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When I Say "One Love":

The Interconnectedness of Life

By Geoffrey Philp Published 14 days ago 5 min read
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One Love

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me why I use “One Love” in my emails and why I autograph my books with “One Love.” I was caught off guard, and if you can believe it, I was speechless. And I soon realized there was a disconnect between our mutual understanding of “One Love.”

From his perspective, "One Love" was just a friendly slogan or catchphrase popularized in mainstream culture, especially now with the release of the Bob Marley biopic by the same name. He associated it with feel-good vibes of unity and positivity. But, for me, "One Love" runs much deeper than its superficial adoption as a trendy tagline.

I learned about “One Love” during my adolescence from Rastafari in the mansion of Twelve Tribes of Israel. An important spiritual truth that influenced my studies of world religions, “One Love” has helped me understand life's interconnectedness—an idea that has intrigued scientists such as Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, and Fritjof Capra.

Emerging from within Rastafari in the 1930s, “One Love” holds principles of interconnectedness, which is also expressed in the phrase I&I. “One Love” and I&I are deeply ingrained in Rasta speak (McAlister). I&I affirms the trinity of the individual in community and communion with the divine. Depending on the context, I&I can assert my identity as a subject capable of agency, not merely an object as my African ancestors were regarded, and my relationship with other human beings and the divine. “One Love, " synonymous with Rastafari, gave me the language to “overstand” myself and my surroundings.

Rastafari serves as my keyhole into the world, shaping the lens through which I interpret my reality. Although I am not Rastafari, I consider myself Rastafari-adjacent. I view Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari) as what the Buddhists would call a bodhisattva—someone who, while working on personal enlightenment, has chosen to delay reaching it so they can help other sentient beings to be free from suffering (Salguero).

What appeals to me about ‘One Love” is its conception of non-dual awareness – the idea that everything and everyone is unified through the thread of a universal life force or the àṣẹ in Yoruba cosmology (Ferreira). We may see distinctions and divisions in the physical world, but metaphysically, as Israel Vibration asserts, “We all gonna sing the same song” (Israel Vibration).

Also, like certain Buddhist dharmas, “One Love” can balance seemingly contradictory ideas—like the Nagarjuna’s teaching about nirvana and samsara, traditionally considered separate states of enlightened and unenlightened existence. According to the Nagarjuna, the distinctions between nirvana and samsara are useful conceptual constructs in thinking about Buddhism, but they also reveal the underlying emptiness of reality (Teipen).

These are heady concepts. But how will I spend my days? I like the approach of Thich Nhat Hahn’s “engaged Buddhism” ("On Being with Krista Tippett"). Thich Nhat Hanh integrates classic Buddhist principles, highlighting the expansion of mindfulness beyond individual meditation sessions into all facets of daily existence--this approach has significantly shaped my practice of haiku. Combined with my idiosyncratic understanding of “One Love,” these ideas release me from the apocalyptic teachings about Babylon in some mansions of Rastafari and the livity of Rastafari and Babylon.

For Rastafari, those who deny the oneness of all things are said to believe in “Babylon” (McAlister). Babylon represents the practice of downpression, separation, and fratricidal warfare, but One Love breaks the cycle of the dualistic story we have been retelling for millennia. As Bob said in an interview with the UCLA Black Studies department backstage before a show at the Pauley Pavilion during the 1979 Survival tour, “If dem a go win de revolution, dem haffi win it wid Rasta. Yu cyaan win no other way. Because if you win other way, you a go fight again. When Rasta win, den no more war” (Marley).

“One Love” removes the illusion of separateness that makes us see enemies rather than sisters and brothers and extends our ability to see “a place for the hopeless sinner /who has hurt all mankind/ just to save his own” (“One Love”). In other words, we’re all in the same boat, so we might as well be kind to each other. Or as Brother Bob sings, “Cause puss and dog get together/ What’s wrong with loving one another? (“So Jah Seh”).

When I say “One Love,” it is my way of affirming what the African philosophy of Ubuntu expresses, “I am because we are” (Louw). Ubuntu's emphasis on communal interdependence echoes the Rastafari spirit of “One Love." Both articulate that we are interconnected branches stemming from the same universal root. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson states, “We are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust” (Tyson).

“One Love” is also my attempt to remove the illusion that causes so much pain--beyond modern society's labels, divides, and materialistic preoccupations. This simple two-word phrase means so much that I use it to sign off all my emails and autograph my books. It reminds me of my connection to the divine, nature, and to you, my friend, “One Love.”

References

"Engaged Buddhism." Oxford Reference, Oxford University Press,

www.oxfordreference.com/display/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095751887.

Accessed 9 Feb. 2024

Ferreira, Marce. "Ase | Yoruba People and Life Force." TraditionalBodywork.com, 6 May 2022,

https://www.traditionalbodywork.com/ase-yoruba-people-life-force/.

Accessed 9 Feb. 2024

Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/484586-the-atoms-of-our-bodies-are-traceable-to-stars-that. Accessed 9 Feb. 2024

Israel Vibration. "We All Gonna Sing the Same Song." Zion Train. Mango Records, 1990.

Louw, Dirk J. "Ubuntu and the Challenges of Multiculturalism in Post-Apartheid South Africa."

21st World Congress of Philosophy, Boston University, 1998,

www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Afri/AfriLouw.htm.

Accessed 9 Feb. 2024

Marley, Bob, and the Wailers. "So Jah Seh." Natty Dread, Island Records, 1974.

Marley, Bob, and the Wailers. "One Love." Legend, Tuff Gong/Island Records, 1984.

Marley, Bob. "Bob Marley." Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/BobMarley, Accessed 11 Feb. 2024

McAlister, Elizabeth A. "Rastafari" Encyclopedia Britannica, 11 January 2024,

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Rastafari. Accessed 8 February 2024.

Accessed 9 Feb. 2024

Salguero, Pierce. “What is a Bodhisattva? A Scholar of Buddhism Explains.”

The Conversation, 7 Oct. 2022,

Teipen, Alfred. "Nagarjuna." Furman University,

https://eweb.furman.edu/~ateipen/ReligionA45/Nagarjuna.htm.

Accessed 9 Feb. 2024.

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About the Creator

Geoffrey Philp

I am a Jamaican writer. I write poems (haiku & haibun), stories & essays about climate change, Marcus Garvey, music icons such as Bob Marley, and the craft of writing through personal reflection & societal engagement.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • Judith P8 days ago

    Very insightful. We are more than a brother and sister. Our connection is much deeper than the physical appearance

  • Thanks for explaining some of the phrases and concepts associated with Rasta. I have lots n’y wondered what I&I meant, and I never realized ‘one love’ had larger connotations than a general view of brotherly love.

  • Well written! Great work! One love!

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