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Lions Roar : September 2017
version of “Love your neighbor as yourself,” not as an empow- ering force that changes everything. I love Dr. King’s book Strength to Love, in which he talks about the courage it takes, in the midst of domination, to decide to love. That’s a commitment many of us would rather not deal with. How do we make that commitment? How do we start to love? We’re in such a climate of hate right now. We’re seeing dimin- ishing acts of kindness and love because fear of the stranger has been so deeply cultivated in us. Breaking down that us-and-them binary is part of the work of love. We need to challenge all the binaries we face and try to see where to find a relationship with the “other”—the one we fear—so that we can enact compassion. Melvin McLeod: Love is a word with so many different meanings and interpretations. How do you define it? bell hooks: Love is mostly about the action, not the defini- tion. Drawing on Erich Fromm, I see love as a combination of six ingredients: care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust. They form a basis for action. It’s not about what you’re feeling or how you’re defining love. The real ques- tion is: what is the action you’re taking? Melvin McLeod: In Real Love, Sharon, you remind us how self- doubt and inner criticism can hold us back from loving. As we make the effort to cultivate more love, is it also helpful for us to recog- nize and celebrate how much we love and care already? Rather than continually questioning our capacity to love, are we chal- lenged to see how our inherent capacity to love is constantly in action already? bell hooks: Is it constantly in action, or is it something we have to acti- vate? Our innate capacity to love is like a seed in the soil. What do we need to do to activate that seed, to make it capable of blossoming? It’s not enough just to know that the seed is in the soil. Sharon Salzberg: Yes. Without our effort, it will not grow and spread. But I agree that we have unguarded moments of profound connection and they’re not strategic. They don’t even have to be with a human being or fall within the standard picture of a relation- ship. We can love life or nature. We can be struck with gratitude and awe, have great moments of connection, without another person involved. It’s true we can be harsh judges of others and of ourselves. We always need to look at both the stories others tell about us and the stories we tell ourselves. Part of what makes us feel incomplete is not noticing that we are loving people, that we have great capacity to love. Love is not a scarce resource. bell hooks: This takes me to the one place in Sharon’s book that raised a question for me: where you say you don’t have to be completely self-loving to love others. I have my doubts. I make a distinction between care and love. I received care in my dysfunctional family and I’m here today because of it. Even if you receive care Monday through Friday and abuse on Saturday, it doesn’t negate the fact that you experienced care. But it’s not love. I believe we can wholeheartedly care for others without loving ourselves. But I don’t know that we can love them. This conversation at the Jewish Community Center in Manhatten was sponsored by Lion’s Roar, in partnership with the Garrison Institute and the JCC. LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2017 57