Love As Separation


We see love as a coming together.  A uniting.  And that, of course, is true.  As an end result.

But what is the nature of love?  (Don’t worry, I’m not really expecting an answer – yet…)

I’m pretty sure that love isn’t what most of the notions about it flying around in the world describe.  In particular, I’m certain that the idea of love as a process whereby we are completed by somebody else is not only wrong, it’s quite dangerous.

The feeling that we have when we are ‘met’ by someone.  When we are actually seen for who we really are and loved by the person who sees us, is a very potent feeling and one that can delude us into thinking that it is this process that calls us into being in some way. That isn’t true.

We are whole and discrete units unto ourselves.  Nobody outside of us – not our lovers or friends or children or even our parents (and to be honest they might come closest) can fill the gaps or substitute for the parts of ourselves we need to grow in order to be whole. This belief that somewhere there is someone – or indeed something (money, drugs, sex, success) – that can effect our ‘completion’ puts this necessary step out of our own control.

It isn’t only that this approach to love isn’t a nice, modern or independent idea, it’s more that it can’t work.  This approach is more likely to result in an unhealthy hybrid outcome – an entity made from borrowed and mismatched pieces rather than a beautiful and healthy relationship that can function as a powerhouse and engine of change and good and growth for all those involved.

So the first step towards love is separateness.  I have to see my separateness and become who I am and find ways to fill my own lacks and you have to do exactly the same and then we can come together.  Once we are sure we are separate we don’t suffer from jealousy or domination or the need to be in control.

When we are children the situation is complex vis a vis our togetherness and our separateness and just as we are growing physically we are also growing in this way.  We start off being attached, literally, to another person and our journey through childhood is a journey of separation and detachment as well as a myriad other things.

But once we are adults – regardless of the childhood that has created us – we are separate. When we are adults, if a person we love leaves we will be sad, we may even be distraught but we won’t be broken – because we can’t be.  They weren’t completing us – no matter what it felt like.  At best, they were papering over the cracks and that might not be great but when your heart is broken and you’ve been abandoned, one way or another, there is comfort in knowing that whatever else has happened no part of you has been taken away.

Because you have all the parts of yourself.  Even if you can’t always see them.

The job of completion is yours and mine alone.

There’s no denying that it’s a much nicer place when we help each other to do that – and maybe that is love.  Or part of love.  Or a type of love.

Here are a few interesting recent blog posts on various aspects of love that might help us all in our ongoing struggle to find out exactly what this elusive, seductive essence might be.

On Compassion and Control Freaks

Expectations and Vulnerability

I Hate To Tell You this Mom, but… 

Differentiation, Love and Living with Integrity

The Houla Massacre

This last post may seem an unlikely reference given the context, but I think this post graphically describes the lack of love.  It isn’t just that we don’t have chocolates and flowers if we don’t have love – the consequences are much more serious than that.  And sometimes we need to see clearly what something isn’t before we can understand what it is.

There are many, many more posts on this subject that I have read but can’t remember right now –  if you wrote one, or know of one, please don’t hesitate to link (self-referring is positively encouraged!).

Can I Ask You A Question?


Women are controlled (If you were any good you’d be thin)

Are mistrusted – (FGM)

Are to be feared (otherwise educate them – why not if they’re not up to much?)

Are to be objectified (child brides/super models)

And yet… They feel powerless.

Why?

Why when the establishment everywhere and every time seems to see women as so powerful they must be constantly controlled, why are women the only ones who can’t see this power?

Imagine what might happen if that power was unleashed?  Not power as we know it where women are ‘powerful’ if they are like men or liked by men.  But the real, thumping, all-encompassing, generative, protective power of real women.

Imagine what might happen?

