Revolutionary Love

What does “revolutionary” love mean? For singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco:

…it means seeing no stranger. You know? It means, even with your opponents, to look into another’s face and say, you are part of me I will start from there. You’re a part of myself I do not know well enough … [it means] looking for the wound in your opponent. They might be doing all kinds of bad actions, you know? They might be doing negative things, but to search within that for the wound in them and to find the courage in yourself to tend the wound.

More perhaps: In order to find the wounds inside oneself, one must find and feel the wounds inside others.

Poet and activist Audre Lorde puts it this way:

There is a timbre of voice

that comes from not being heard

and knowing you’re not being

heard noticed only

by others not heard

for the same reason.

What does it mean to rectify this unseen-ness? Poets, writers, philosophers, and theorists of many kinds have written about the world’s much needed understanding and engagement in love-as-action. When we view love as action rather than privately held feelings, its potential to become more than ourselves is possible.

As bell hooks explains:

Love is an action, a participatory emotion. Whether we are engaged in a process of self love or of loving others we must move beyond the realm of feeling to actualize love. This is why it is useful to see love as a practice. When we act, we need not feel inadequate or powerless … but we must choose to take the first step.

Again, as Lorde so poignantly states in Sister Outsider:


your light shines very brightly

but I want you

to know

your darkness also


and beyond fear.

Sometimes, understanding our layers of self-hood come into clearer focus when we see ourselves—our frailty, humanity, imperfect beauty, the lightness and darkness—through seeing others. Our personal journeys are made possible because of our contact with and through others’ journeys.

Let us remember: revolutionary love is an act of rebellion. It includes, among other attributes, the ability to see others, to hear others, to feel others. Revolutionary love is, as activist Valerie Kaur maintains, “a radical and joyful practice to heal ourselves and transform the world around us.”

It is Kaur’s wisdom that fueled and inspired DiFranco’s newest album. As her lyrics cry out:

I will ask you questions
I will try to understand
And if you give me your story
I will hold it in my hands