Hope Moon is going into her third-year of Environmental Science at Dalhousie and Contemporary Studies at King’s with a minor in Sustainability (also at Dal). While she hasn’t taken many classes at King’s beyond the Foundation Year Program and core classes, she really enjoyed taking Pictorial Turn and is looking forward to taking Postcolonial Condition in the fall semester. In her spare time, Hope enjoys writing passive-aggressive emails to various members of parliament, baking sourdough, and playing piano.
I’ve been thinking a lot about love. We are living through a time seemingly defined by love, or rather, its absence. The swift implementations of lockdowns across the world have prompted questions of how such mass collective action, previously dismissed as impossible, was realized within days. While it may be tempting, it is superficial and cynical to rest upon fear as the dominating factor of motivation. In every sense, the radical transformations we made were rooted in love. The virus exposes our deepest vulnerabilities as individuals, as we are reminded of so many potential losses we could face (of ourselves, of others, of futures). So we clung to love in March, as we sought to overcome these newly exposed vulnerabilities with sincerity and care for ourselves and one another.
Between March and April, in the initial shock of the pandemic, I read Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts and bell hooks’ All About Love: New Visions—two works that are cemented in the concepts of love. These profoundly guided my musings (and still do) as I began to reflect upon how love grounds my own life and the ways I try to live. On an individual level, living by what hooks describes as a ‘love ethic’ allows us to build the capacity for forgiveness and space to heal from our past experiences of lovelessness. When building our own individual foundations of love, we are better equipped to extend such compassionate behaviour towards others. Love gives us courage to overcome both our personal and community vulnerabilities. It allows us the space to become better.
I mean love in the most profound sense of the word, not simply a New Age term, flimsy in its meaning. Modern messages of love lull you into believing you will overcome your fears and your hardships—as if love is something an individual can weaponize. As Nelson puts it, “People seem hungry, above all else, for permission, and a guarantee against bad consequences.” True love does not protect against pain, but instead offers you strength to heal and be resilient. True love is a continuous commitment to living by a ‘love ethic’: a set of values that include “care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect, and knowledge.”
To love requires a degree of vulnerability, of sincerity. It can feel risky “choosing to be fully honest [and] reveal ourselves” and requires a force to overcome fears. It is love that provides us with such courage we need. As we love, “fear necessarily leaves” creating space for us to fully recognize and accept ourselves, without shame. Love embraces and nurtures our vulnerabilities so that we can have the space to freely grow. Love can revolutionize how we understand ourselves, how we can learn to forgive ourselves, and others.
Quoting theologian Thomas Merton, hooks writes that “genuine love is a personal revolution.” This conclusion is made in the last quarter of the book, after extensive discussion of the ways love can profoundly alter one’s fulfillment in life. An individual revolution, sparked by genuine love, allows for a departure from a previous world of lovelessness and fear. Love illuminates paths of betterment, and gives us courage to embark upon them as individuals and as a collective. There is forward momentum in love. An endless becoming.
In The Argonauts, Nelson navigates her family’s series of becomings—a fluid (Deleuzian) concept whose only critical element is that there is “there is no terminus from which you set out, none which you arrive at or which you ought to arrive at.” It only matters that you meet yourself where you are at, and that you continue. As Nelson shares these stories of growth, she does so with patience and grace, evidently out of love. Through everlasting conversations between her and her partner, Nelson creates open spaces of dialogue for truer selves to be discovered. There is a moment when the two have an argument ending with a lingering conversation, rather than a final resolution. Nelson explains that this conversation, this ongoing attempt to communicate oneself to another, “[hasn’t] yet stopped…[and perhaps] never will,” acknowledging that the aim of becoming is “not to answer questions, it’s to get out, to get out of it.” Through endless patterns of generating and receiving love and care, Nelson realizes how we are “for another, or by virtue of another, not in a single instance, but from the start and always.”
I find these concepts of love and care comforting to reflect upon as I sometimes/often get lost in the world’s chaos. I am overwhelmed at how the smallest acts of love can sustain my hope for a better world. These small acts remind me that “the choice to love is a choice to connect—to find ourselves in the other,” and if we continue to care for each other, to hold spaces to grow for each other and ourselves, then there is space for the world to become better too. It is love that gives me the courage to continue hoping for a better world, and the energy to keep trying my best at reaching that future, flimsy and fragile as it may be.