The Transforming Power of Love
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Is this the darkness of the tomb, or of the womb? I don’t know. All I know is that the only way we will endure is if each of us shows up to the labor. —Valarie Kaur
In this liminal space we find ourselves in now, Sikh activist, civil rights attorney, and author Valarie Kaur believes that “revolutionary love is the call of our times.” She brings the fullness of her faith and her humanity to answer the questions so many of us are asking. I think you will find her insights quite compelling:
If you cringe when people say that love is the answer, I do, too. The problem is not with love but with the way we talk about it. We mostly talk about love as a flood of emotion. But feelings alone are too fickle and fluid [RR—too based in the false self, I would also say] to sustain political action. Social reformers through history led entire nonviolent movements anchored in love as an ethic. Time and again, people gave their bodies and breath for one another, not only in the face of fire hoses and firing squads, but also in the quieter venues of their daily lives. Black feminists like bell hooks have long envisioned a world where the love ethic is a foundation for all arenas of our society. I believe we can reclaim love as a force for justice for a new time.
Here is my offering:
“Love” is more than a feeling. Love is a form of sweet labor: fierce, bloody, imperfect, and life-giving—a choice we make over and over again. If love is sweet labor, love can be taught, modeled, and practiced. This labor engages all our emotions. Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love. Anger protects that which is loved. And when we think we have reached our limit, wonder is the act that returns us to love.
“Revolutionary love” is the choice to enter into wonder and labor for others, for our opponents, and for ourselves in order to transform the world around us. It is not a formal code or prescription but an orientation to life that is personal and political and rooted in joy. Loving only ourselves is escapism; loving only our opponents is self-loathing; loving only others is ineffective. All three practices together make love revolutionary, and revolutionary love can only be practiced in community.
Revolutions do not happen only in grand moments in public view but also in small pockets of people coming together to inhabit a new way of being. We birth the beloved community by becoming the beloved community. . . . When a critical mass of people practice together, in community and as part of movements for justice, I believe we can begin to create the world we want, here and now.
Richard again: Perhaps a nondual response to Kaur’s question above is that moments of felt darkness are both a tomb and a womb. We must die to the old before the truly new can be born.
Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World: 2020), xv–xvi, xvii.