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On Love, Change, and Possibility

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I don’t usually like New Year’s resolutions, but I couldn’t help but be inspired by the list over at Philosophy for Change (a blog everyone should check out). Number two on that list most resonated with me, because it speaks of a theme I’ve found myself returning to again and again on Ekostories. It’s a subject I’ve been grappling with over the past year: The power of love to affect change.

Dr. Tim Rayner, a teacher and mentor at the Center of Sustainability Leadership in Sydney, published a thought-provoking piece on one French philosopher’s interpretation of this most profound of human conditions. Titled Life-Changing Love: Badiou and the birth of possibility, he described Badiou’s perspective that love is a key trigger for changing how we see and negotiate with the world:

“Falling in love radically changes our perspective on life. Experiences, events, and opportunities cease to be seen in an individual light, and are seen and judged instead in light of the partnership. The extent to which one embraces the partnership perspective is often a good measure of the strength of the love relationship itself. ”

Riskiness and Rewards

Those who have suffered a broken heart in the past know that love can be a chancy affair, because to truly be in love is to be vulnerable, to override one’s selfish impulses to preserve one’s own ego and desires:

“Badiou argues that love carries an inherent risk, for love is a violation of the ego and involves transcending the narcissistic self for a common perspective. Love is a disruptive event that opens people to a new terrain of possibilities and a common vision of what they might be – together. I find this aspect of Badiou’s argument tremendously interesting.

As do I. As I look back over the past year, I find similar ideas emerge from many of the stories I explore:

  • In The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown, vulnerability is seen as a necessary price to pay for meaningful relationships, that “to be willing to open one’s heart to profound love even at the risk of profound hurt takes strength.”
  • In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, love becomes a force for salvation as characters were saved from destruction by putting a loved one’s needs ahead of their own, demonstrating that “it is by our capacity to love another that we can be tricked (as it were) into the only act that can save us.”
  • In Change, Choice, Connection: Cloud Atlas, a deep bond between two people helps a coward overcome his fears and become a better person, highlighting “how precious and powerful [meaningful connections] can be to help us realize our inner potential, even when we are unable to see it ourselves”.
  • Then there is The Left Hand of Darkness, a story which suggests that “it is through love, defined not as physical intimacy or shared affinities, but rather the risky act taken to accept another wholly into our being, that we truly come to know ourselves.”

In these stories and in life, love uproots the comfortable foundations of one’s world, but also pushes one to see farther and grow bigger. But to maintain this love is never easy, involves both parties, and is not for those weak of heart or lacking in resolve:

“When people find love, they realise that life offers them more together than it does alone. They realise, in a sense, that they can do more together, and thereby discover a tremendous responsibility and risk. Can they be worthy of this common possibility? What level of dedication and trust is required to realise it? Love, Badiou, claims, requires that we reinvent ourselves – together. It is a project of co-construction – the kind of event that we need to constantly work at in order to sustain.”

The Key Element

What is interesting about Badiou’s interpretation of love is that it’s not only relevant in a romantic context, but also in any successful and enduring partnership:

 “When we focus on what empowers us in our collaborations, and nurture the sense of common empowerment, feeding it with affirmation and support, we stand the chance of transfiguring the relationship, or heightening it, at least, with the awakening of love. Love, in these contexts, is a political event. It can transform a team or network into a vital force, powerful in its congruence and vision.”

Work. Risk. A readiness to accept the other. The willingness to forego the ego to discover something bigger than the self, together. A transformative agent for change in perception and action. What do you think of this definition of love? You can check out the piece at Philosophy of Change (There is a  slightly NSFW image in the post). It’s well worth the read. Until next time.

8 Comments

  1. Beautiful post. It seems indeed like love has it place any and everywhere…whether it be through our embrace of it, or our escape from it, it finds its way through every situation and transforms the landscape accordingly.

  2. “Change, Choice, Connection: Cloud Atlas, a deep bond between two people helps a coward overcome his fears and become a better person, highlighting “how precious and powerful [meaningful connections] can be to help us realize our inner potential, even when we are unable to see it ourselves”.

    This is probably an ideal situation..where 2 become something different as 1, not necessarily better, but where 2 people actually become better individually as people and become stronger in complementary ways.

    I would love to believe that building strong communities is done to the exclusion of not knowing what love means, prior to community building.

    • Yeah, I would like to think it’s an ideal situation. The two parties are moved to become better fits for each other, and in so doing, become different people. But is different necessarily better? Maybe if both parties are able to balance the relationship with their own egos, balancing their identities while valuing the importance of the partnership that they built together.

      I’m still working all that out in my head.

      Could you elaborate on the exclusion of not knowing what love means bit?

  3. “To truly be in love is to be vulnerable, to override one’s selfish impulses to preserve one’s own ego and desires”–so true. When you open your heart to others, you risk a lot, but gain so much more.

    • I think one of the things I’ve learned is that taking the risk has its own rewards as well, regardless of whether things work out or not. You’re not the same person as before and don’t want to be, and are better for it.

    • I think it would be easy for me to say no, but that’s me and how I feel. There are many who are incapable or unwilling to make that leap but feel perfectly content and fulfilled. I don’t feel like it’s my place to judge them. They are as they are.

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