Whether for an individual or for a nation, every crisis comes with two things: a reflection of who we have been, and an invitation to become who we need to become.
—Marianne Williamson, A Politics of Love
no one could have imagined us
our roofs propped up with sticks and bolts
no one has walked through the space of our interiors
but ourselves the ones we fear the most
but still our lives are political
singular but many we feel through this climate
fasten our armour to the sickness not yet knowing
the story of this history unfolding but knowing
we are surviving our aloneness a root
driving down into the heart of the matter
touch can be felt in multiple ways
if we bend to see the metaphor
We have to continuously create the language that allows us to be who we are.
A rose. A gift. A memento. Wrapped up and tied with a bow.
A trade in place of words.
A simple gift,
—a loving gesture.
That passes the hand of one to another.
A promise. Speaks for so much
and so little at the same time.
Most roses were grown in Ecuador, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and India. Huge volumes of loving gestures, travelled thousands of miles to adorn your vase. These gestures of love, grown and cut just before their bloom, are refrigerated and travelled at special temperatures in cargo holds, to arrive at their destination just as their heads begin to open.
Loves innocence, entangled in value systems of markets and money; of livelihoods and lives dependent on their growth (our growth). Of people surviving inside love economies of their own. Of family, safety and home.
A rose from the moment of it’s cutting, passed many hands, travelled over-land, to touch you, and to be touched by you.
Not made to last. Beautiful for a spell.
I struggled with this rose—its symbols and its origins—its journey and its embroilment inside systems of domination. Systems that both sustain life and create its untimely demise. I considered the endless impacts of empires hold, the impossibility of escape, the wish for change. I thought about these things, struggling from within systems so embroiled with caring gestures, yet, felt so fundamentally uncaring.
That love so perfectly packaged could never feel true.
What does it mean to attend?
give practical help and care to; look after.
pay attention to.
To pay attention comes from the latin root attendre: “to stretch toward”
The word pay from the Medieval Latin root pax: “to make peaceful"
What does it mean to attend to something? To keep in mind the larger story? To be conscious? To recognise your own complicity inside the system? To keep caring beyond the shelf life? To not throw away? To hold in your hands a thing, so close to death, and to nurture new life into its body? Where the cut becomes the site for new roots to grow? Where tending turns surviving into thriving?
The structures of domination: white supremacist neoliberal capitalist patriarchy*, make bodies into machines, make friends into competitors and reduce love into a kissogram.
The words “freedom” and “friend” come from the same Proto-Indo-European root pri- meaning, “to love”.
One needs to know they are bound by a thing in order to get free from it.
It is easier to settle for a counterfeit of love than to actually do the work of love.
I wanted love to be the way to move through decisions, work and friendship, though I felt taut restrictions inhabit my body.
The way the term ‘emotional labour’ was used out of context, and pseudo physiological info-graphics on instagram used ‘setting boundaries’ as a way to avoid holding sad friends.
The way friendships became competition in a bid for outworking.
The way work became life, and freedom became stature.
The way taking time to do nothing felt laden with guilt.
The way talking about love felt naïve.
The way tentative and new ways of being felt crushed by oppressive structures.
The way we hold each other to increasingly unreachable levels of production and forget to look after the bodies we inhabit.
The way we expect, promote and value happiness and turn away from ‘difficult’ emotion.
The way that pain and suffering are made to be things separate from love.
The way love is supposed to bring us no challenge.
I have come to believe.
That love and joy are indistinguishable from pain.
That we cannot discuss one without the other.
That we hurt where we care.
That human experience is more important than production.
That friendships are worth more than work.
That empowering is more important than domination.
How do we move inside systems of domination?
How do we come up against, swim around, confront, undercut and unravel—gently?
Love is an action never simply a feeling.
—Bell Hooks, All About Love
She said: vulnerability is hard to do
then everything opened.
Come into the work of love like walking in a rain storm
give in to the soaking resist the run.
A slow unlearning of the voices of judgement
that call to you from the vast walls of your built up city.
Loosen the capital that surrounds the self and commune with the world.
This wild weather can’t be measured.
There are no knowings of droplets or downpours
but thoughts that are water evaporate in the air.
Attempt to live inside low-pressure-systems of your own making
where complexity and confusion are laid bare.
This unavoidable weather
the work of love and undoing.
I began to see how the language of domination permeated my experience.
Began to notice how the language of critique and correction, stifled fresh new ideas before they had the chance to bloom.
Saw how the want for more pushed us to limits that could not be reached without losing something of ourselves along the way.
How often we are looking for what is next instead of what is now.
The notions of over there instead of here, here.
In searching for loves presence, I noticed its absence everywhere.
In the supermarket, in the anxious social media posts, on the news, in the articles, on the streets where no smiles were being exchanged, in the cafe where a woman clicked her fingers at the waiter, in the university where no one looked at the cleaner, in insecure exchanges between friends, in the political and ethical conversations where wrongness is vilified, and critique is king. I felt it’s absence move through me and move through us.
I felt fear penetrate the inner workings of everything I knew. I observed emotional support and interpersonal reliance become ‘too much’ and I saw a turning away from the response-ability that caring for one another holds.
I saw messiness and mistakes become failures and I saw domination become the go to stance—to always perform at the top of the game; to never show weakness or vulnerability; to never place life in front of work; to feel great shame about not being able to ‘do’. To put the posture of success above the nurturance of the body, the time spent with friends, the pause for breath.
I noticed the way the language and embodiments of domination made me act and feel, and I noticed the difficulty of doing otherwise.
I felt the absence of love move through me, and through the people I love.
I was articulating a feeling
from the muds of my mouth
slowly at first, tongue thick
with syllables and searching
my lips were imbued with
a need for pouring
but the world shut me up
with its emotional echo
love was the word
snaking out from the cavity
uncomfortable at first
gargling up from the underbelly
as I found in my mouth
a dialect of enrichment
the sediments soothed
with a grammar of devotion
sweet was the taste
that satiated my tongue
a gentle fertilisation
a compost of the loving.
15.12.20Fear has been politicized once again, and once again love must respond. Fear has been harnessed for political purposes, and the only thing powerful enough to override that fear is a harnessing of love. But love must be more than the reason we’re doing something; it must also be the way we’re doing it.
—Marianne Williamson, A Politics of Love
A dictionery definition of love will give you a host of descriptions that primerly describe love as a romantic feeling, associated with: sexual intimacy, attachment, lust, attraction, objects of desire or emotional euphoria. But what about love in a larger sense? What about the kind of love that is not attached to an individual? What about spiritual love, love of an endevour, love for community, love as a movement, love which transcends, love as a social and political endevour and love as an ethic?
In urgent times of political apathy, shock politics, ‘fake news’, pandemic, divided democracies, strife individualism and emotional anesthesia, perhaps love that is the antidote in its widest and most all encompassing sense.