As people learned about Chauvin’s guilty verdict and Ma’Khia Bryant’s death nearly simultaneously, I saw how it takes a lot of courage to hope, to feel that all the small and massive actions matter, and that that courage can break and reconstitute itself, and I don’t feel able to name the source of love — what else can it be? — that allows or facilitates or resuscitates this courage. When I read from John in this week’s lectionary, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action,” I think about how little instruction I received in how to love.
Think of the love, for example, in the refusal to share images of Ma’Khia, except those where she is in her element, a child playing with her hair.
Or the forms and shapes and dimensions of love in Aracelis Girmay’s “You Are Who I Love.”
I’m turning to readings on love because I still need instruction, and I need to remember what a life of love could be. I don’t mean some flimsy, sheltered, easy vibe — bell hooks reminds us that love is not feeling noun, but feeling verb, love is an action and an orientation, a structure in which hope can exist alongside all the evidence against it. Maybe you need this, too.
Recently, my sweetheart proposed the idea of reading a text together, and we chose bell hooks’ All About Love: New Visions. I am rereading it, in fact, but I am a different person from the person who first read it. It took me time to give due respect to serious writing that aims to be accessible. One reason for this has to do with my shifting relationship to power. The more I aligned myself to power within the context of white supremacist patriarchy (which I did not, for a long time, recognize), the more I looked for the voices that held (often stole, hoarded) power within that system, and the less likely I was to recognize, much less value, power in the form of a social love ethic.
“Who we are in the world affects our aesthetics,” writes the poet Elizabeth Alexander, “whether one sees the world as a perennially violent place in need of forms in which to cry out and other forms to investigate a love ethic that can stand up to violence; or whether one sees joy and grief as atomized and private experiences rather than public ones.”
Can we sit with John’s — and Girmay’s and hooks’ and Alexander’s — words on Sunday?
Let us love in truth and action.
Coffee Hour is a lightly facilitated, gently theological online space where you are welcome, no religious commitment assumed or expected. It happens every week at 1-2pm Irish time. The password changes (today it is: bellhooks); the video conference link is always the same: https://meet.jit.si/CoffeeHourWithFriends2021