Imagine – for example – in places where a girl who is raped must kill herself to restore her family’s honour, if the mothers in these places not only tried to protect their daughters but said to their sons – “Marry her son, she’s been raped but that is something that was done to her, not by her and so her honour is clearly intact – which is more than can be said of the men who raped her.  I am your mother and I am not just standing up for her, I am also really standing up for you.  I am trying to teach you that it’s always the perpetrators who are the guilty ones – not the victims.  Always.  I want you to understand this son because I want to make sure that your honour remains intact.  Because I love you.”

Imagine if that happened.

What’s stopping it?

Do You Feel The Love?


The first step in changing our world is an examination of what actually constitutes reality. We are all products of our environment and as a result we inevitably take many things for granted, believing them to be the natural order of things.

Social reality is an expression of human agreement, someone is the president of a country and has the powers of that office because a system of government is created and acknowledged by the inhabitants of that country. When the fundamental agreements which frame belief and behaviour change, social reality will change.(1)

In the early twentieth century, Antonio Gramsci, who spent most of his life in one of Mussolini’s prisons, identified a phenomenon he called cultural hegemony. Gramsci used this term to describe how we all believe that the way things are is the natural order of things.

A good example of how cultural hegemony operates is slavery. There was a time in the Western world when slavery was considered ‘the natural order’. Certain people were seen as a slave class and were owned by other people. Social realities, and even the economies of the time, were built around this idea and nobody – even the slaves in all likelihood – thought there was anything that could be done to change it.  Slavery was, in fact, so much part of social reality that wishing to escape from it was seen as an illness.

In 1851, American physician, Samuel A. Cartwright described a mental illness he called drapetomania – an illness he believed afflicted slaves who were inclined to run away. Cartwright said this illness was a result of masters who, “made themselves too familiar with [slaves], treating them as equals.“(2)

He went on to say that,

“If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master or overseer, humanity and their own good requires that they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which was intended for them to occupy. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away.“(3)

It’s now clear to us that slavery is not the natural order of things but rather a social reality based on economic motives and mistaken ideas. People like us made that reality.  And, equally, people like us changed that reality.

So, how do we tell the difference between unchangeable reality which is outside of our control and reality that can be changed? As someone pointed out to me recently not everything is possible.  But what happens if we just accept the limitations (as we see them) and don’t try to change things? If God had wanted us to fly he’d have given us wings…

The question is tricky.  How can we tell the difference between mutable and immutable reality before we begin?  Maybe there is a solution just around the corner which we can’t see from where we stand?  Which seems like a good reason to start out.  And yet it is true that some efforts to effect change will be futile – so, how much banging our heads against the unchangeable can we stand before our heads explode?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, by the way.  Sorry.  But maybe you do.

I have been thinking about it though and all I can come up with is that I wonder if the answer is something to do with love?  Not Hollywood love but real, raw, visceral, never-giving-up love.  The kind of love that parents have for their children.  The kind of love that holds the atoms of a stone together.  Where nothing is too hard or not worth the effort even when the chances of success seem slim.  The kind of love that makes us try and try and try even when we fail and fail and fail – and then when we’ve tried everything possible – we try something else.  Maybe we try the impossible.  Because it matters.

________________________________________________________________________

1) Paul Lample, Revelation and Social Reality, p.9

2)  Cartwright, Samuel A. (1851). “Report on the Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race”DeBow’s ReviewXI.http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3106t.html. Retrieved 2007-10-04.

3) Arthur L. Caplan, James J. McCartney, and Dominic A. Sisti (2004). Health, Disease, and Illness: Concepts in Medicine. Washington, D.C.:Georgetown University Press. p. 35 ISBN 1589010140.

How to Be Happy


One of the problems that naturally occurs when a light is shone on pain and suffering is that those who are looking at this picture are overwhelmed by pity.  This might seem like a good outcome – surely if we are sorry for someone we’ll try to help?  Well the answer to that is not a definite ‘yes’.  Sometimes when we feel sorry for people we also feel angry, or resentful or superior or confused.  We wonder how this can happen and why they can’t help themselves just like we have to do and if they have some inherent shortcoming that precludes them from building a wholesome and sustaining life for themselves… Continue reading

‘Wooden’ It Be Nice?


