Looking for love in all the wrong places? Mainstream pressure to capture that perfect romantic moment may have you searching for meaning in pesticide-laden mass-produced red roses or individually-wrapped, heart-shaped artificial chocolates and sweatshop-stitched lingerie. All this has a compound price tag.
The Romantic-Industrial-Complex rakes in around $18 billion a year selling us this heteronormative, commodified, perfectionist, inequitable, ecologically destructive Valentine’s Day. This information could break your heart, since celebrating relationships — consenting, accountable and loving ones — should really be a good thing. But because the RIC is so pervasive, actual manifestations of love run the risk of being defined only through a romantic or commodified lens, leaving some of us out in the cold on this pseudo-holiday.
The good news is we do not have to buy what the RIC is selling, just as we don’t have to buy their limiting notion of love itself. As we face economic collapse, climate chaos and political instability, it seems not only possible but perhaps inescapable that core values such as love are what we need to catalyze transformation away from our current consumerist culture into a life affirming one. In Occupy Love, filmmaker Velcrow Ripper asks, “How can the crisis we’re facing become a love story?”
Fortunately, there’s eloquent guidance on love from activists and artists, visionaries and voices for a world where we have reclaimed the culture of love as a force to be reckoned with.
It’s all a good antidote for what confronts us on February 14 and beyond.
“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality… We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.” — Che Guevara, Argentine Marxist guerrilla leader, writer and strategist
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” — Martin Luther King, Jr., U.S. civil rights leader and Baptist minister
“We can love ourselves by loving the earth.” — Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmental and political activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate
“When the power of Love will overcome the love of Power, the world will know Peace.” — Jimi Hendrix, visionary singer songwriter and instrumentalist
“For life is the best thing we have in this existence. And if we should desire to believe in something, it should be a beacon within. This beacon being the sun, sea, and sky, our children, our work, our companions and, most simply put, the embodiment of love.” — Patti Smith, punk rock singer songwriter visual artist
“This is a pretty loveless world we live in. We have lots of romantic love. We have lots of ‘Sex and the City.’ But real love, love that is the kind that saves people, and makes the world better, and makes you go to bed with a smile on your face, that love is lacking greatly. You have to search for that.” — Lynne Stewart, activist and people’s attorney
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” — Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and writer, teacher and advocate for human rights
“Work is love made visible.” — Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese literary and political writer and rebel
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” — Lao Tzu, legendary Taoist philosopher of ancient China
“Where there is love, there is life.” — Mahatma Gandhi
“Anyone can slay a dragon, she told me, but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.” — Brian Andreas, American artist and storyteller
“Whenever I groan within myself and think how hard it is to keep writing about love in these times of tension and strife which may, at any moment, become for us all a time of terror, I think to myself: What else is the world interested in? What else do we all want, each one of us, except to love and be loved, in our families, in our work, in all our relationships? God is Love. Love casts out fear. Even the most ardent revolutionist, seeking to change the world, to overturn the tables of the money changers, is trying to make a world where it is easier for people to love, to stand in that relationship to each other…There can never be enough of it.” — Dorothy Day, American journalist, activist and co-founder of Catholic Worker Movement
“Free love? As if love is anything but free! Man has bought brains, but all the millions in the world have failed to buy love. Man has subdued bodies, but all the power on earth has been unable to subdue love. Man has conquered whole nations, but all his armies could not conquer love. Man has chained and fettered the spirit, but he has been utterly helpless before love. High on a throne, with all the splendor and pomp his gold can command, man is yet poor and desolate, if love passes him by. And if it stays, the poorest hovel is radiant with warmth, with life and color. Thus love has the magic power to make of a beggar a king. Yes, love is free; it can dwell in no other atmosphere. In freedom it gives itself unreservedly, abundantly, completely. All the laws on the statutes, all the courts in the universe, cannot tear it from the soil, once love has taken root.” — Emma Goldman, exiled Russian anarchist writer, feminist and activist
“In this earth, in this earth, in this immaculate field, we shall not plant any seeds, except for compassion, except for love.” — Vandana Shiva, Indian anti-corporate globalization activist, quoting Rumi, the 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic
“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” — Arundhati Roy, Indian social justice activist and writer
“True love does have the power to redeem but only if we are ready for redemption. Love saves us only if we want to be saved.” — bell hooks, American author, feminist and social activist
“I believe the wisdom of the heart is the one thing most lacking in politics today – but how can we complain about that if we ourselves aren’t putting it there? We need to make a concerted effort now to turn love into a political force. We need a politics of conscience – a new era of public discourse in which love is not minimized, the voices of women and children are not marginalized, and the future is not bartered for a pot of unrighteous gold. Love should be our bottom line, in politics as well as in everything else.” — Marianne Williamson, American spiritual writer, teacher, activist and political candidate
“I call them all love songs … They tell of love of man and woman, and parents and children, love of country, freedom, beauty, mankind, the world, love of searching for truth and other unknowns. But, of course, love alone is not enough.” — Pete Seeger, American folk singer songwriter and environmental and social justice activist