Surprisingly, this is not a post about sadness.
I read a a blog post a while ago about the versions of our selves we present to the world, and near the end of the post the author says, “What endures is a resistance to, and fascination with, the notion of the authentic self. Like most people, I don’t know what the authentic self could possibly be; authentic compared to what?”
Shortly thereafter the latest Sun Kil Moon album, Benji, was released. It’s full of love – the artists Mom is described as his best friend, former lovers are thanked, and one track is just called “I Love My Dad”. As I listened to it couldn’t help but look at the strangers around me a with a new light of appreciation.
On Valentine’s Day I came home from work and found a package in my mailbox addressed to me, but with no return address. When I opened it, origami paper hearts spilled out along with a mix CD and a note that read “Hope you’re feeling better friend.” I opened it and felt loved.
“Great inner strength is required to confront the structures of power in the world unselfishly, without demonizing one’s enemies, alienating potential allies, or holding on too tightly to a particular vision of ends and means that can eventually become a prison. In the “love that does justice”, remember, personal and structural change are self- reinforcing. Only by operating from the space where we are joined together in some deep sense are we likely to find true common ground in facing up to the collective problems that confront us.”
So what is at stake, should we strive to live the love that does justice? The more we continue to discount others over quibbles about their approach, their method, their leadership, the more we exclude people from joining us in action toward a better world. The more we develop and use language specific to our understanding of social justice, and use knowledge of that language as a prerequisite for joining the movement, the more language is a tool of repression. The more we other the members of our broader social justice community, the more we stray from our values and reinforce the system we struggle against.
The events above are random, subjective, experiences but I think they note something important to remember: love, in small and unassuming ways, surrounds us. This is certainly easy to lose sight of in the face of Facebook flame wars, Twitter hashtag offences, and seemingly daunting organizational culture. Those struggles are real, and hurtful, and take a kind of energy that I’m not sure our emotional reserves are built for.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m quick to judge, and hate, and disagree. The little critical voice in my head carries around a bullhorn, and if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of my sense of “humour” you’re well aware commentary from said bullhorn does not come from place of love. It would be so easy to write that off as academic social justice conditioning – that somehow school and being involved in the movements that I have been or currently am have moulded me in to a hyper-critical unloving asshole.
The reality is that I take this practice of critical thinking and, instead of applying it to things I have control over (my self, my work, my way of being), I use it against others and demand of them a perfection to a standard I’m not sure I can even ascribe to. If I were truly being critical I would examine why I demand something of others that I’m not willing to do myself. However, here lies an opportunity to slowly transform a critical pursuit of justice from one that attacks, to one that leads with love. We have a responsibility to show one another love because, really, we are fragile beings, and I rather be the kind of fragile that creates and perpetuates good will toward others than the kind of fragile that shatters under the pressure of trying to be all of the critical.
In small, beautiful ways I think Frederik, Mark, and Mystery Friend have created, and are continuing to create, the kind of love Edwards is talking about. Their self-awareness but consideration for others allow for true connection to their ideas, or to their presented authentic selves. These are powerful tools for change, as connection can lead to understanding, and understanding to collective action.