This is much more interesting than it might appear on the surface.  I think you’ll find it has hidden layers (I just couldn’t resist the pun).

OK – I know it doesn’t look as if it’ll be interesting and I know you might hate it but go on – give it a couple of minutes and see if you like it.  Apart from anything else it shows how something so ordinary can be seen as extraordinary through the right eyes.

And I have a question – if plywood is stronger than the wood from which it is made, then is there an amazing analogy in there somewhere?  An analogy that suggests taking raw materials, re-shaping them, joining them together in such a way that their individual ‘grain’ is used to increase the strength of the finished product and then modeling them for purpose in order to create something better?

Cheesy analogy I know – but hard to avoid (like the pun).  Hope you enjoy this movie…

Believing is Seeing


I’ve been thinking.  Why is it that on the one hand we are so terrified of change we’ll go to extreme lengths to avoid it, while on the other hand we are told – and tell ourselves – that real, sustainable change is impossible?

These are contradictory beliefs.

I believe all change – including change for the better – is totally possible.  But we have to want it and also really sincerely believe it can happen.

Have you ever misplaced a shoe at home?  You know it’s somewhere in the house.  Maybe the dog hid it under the sofa?  Maybe you accidentally kicked it under the bed.  Maybe one of the kids ran off with it.  But you know it’s there somewhere so you keep on looking until you find it.  You truly believe that all the frustration and searching is going to be worthwhile because it simply has to be in the house somewhere.

Social change is the same.  It is completely within our control, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

Traditions are man-made and not immutable, no matter what anybody tells us.  Traditions and practices can – and must – be changed if they are harming us.

Step one = we have to do whatever it takes to convince ourselves that this change is possible.

Try something.  The next time someone says to you – ‘Yeah, I know it’s terrible/wrong/unjust – but that’s just the way things are – you have to accept it.’  Instead of accepting this awful ‘truth’, try this for an answer –

‘No – if we all agree it’s wrong then we don’t have to accept it – we just need to change it.’

Transferable Skills


No matter what you do, if you care enough to use your skills and talents and ideas to make the world a better place, you’ll succeed.

You don’t need to be Mohandas Gandhi or Mother Teresa to effect change in the world.

You just need to be you.

And do whatever it is you do.

Love


We all seek love.  We need it.  It holds us together – literally.

The thing about love is that it grabs our attention even while it takes our breath away.

Love shows us what is already true.  It shows us the power lying at the core of everything.  A power that ties us together.  Links our molecules and energy and fates and well-being.  Entangles us like particles moving in response to each other. Wordlessly, remotely, completely bound together forever in a harmonious dance.

Love does have appetites and that makes us fear it as well as long for it.  We see it as a double edged sword to be approached with trepidation.  But there really is no need.

All appetites are natural.  They are just instincts and neither good nor bad.  They just are.

We don’t fear our appetite for food.  We just know that we have to be in control of it and not vice versa.

Love is the same.

Nothing works without it.  It’s like food for our hearts and souls and minds. We can’t be without it.  And we aren’t.  We are beloved of each other.

More Beauty


Dirk Willem Venter –
Even though this photograph was taken almost fifteen years ago, the day I met Mr. Mandela still stands out in my memory. I heard many stories of how lucky we were to have a great man such as him as our president and although I was very small, I felt a deep awe at being lucky enough to meet him face to face. As time passed and his distinctive voice filled my ears my understanding about what a blessing he was for our country grew.
He visited Worcester for the official launch of the Blue Train. I was selected from a group of students from my school to hand him a gift. I remember being nervous and a little apprehensive as I didn’t know what to expect when meeting such a great man. He did not talk down to me as grown up to kid, but instead smiled and told me how happy he was to meet me and my fellow students from the Pioneer school.
I did not know it then, but meeting him truly changed my life. I am one of only three completely blind students in the country to study BSc Computer Science. His example taught me to never give up and never regard myself too highly above others.