decided to love someone that had the same genitals as you (?????????). People were acting as if “God created us in His image” actually meant that God was created in ours. 

So if I was not going to buy into the religion of my culture, it didn’t make sense to follow that of anyone else’s culture either. I was going to have to figure out what God meant on my own.

And then…it happened. Somewhere along the end of the first year in school, I felt it. 

I had had experiences in my past where I suddenly felt was it actually meant to Exist. I can’t go into it because it’s one of those things where you either know what I’m talking about, or I’m going to sound crazy. And I know people out there that know what I’m talking about. The closest word I can perhaps use to describe it is that it feels like inspiration on steroids. It is an understanding and a peace that I grasped for minutes that felt like short seconds. It was never long enough. There were other instances like that, but the most powerful ones had always been while at school with classmates. The energy there was palpable and conducive to these types of realizations. I would get glimpses of this understanding, of this knowing at different times. Teeny tiny realizations that yes…hurt. They would hurt because I wanted them to stay. It was the attachment to that high that hurt me. Once I was “in it”, it felt like the combination of feeling intense love for someone, like a friend, but also your mother, also the love of your life, your best friend, your childhood sweetheart. It felt like I wanted to protect and care for the entire planet. It felt like an orgasm of my soul. (Fine, I tried to explain it. Do I sound crazy yet?) I understood, attachment is not love. 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

And that’s when I realized. This is Love. This is God. GodLove is where we come from, everything else is just translation. Religions are people trying to understand something and explain something in a way that makes sense to us, because if you listen carefully, you will find that there is the common ground in so many religions of prophets preaching Love. Jesus being the one that I’m the most familiar one, it seems everything he said and so much of what was in the bible was along the same lines…what you need, is to love one another.

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

— Mark 12:31

“All you need is love” is not an answer to life, but it is an answer. Life comes from love, but we need so much more to live in the society we have provided for ourselves. The question being “Who am I and what am I doing here?” If you live and interact with the world from that point, as close to being your true self as possible, if you trust, and forgive, if you communicate, if you persevere, these things are all coming from Love. That is when you are being your most you. And that, my friend, is all you need…to be happy. 

Where there is love there is life.

— Mahatma Gandhi

There are no “wrong” paths in life, simply paths that take you through a more challenging route. No one can limit you, if you love yourself. No one can victimize you, if you surrender to the love that we all are. That’s what I felt like they were talking about. Live from love, and you will not be alone. Live in love, and you will know yourself truly. 

This doesn’t mean go around throwing flowers everywhere to people (though by all means please do that, take pictures, send them to me.) it doesn’t mean happy songs about cute boys, or giving free hugs. These are the decorations that we use to adorn and express the different types of love we feel. I believe you can be cynical and still come from Love, there’s a fine balance. What I am saying, what I am offering you here, is the understanding or belief that love is an unattached, unabashed, unfearful understanding of Who You Are. 

True love cannot be bought. To receive love, one must give it freely, without any condition. But instead of following this rule, the insecure person resorts to jealousy. This makes the loved one angry, and thus defeats its very purpose. Jealousy then responds to the anger with a desire to strike back. But anytime one wants thus to harm another, he ultimately hurts himself even more.

— Paramahansa Yogananda

It is the the acceptance of the harmony that ties us together. Which is why harming that harmony is counter to love. Bigotry is a repulsion of who we truly are. It is unnatural, which is why we must show empathy to those that hurt others out of ignorance or hatred. To want to cause harm to others is a public display of the separation that is within us. People that are hateful or judge others harshly are simply displaying their own self-hatred, and I empathize for them. We need to love them more fiercely. We need to recognize that the god that is within us is also within them, and they are suffering because they don’t believe in themselves. Then especially, all you need is love. 

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

— Luke 6:35

I hope that my beliefs and the meaning I give things will continue to evolve as I continue to evolve. But for now, the meaning I have given this song is a constant reminder that I am love, and that all I need to do is remember that…and there won’t be nothing I can do that can’t be done, nothing I can sing that can’t be sung, no aspect of myself that I can save that can’t be saved. All I need is me. All I need…is love. 

Below you will find one of my favorite renditions of this song. Try to watch this video without being moved! 

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Just for fun I also made a playlist of some of the covers I found on YouTube that I thought were good. Check it out and comment below on versions you think I should add.

In the mean time, the god in me recognizes the god in you.

I love you, truly. 

All my love,