Love and FreedomFebruary 23, 2010 10 Comments
Love as the practice of freedom has been on my mind these days. My good friend Cyndi Suarez, who is the co-director of Northeast Action, recently shared a bell hooks essay by the same title – I appreciated Cyndi’s e-mail:
“I was thinking today on just how much social change movements reflect the dominant culture. I just finished rereading an old-time favorite essay by bell hooks and had to share it with you. I feel it is as pertinent now as when I first read it 15 years ago. I wonder what would change if at least some of us focused on building love rather power.”
In her essay, hooks points out that:
“Often [people] are too trapped by paralyzing despair to be able to engage effectively in any movement for social change. However, if the leaders of such movements refuse to address the anguish and pain of their lives, they will never be motivated to consider personal and political recovery. Any political movement that can effectively address these needs of the spirit in the context of liberation struggle will succeed.”
But hooks also points out that: “In [many] progressive circles, to speak of love is to guarantee that one will be dismissed or considered naïve”.
Judging from any quick glance a bookstore’s top sellers, and looking at the pop-Guru status of people like Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra, it is clear to us that people are looking for something – happiness, meaning – a way out of fear. Focusing on questions of power keeps us in a relatively measurable world, it allows us to gauge wins and losses, it helps us to understand struggles for control and domination. But entering the question of love takes us into spaces that are immeasurable and make a direct demand on our own personal transformation.
We do not want to ignore the question of power, bell hooks certainly doesn’t. I recently wrote a series of blog posts that included the lens of power, equity and inclusion as one of three keys for collaboration. However, the same series of posts also included the lens of love as another one of these keys. I am interested in the type of social change that will succeed, that will help to redefine how we are with one another in ways that reverberate through society at-large. I am interested in freedom, and I’m looking for ways to place love at the center of this quest.