Love in a Time of Lack*
By Sara Haile-Mariam
Years ago, in a time of personal and profound darkness and confusion, I chose to listen to the whisper of my heart. I trusted it when my world was seemingly falling apart. That quiet compass has yet to steer me wrong and when I say it’s brought me unbelievable amounts of love and magic, I say so with surprise and wonderment. In this time of collective darkness and confusion, just as it feels like our world is falling apart, I have no doubt that this same compass is available to each of us. I also have no doubt that if we each listen to, and follow, our hearts whispers we’ll uncover love and magic — surprise and wonderment.
In this time of collective darkness and confusion, just as it feels like our world is falling apart, I have no doubt that this same compass is available to each of us. I also have no doubt that if we each listen to, and follow, our hearts whispers we’ll uncover love and magic — surprise and wonderment.
We can heal through this — individually and collectively — if we choose to.
Earlier this week I listened to a meditation that said “the opposite of love is not hate but indifference,” which rings true to me and is a sentiment that was first shared by Elie Weisel. To those who commented to say that I was racist or wrong; thanks for caring enough to comment! I hope you find healing.
I know that people teach “love your neighbor as you love yourself” as an instruction, but I see it as an indication. How someone treats their neighbours is a telling sign of where they are in their own relationship to themselves. Impatience and judgement — cruelty and anger — blame and distrust; when you see it, see it for what it really is. Hurt people, hurt people.
There is pain and power in each of us.
Deciding to work through our pain frees up how we’re able to use our power. When we are generous with ourselves we are able to be generous with others. When we listen to ourselves we are able to listen to others, and to advocate for ourselves in the presence of others with the intention of love and understanding.
It’s easy to look to the people who are the most harmful and assure ourselves that we are different. But the truth is that the capacity to be the best of humanity, and the worst of humanity, is alive in each of us. We point to those who harm bodies and say — look, we’re different! And then we go through the world, armed with our pain, harming hearts and souls with our carelessness and our indifference.
I can appreciate that many of the people who voted for Donald Trump saw in him, someone who loved them. He addressed their fears, concerns and anxieties without judgement or shame. And yet, the love that he campaigned on is one that’s based in lack, in the assumption that to receive love and acknowledgement, to receive safety and goodness, someone else must lose.
We can never be at ease when love is rooted in lack. We can try to destroy the competition, or to starve our perceived opponents, and yet when they are no longer a threat — there will always be someone else. When there isn’t a racial minority, there’s a religion, when there isn’t a religion, there’s an economic status, a sexual orientation, a gender identity, a country of origin, or a tribe.
There will always be difference and therefore we will never run out of ways to justify other-ing a group of people to make ourselves feel better. We leverage these perceived differences to enforce our superiority by any means necessary.
Look at Ethiopia, the country I was born in — where the Oromo people are being violently oppressed to instill this same faux superiority, to facilitate this same dance with scarcity where love is rooted in lack. Ethiopia is a proud and beautiful country, full of proud and beautiful people, and yet even so — difference is used to justify other-ing and withholding love from entire communities. Mutual respect and mutual belief in our shared ability to succeed succumbs to lack — to the insecure voices in our heads that insist that loving you takes from me. Dances with scarcity become routine — we refuse to see each other as we go through the motions, and then we teach innocent children those motions to ensure the dance continues.
Yet the truth remains that dances with scarcity can be interrupted by brave symphonies of love.
Symphonies like the one launched by Ethiopian Olympian Feyisa Lilesa’s silent protest. At 26 years old, he is a poetic reminder of the fact that this journey to love is a marathon, not a sprint — a fierce reminder that the choice between love and fear is one that we each get to make. What will you choose?
Across the globe, in trying to protect ourselves, to protect what’s “ours”, too many of us choose to destroy each other in the search for love. We refuse to see ourselves in each other because if we did we would see our own pain reflected back at us.
Across the globe, policies are being championed that institutionalize fear and erasure, that scapegoat and target and destroy entire groups of people. This is nothing new but technology and recent electoral outcomes makes it feel everywhere and inescapable.
Choices have been made.
There is cause for deep concern but fear doesn’t need to cloud our judgement. We don’t need to feel isolated and disempowered. We don’t need to focus on what we’re against — we can choose to say who we are for. In standing for love, we stand to say that we all deserve love, that loving myself need not take from my ability to love you, too. This world is abundant — what we lack in resources we have access to through our creativity, through our care, and through our capacity for collaboration.
Root yourselves in this fact.
We deserve to dream bigger than this moment. We deserve to thrive. You deserve to thrive. I deserve to thrive. Root yourselves in these affirmations.
In doing so you choose to be gentle and patient with yourselves — to be nice to yourselves. In choosing love you choose to give yourselves the space to grieve, to process your anger, your doubt, your guilt, your pain, and your fear. Don’t suppress your emotions — feel them — and stay present. When you are ready, in choosing love, you commit to giving yourselves the understanding and encouragement that you need to keep going.
Violence, oppression, and judgement are all forms of connection — they are where we reach first. And yet understanding, compassion, self-care, and generosity, are there for us too if we choose. It will take practice to unlearn the ways we’ve learned to be. If we mess up, we must be gentle with ourselves, and simply start again.
We are each being called to go deeper and get braver. To remember, in a time of darkness and confusion that LOVE is still the greatest force in the Universe and the greatest power any of us could hope to possess. Real love knows nothing of lack — it is self-generating and endlessly available to each of us.
We must deal with what’s in front of us while keeping our hearts fixed on where we are ultimately going. We must move with intention and vision. It’s certainly easier to hold dreams of healing when the sky is blue and the world is peaceful and yet it’s just as important, if not more so, to dream of healing in times like this. Thoughts are powerful — we can choose to let the world around us dictate what we think, what we anticipate, and what we believe is possible. Yet we can also determine what we think, what we activate, and what we make possible. This isn’t a suggestion of ignorance or carelessness or idle action— it’s an invitation to place our trust in the power of love.
Take the time to dream of, envision, and believe in healing.
Write down what it looks like to find healing in yourself, in your family, in your community, and in our world. What does uninterrupted joy really look like? You don’t need to know how to get there —simply take the time to dream up the absolute best case scenario. Be specific. Keep these thoughts close, and revisit them often. Ask yourself; what does it look like, what does it feel like, when we all win? With those loving intentions and hopes in mind, and with faith in our ability to get there— listen to your heart when it whispers and act on it’s wisdom.
Do not underestimate the power that comes with loving yourself the way you wished the world loved you. You have the power to be who you need right now — to help determine where we go from here and to make this work easier for the generations to come. Just as our predecessors have blazed the paths that have brought us us here, we must blaze our own. There’s no instruction manual but their courage is a reminder of what we are capable of — if we are to create what comes next then let us do so with love as our compass.
As we have recently passed Christmas and Thanksgiving, a holiday that celebrates a shared meal without acknowledging the genocide that followed it — we are reminded that doing this work requires our honesty and our awareness. We must ask ourselves; how do I perpetuate in love that’s rooted in lack?
Awareness allows us to make new choices — to love ourselves with eyes wide open, so we can love our neighbors with hearts that match. I believe in us, because I believe in love.
I see in us the potential to be better. I don’t say that as a silver lining but as a call to action. It’s only there as potential unless we harness it, unless we act on it. Our shared promise has always been there — whether or not this moment is any different, is entirely reliant on us.
Love Misplaced By Capitalism*