I know I’m late to the party, but I am finally learning to appreciate podcasts.
I think I’ve always liked the idea of listening to podcasts, but I never really found the right moment for them.
I usually put my headphones on when I need something to either pick me up or chill me out. I use music as a backdrop for an activity and always avoided audio that would occupy more than 5% of my brain capacity.
A couple of weeks ago the stars aligned perfectly and I found myself in “right place, right time, right amount of attention span bandwidth”-situation, as I stumbled upon a Ted Talk about revolutionary love by Valarie Kaur.
Valarie’s choice to start her talk by describing the experience of giving birth to her son as an analogy for the deepest, most intense and unconditional type of love, is one I can follow rationally. I understand that women that go through labor, experience indescribable pain while simultaneously being flushed with hormones, enabling them to love and care and protect the new little creature more than they’ve ever loved anything else, including themselves.
I love the idea of feeling so connected to this little helpless being, and realizing it is an extension of yourself and your legacy for the future. I can see how this deepens the connection you feel to you mother, and her mother, and her mother and how this makes you realize you are part of something bigger than you. I can imagine this is both humbling and empowering at the same time.
As much as I appreciated the anecdote, it did not motivate me to explore my own ability to love. I see the beauty of it on a poetic level, but it does nothing for me on an emotional level. Some people say I need to have kids of my own to understand this. Others say it’s a clear sign I’m not meant to have them. Who knows.
But Valarie continued explaining how she learnt the lessons of revolutionary love and started reeling me in as she went…
The desperation in her voice when she reminded me that hate crimes are the highest they have been since 9-11 drove a cold chill over my spine and an ache into my heart.
The realization that, despite her efforts to bring people closer together for the last 15 years, so many of her compatriots chose to vote this hateful figure into the white house, is heart breaking.
The tears that filled her eyes as she acknowledged that her son is likely to be labeled “terrorist” at least once in his life, is just infuriatingly sad.
She shared her realization that answering an act of hate with more hate would be understandable but pointless and counter productive. She explained:
We love our opponents when we tend the wound in them. Tending to the wound is not healing them — only they can do that. Just tending to it allows us to see our opponents: the terrorist, the fanatic, the demagogue. They’ve been radicalized by cultures and policies that we together can change.
She then admitted that removing hate from her own heart required a conscious effort, or as Valarie puts it: “It becomes an act of will to wonder.”
And all though the point of her childbirth reference was lost on me at the very start, she drove it home when she presented me with her final lesson in revolutionary love:
This is a feminist intervention. Because for too long have women and women of color been told to suppress their rage, suppress their grief in the name of love and forgiveness. But when we suppress our rage, that’s when it hardens into hate directed outward, but usually directed inward. But mothering has taught me that all of our emotions are necessary. Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love. Anger is the force that protects it.
Now that is some superhero stuff right there.
She concluded her TED talk by revealing the three directions in which revolutionary love must be practiced: towards your direct surroundings, towards yourself and towards your opponents. The method: wonder.
Yepp, that’s it. She’s wonder woman.
But as it turns out, so am I!
And now I’m wondering about you… Are you OK, sister? How was your day, brother? What did you learn to day, uncle?