Note: This blog was originally posted on August 7, 2020. Reposted August 13, 2020, due to technical issues.
A few weeks ago, I participated in non-violent civil disobedience training with Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou in Seattle, Washington. The training was organized by several interfaith religious leaders in the area. I attended the session to learn as a Unitarian Universalist Aspirant (Minister in training). We spent several hours learning tactics for protecting one another and how to act as one to defy the authority of those who do harm with the power that has been loaned to them by the people. We also learned to respond to bullets and tear gas. Throughout this training, Rev. Sekou constantly had us repeating and called out together that “We do this work out of deep abiding Love.” It was his words that serve as a reminder to me that to go out into the street and defend the humanity of one another is an act of Love. Often, we only see the anger – and we fail to witness the Love that propels it. Stay with me on this, if you will. What I mean by this is we feel often anger in conjunction with Love. When someone hurts someone we Love, our initial primal response is to feel anger, to protect. How we choose to act on this must be practiced wisely, with discernment, calling up that Love. What we are witnessing now is a society of people responding with the desire to Love and protect strangers, people who have no established reciprocal personal relationships with one another. This desire to protect one another, to return to the street again and again, despite fear and very real danger, is not sustained by anger – but by Love. It is Love, true agape Love that humans have for one another for no one other reason than they are humans – not hate – that will in fact conquer at the end of this long journey many have walked before, and many will walk after us. Great expanding Love goes beyond labels and constrictions placed on it by society. Love changes lives. Love gives us courage and calmness in the face of injustice.
Love is an overwhelming force in my life. I frequently feel it surge within the depths of my being. Sometimes I just sit on my porch and project love out to the world. Hate is hard to sustain – but Love endures. Love, much like water, is a force that one does not want to go up against. Love will remain flowing long after the well of hate runs dry. When I go to protests and participate in actions I do so out of Love. I stand there in the crowds, hands up, sending out Love with everything in me. Love without action falls short. It is Love that gave me the courage and righteous anger to be pepper-sprayed in the face by police in a peaceful protest, and return again the next week. Being there, emanating this Love, is more than just activism; it’s a spiritual practice. I’ve come to understand this form spiritually as a part of my role in this life. When I sit with people who are hurting, I send them Love so they can Love themselves again. When I create, I charge the art with Love so it is carried to those who find themselves in possession of the artwork.
Love is so clearly the answer to me – yet I understand why it often feels powerless and inadequate against hate, fear, violence, and loss. Love is greatly undervalued and underestimated. Our human constructs and restrictions have made Love appear tiny, elusive, rare. It is the opposite. Our human capacity to love is endless, yet we are told who to love, how to love, when to love, and what love looks like over and over again through imagery, media, religion, miseducation, and silence.
For so long, humans have tried to restrict love. It is said to be finite. Pictures in movies and stories tell us what “true love” is – and so anything that looks different must not be true. We’ve created a world that does not allow for all the ways love is felt and expressed. “Love is between one man and one woman” it was declared. Now, in many places, but definitely not all, it can be between two men or two women – but still only between two people. It’s not real otherwise. It is not legitimate. It is not respected. The concept that it is 100 percent possible to truly Love multiple people at one time is dismissed – as if the human heart is somehow created so small that it can only have space for a few select people in it. This is completely and utterly false.
We know somewhere within ourselves that the idea that Love is limited is ridiculous. We get glimpses of this when we feel a deep Love for our close friends, people from our pasts, someone we work with and trust. However, we quickly push it down, push it away, explain it away, make it small, less. We must always keep a certain distance, particularly if we are in a committed relationship lest we risk being viewed as insincere or wavering in our Love to our established partners – simply by extending that same care to another person.
Acts of Love expressed through sexual acts are to be reserved for one person at a time and even then we often have to battle years of shame and guilt that are wrapped up inside us on the “right way” to have sex by social conditioning and religious ideas about purity – lest we are labeled sluts and deviants. Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber tackles these ideas around shame, sex, and more in her ministry, particularly in her book Shameless: A Sexual Revolution.
In sexual expressions of Love, even when everyone involved agrees and all are consenting adults, too often these acts are still viewed as less than or false – not expressing “true love” well enough. Relationships may also shift and change but does that mean that Love ceases to exist or is somehow invalid? As an additional side effect, is it hard to find Self-Love because we’ve been taught for far too long that Love has limits and labels, even though this has never been true. How much sooner might my life had been shifted if I was taught this instead of the Disney version of Love?
I cannot help but wonder what might happen if we humans allow true Love to expand and be as big and endless as it was created to be instead of constantly trying to restrain and restrict it. If we saw it as infinite instead of perpetuating the false story that Love is finite. How might the world shift?
Consider these prompts and add your own in the comments below:
- How has your understanding of Love been influenced by the society and family in which you were raised?
- How has shame and guilt shown up in your love and sex life?
- Is it possible for the concept of agape love to be used to shift the human experience with no doctrine on God required?
Trish Brownlee is a Unitarian Universalist aspirant and is a teaching artist on staff with Kirkland Arts Center. She also teaches graphic design online as an adjunct professor at Fayetteville State University. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts from Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2015 and a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts with K-12 Art Education Licensure from Fayetteville State University in 2012. Trish has taught art from ages Pre-K through adults, and from 2014-2018, she taught arts integration and foundation visual arts at a new charter school, helping to build the arts integration program from the ground up. She is certified as an arts integration specialist and loves project-based learning and engaging approaches to the arts. Prior to teaching, she served as a photojournalist in the military. In her free time, Trish loves creating, traveling, spending time with her loved ones, and riding horses and motorcycles.