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Published February 14, 2021
photo above: Participants take part in an event organized by Love & Protect to lift up the names and celebrate the lives of Black women and girls who have been killed by state violence at Rekia’s Tree in Douglass Park, Chicago, on June 13, 2018. Sarah-ji
WN: What is described beautifully in the highlighted article is agape love in the New Testament. Which of course may be found and practised with or without any religious belief.
In her book, All About Love, bell hooks borrows a definition of love from Scott Peck: Love is “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”
I love this definition. It is so active. It is about gardening the self and another, tending to growth, extending the self — the time, care, skill, the irretrievably precious moments of life — to the work of growth.
I love that it recognizes love as the same act whether toward the self or toward another, in family, friendship or romance.
I have returned to All About Love several times in my life, in part because I love the vulnerability of the text, in part because I want to hear every scholar I respect reflect on love.
This time I am reading it with my partner as part of a salon called Black Honey on the new social app Clubhouse. The series features lovers reading texts from Black authors — before hooks, we read Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic as Power.
I’ve read both texts multiple times, but reading them back-to-back now, with someone I love dearly and daily, I feel a resonant message occurring about the taut connection, delicious or debilitating, between love and justice, pleasure and power. There is a tension, sometimes an outright contradiction, between what we practice at the most intimate personal level, and what we need to practice at the most collective societal level.
But bell hooks holds up a mirror to show that many of us grow up without the truth of that kind of love. We grow up inside of patterns of abuse that shape what we call and experience as love when we get older. Or we have loving childhoods where we try to hide abuse that happens in school or religious community. Or we get caught up in the patterns of abuse taught in magazines and movies about love, or elsewhere in the culture. hooks challenges us, pointing out that love and abuse cannot co-exist, and reminding us of a wisdom that Martin Luther King Jr. channeled, “There can be no love without justice.”
This definition of love and hooks’ writing around it make me feel clearer about what we need to attend to if we want a society based in love rooted in spiritual growth, versus war for material growth.
When we love our communities, we extend ourselves to nurture the land, the people, the relationships between the people, the dreams, the familial structures, the health, the spiritual growth of the community. This is not a transactional offer, made with the expectation of money, access or power. No, it is an offering of love — the growth itself is satisfaction.
Please click on: Liberating (Agape) Love