There are some books that you consult often, read slowly, dive into an extract, and let the words make a room in you, over and over again you manage to find a new meaning, a different voice, you manage to truly hear what you need to hear at that particular point in your journey.
Reading All About Love is more than just reading a book. It is a journey to rediscovering our true essence, a reminder of what truly matters, an invitation to critically think of words that we hear often such as community, social justice, friendship, self-love, relationships – yet do not necessarily reflect on what it holds for us on our journey.
What are we talking about?
All About Love offers new ways to think about love, self-love and asserts the place of love to end struggles between individuals in communities and among societies for it can heal wounds as it is the cornerstone of compassion and forgiveness. It challenges the prevailing notion that romantic love is the most important love of all and emphasizes on the interconnectedness of love in our private and public lives. In 13 concise chapters filled with her intimate experiences and references from other writers and scholars, bell hooks touches on a number of topics such as justice, values, spirituality, community, romance.
What are the main perspectives that strike my attention?
* The interconnectedness between social justice, love and self-love *
The book is about love, not only love as romance. It dives into the meaning of love in communities and reaffirms the importance of the place of love to end struggles among societies.
“There can be no love without justice.”
The example that strikes my attention was when she discussed the issue regarding manhood quoting the work of John Stoltenberg The End of Manhood: A Book for Men of Conscience.
Stoltenberg affirms that “learning to live as man of conscience means deciding that your loyalty to the people whom you love is more important than lingering loyalty you may sometimes feel to their men’s judgement in your manhood”.
Therefore, we can honour our own selfhood through loving justice. When we are honouring justice we are honouring our humanity. In those conversations around sexism, classism or racism, there are often power dynamics. It emerges from a lack of will to hear those stories we need to hear, stories of marginalized people, to see those realities that are undoubtedly taking place and the trauma attached to them, instead many chose unconsciously or not to take up space to nurturing one’s ego – instead of nurturing one’s love through education and listening.
“I began writing a book on love because I felt that the United States is moving away from love. The civil rights movement was such a wonderful movement for social justice because the heart of it was love—loving everyone.”
* Friendships as a sacred place to nurture love *
bell hooks also emphasizes the importance of community as a place to nurture love. Many of us learn that the nuclear family and romantic love especially marriage are the highest expression of love. These can be great spaces to learn the power of community, yet as the writer emphasizes, it can only become a community if there is honest communication. Friendships on the other hand, often hold a secondary position, are taken for granted and are devaluated, yet they are often the place where a great majority have a first glimpse of a caring community.
“Learning to love in friendships empowers us in ways that enable us to bring this love to other interactions with family or with romantic bonds.”
In friendships, we are able to hear honest, critical feedback therefore our capacity to establish deep and profound connections in friendship strengthens all our intimate bonds. Moreover, committed love relationships are more likely to become co-dependent when we cut off ties with friends to devote to that special love.
The idea that really caught my attention is the danger of thinking of love through a hierarchy system. Indeed, when we perceive love as the will to nurture ones’ own or another spiritual growth revealed through act of care, respect and assuming responsibility, the foundation for love remains the same.
According to bell hooks, there is no special love yet genuine love to carry for ourselves, our family, our friends and while we behave differently in different relationships, experience different levels of commitment, the nature of genuine love is the same, for the values it carries are the same.
“When we can see ourselves as we truly are and accept ourselves, we build the necessary foundation for self-love…whether we learn how to love ourselves and others will depend on the presence of a loving environment. Self-love cannot flourish in isolation.”
* The importance of redefining and relearning our love *
bell hooks’ childhood was filled with experiences of violence and abuse that according to her parents were acts of love and protection. These experiences deeply shaped how she came to define love for herself, as a feeling linked with fear and this understanding of love manifested in her relationships.
“All too often women believe it is a sign of commitment, an expression of love, to endure unkindness or cruelty, to forgive and forget. In actuality, when we love rightly we know that the healthy, loving response to cruelty and abuse is putting ourselves out of harm’s way.”
She also refers to the opposite scenario when all the childs’ needs are met and their desires satisfied. As adults, they can have this misconception that it is given to them rather than something to give. Therefore, our childhood layed out the foundation of what it means to give and receive love.
“Severe separations in early life leave emotional scars – Severe separations in early life leave emotional scars on the brain”
Acknowledging that “honestly and realistically confronting lovelessness is part of the healing process” is one of the most important lessons for all about love, because it offers us space to release shame and own our truths.
Being honest and truthful takes acceptance, redefinition, acquiring knowledge, cultivating self-love and awareness. It can assist us in redefining love. What did we experience at a younger age? What are the lies we have told to ourselves as a result? Did that experience serve us today? Did it serve us in the past? How can we heal from them? The past is therefore not only a source of knowledge but above all, a source of healing.
Some Quotes From The Book
“Do not expect to receive the love from someone else you do not give to yourself…The light of love is always in us, no matter how cold the flame. It is always present, waiting for the spark to ignite, waiting for the heart to awaken.”
“When we work with love we renew the spirit; that renewal is an act of self-love, it nurtures our growth. It’s not what you do but how you do it.”
“One of the best guides to how to be self-loving is to give ourselves the love we are often dreaming about receiving from others. There was a time when I felt lousy about my over-forty body, saw myself as too fat, too this, or too that. Yet I fantasized about finding a lover who would give me the gift of being loved as I am. It is silly, isn’t it, that I would dream of someone else offering to me the acceptance and affirmation I was withholding from myself.”
“…politics, religion, the workplace, domestic households, intimate relations- should and could have as their foundation a love ethic. A love ethic presupposes that everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well. To bring a love ethic to every dimension of our lives, our society would need to embrace change.”