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Posts Tagged ‘All About Love’

I went to visit the former teen the elder to hear his divinity school senior sermon last week. It was terrific to spend time with him and his classmates — such a smart and spirit-filled bunch of people. I was pleased to see his bookshelves so full, and he knew I’d enjoy popping into the div school bookstore (which is independent!) while I was there. It was hard but I limited myself to two books, and one of them was All About Love by bell hooks.

I’d only read essays by bell hooks, and those have been written for educators, or at least people interested in pedagogy. This book is definitely for everyone. Hooks notes in her introduction that she chose to write a book about love because she realized ours is “no longer a world open to love.” The rest of the book is an eloquent argument for the vital need we all have not only to feel loved, but also to give love.

Hooks lays out what the world could be like if we placed love at the center of our lives, and then gently instructs readers in the skills and mindsets that could accomplish that. For example, she calls on us all to be more open in our communications about love as well as to have a “love ethic” in public policy and civic life. She also approaches romantic and sexual love from the same practical viewpoint, examining common problems with these kinds of love and gently pointing to solutions.

I enjoyed this book for two reasons: first, hooks is not a scold. I’m sure you’ve all read intellectual work that takes a position and then beats readers over the head with it. Hooks instead makes her case in the way a good friend or kind and wise older relative might. Firmly, but with compassion. Second, she quotes a number of other authors and provides a list of their books in the back of All About Love. I always appreciate having ideas for further reading.

Certainly some of what hooks writes is not new — most people are aware there is a lack of love in our common life these days, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t learned some of the lessons hooks explores about interpersonal love. And many people, even if not religious, are familiar with the spiritual idea of lovingkindness found in several of the world’s major religions. But hooks manages to write about these familiar ideas in fresh ways.

For example, she notes “Young people are cynical about love. Ultimately, cynicism is the great mask of the disappointed and betrayed heart. . . .  Indeed, all the great movements for social justice in our society have strongly emphasized a love ethic. Yet young listeners remain reluctant to embrace love as a transformative force. Their attitude is mirrored in the grown-ups they turn to for explanations.”

She goes on to say that when talking to people of her own generation about the ideas in this book, she was sometimes told she “should consider seeing a therapist.” Her conclusion that today’s generations of young people are cynical in part because preceding generations have taught them that love is not to be trusted is both incredibly obvious and not something I’d thought of before. I tended to blame the culture at large — but who makes that culture? All of us.

I’m not really doing this book justice — hooks touches on so many more big ideas, like trust, honesty, justice, divinity, gender, patriarchy, mutuality and commitment — and I think it needs to be read more than once to fully grasp its power. Hooks is an incredible voice for about the most key element of human interaction. It’s a book that makes me want to sit and talk about the ideas with someone . . . someone I love!

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