bell hooks on love

“When I was a child, it was clear to me that life was not worth living if we did not know love.  I wish I could testify that I came to this awareness because of the love I felt in my life.  But it was love’s absence that let me know how much love mattered.  I was my father’s first daughter.  At the moment of birth, I was looked upon with loving kindness, cherished and made to feel wanted on this earth and in my home.  To this day I cannot remember when that feeling of being loved left me.  I just know that one day I was no longer precious.  Those who had initially loved me well turned away.  The absence of their recognition and regard pierced my heart and left me with a feeling of brokenheartedness so profound I was spellbound.

Grief and sadness overwhelmed me.  I did not know what I had done wrong.  And nothing I tried made it right. No other connection healed the hurt of that first abandonment, that first banishment from love’s paradise.  For years I lived my life suspended, trapped by the past, unable to move into the future.  Like every wounded child I just wanted to turn back time and be in that paradise again, in that moment of remembered rapture where I felt loved, where I felt a sense of belonging.

We can never go back.  I know that now.  We can go forward.  We can find the love our hearts long for, but not until we let go grief about the love we lost long ago, when we were little and had no voice to speak the heart’s longing.  All the years of my life I thought I was searching for love I found, retrospectively, to be years where I was simply trying to recover what had been lost, to return to the first home, to get back the rapture of first love.  I was not really ready to love or be loved in the present.  I was still mourning–clinging to the broken heart of girlhood, to broken connections.  When that mourning ceased I was able to love again.”

bell hooks, preface to all about love:  new visions

from Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

O I have been dilatory and dumb,

I should have made my way straight to you long ago,

I should have blabb’d nothing but you, I should have chanted nothing but you.

I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you,

None has understood you, but I understand you,

None has done justice to you, you have not done justice to yourself,

None but has found you imperfect, I only find no imperfection in you,

None but would subordinate you, I only am he who will never consent to subordinate you,

I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God, beyond what waits intrinsically in yourself.

Painters have painted their swarming groups and the centre-figure of all,

From the head of the centre-figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color’d light,

But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of gold-color’d light,

From my hand from the brain of every man and woman it streams, effulgently flowing forever.

O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!

You have not known what you are, you have slumber’d upon yourself all your life,

Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time,

What you have done returns already in mockeries,

(Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return in mockeries, what is their return?)

The mockeries are not you,

Underneath them and within them I see you lurk, I pursue you where none else has pursued you,

Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the accustom’d routine, if these conceal you from others or from yourself, they do not conceal you from me,

The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if these balk others they do not balk me,

The pert apparel, the deform’d attitude, drunkenness, greed, premature death, all these I part aside.

There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied in you,

There is no virtue, no beauty in man or woman, but as good as in you,

No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you,

No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits for you.

As for me, I give nothing to any one except I give the like carefully to you,

I sing the songs of glory of none, not God, sooner than I sing the songs of glory of you.

Whoever you are!  claim your own at any hazard!

These shows of the East and West are tame compared to you,

These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you are immense and interminable as they,

These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent dissolution, you are he or she who is master or mistress over them,

Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion, dissolution.

The hopples fall from your ankles, you find an unfailing sufficiency,

Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest, whatever you are promulges itself,

Through birth, life, death burial, the means are provided, nothing is scanted,

Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its way.

-Walt Whitman (1819-92)

taken from: To You, Leaves of Grass, 1855-92