Love in the Time of Contradiction

A few posts ago, I shared the book All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks.This book is amazing for it taught me to redefine love as an action and not as an object to desperately yearn for or use as a bargaining chip. To put it in hooks words, “Love is as Love does” and “Love is a verb, not a feeling”. In essence, if a parent, friend, lover, or relative’s lips say, “I love you” but their actions don’t, then they don’t actually love you.

At first this idea was hard to swallow, but eventually it led me to rewrite the script I had about love in my private and public life. I stopped chasing the friendships of fair weather friends and I began to consciously cultivate personal and work relationships with truly loving people. I began the lifelong process of examining my own integrity, slowly transforming how I embody love in all facets of my life. (I’m not gonna lie, the exercise of looking at of how I perceived, received, and gave love became a big bungled mess of contradictions that I’m still trying to sort out.)

Last week, in an attempt to glean insight from my cyber community, I posted to Facebook a question.

“Is love a verb or a noun?”

To my surprise, I got a number of responses. My favorite being from my high school friend Tim who forwarded me the youtube link to the classic the Schoolhouse Rock episode, Verb: That’s What’s Happening.

After viewing the clip I was stunned. My question, “Is love a verb or a noun?” was answered so loudly and in such a way that I was sure the ’70s classic was made just for me.

In All About Love, bell hooks not only addresses how love shows up in our personal lives specifically, she points out how it is missing in our culture in general. Love in our society is embraced and shunned for its identity as a big pink, chocolate covered box of need. All About Love highlights how capitalism, consumerism, corporate greed and profit driven mass media have bred a society devoid of love. These systems thrive on creating a culture of insecurity, instant gratification and insatiable desire. (Not to mention ongoing buying opportunities that supposedly show your love through the celebration of holidays like Valentine’s day.)

We have become a people more concerned with looking like we are loving, than simply being loving.

If we were a country that truly cared for and loved all its inhabitants equally, we would ensure all our citizens had the same access to quality education, medical care, housing, justice, representation and wealth. History (and most recently Henry Louis Gates Jr.) has shown us that our country is anything but loving. Let’s not fool ourselves with spreading democracy, post-racial, hippy kumbaya, lip service, just because our president has brown skin.

We have a long way to go before the U.S. becomes the land of the free of our national anthem. Love as a verb cannot be found in the words of our Declaration of Independence where, “All men are created equal, [and] they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Just like the definition of love that our society clings to, these ‘rights’ are just lofty romantic ideas. They, like the love they purport, are just nouns we speak void of meaning.

bell hooks and Schoolhouse Rock have taught me that love is most certainly a powerful verb. And it isn’t just a lesson for my life.

Love.  It’s the action of our time. And that’s what’s happening.


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