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When we think of love, concepts of romance, nostalgia and other variations of tenderness often come to mind. Without a doubt, thoughts of meaningful relationships and profound memories that spark a certain warm fuzziness pop up when someone utters that four-letter word. Yet, when we think of love as an idea stretching beyond its common applications and associations, we find that love can be, in fact, something that holds transformative potential—something that reaches past our own individual experiences to foster a compassionate solidarity between ourselves and the world around us.
Considering love as a radical praxis demands a reconsideration of the word’s current usage. Through overuse, the word “love” finds itself resting in a thoughtless space—one defined by shallow attempts to establish human connection and improve one’s individual existence. Expressions of love in popular culture, for example, regard the concept as something undeniably essential (i.e. “Love is all you need!”), and we accept those adages without addressing how the love-concept renders satisfaction. Why is love all we need?
Hackneyed phrases reinforce love’s necessity and capacity to fulfill us, yet love’s manifestations rest heavily, if not completely, on a self-involved principle. Common discussions of love revolve around the relationship of the individual to the individual’s world—as opposed to fostering genuine and transformative relations with the world around us. Prevalent ideas of love focus on producing a warm and fuzzy gratification that enhances the quality of our own lives, while disregarding how a love-concept can function as tool for systemic and structural change. Love is not all we need—love requires us to open our hearts and minds to others’ experiences and commit ourselves to action led by an anti-imperialist, feminist ethic.
Francesca Mastrangelo is a graduate of Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. Currently a freelance writer and reporter living in Madison, WI, Francesca contributes to local Madison newspapers and Bitch Magazine’s blog.