“When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”
Martin Luther King Jr., ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech
We all seek Love. But when Love presents itself, do we recognize it?
In “All About Love,” Bell Hooks explains how few of us learn True Love. Our first lessons in Love, modeled by our families, are often fraught with misconceptions passed down for generations. At its best, Love is limited to care and affection, and at its worst it can be equated with violence. Rarely are we shown the deeper layers of Love that involve trust, honesty and commitment. Our families are not to blame. You cannot teach what you do not know. Our capacity to love grows with our awareness.
Beyond the familial cocoon, we continue to learn Love from other people and places. There is no school curriculum for Love, so we turn to our culture for guidance. Millions of songs and movies portray Love as either fantasy or drama, further perpetuating our confusion. We are taught “to think of love as a feeling.” But feelings come and go, they do not sustain us as True Love does.
In “Journey of the Heart,” John Welwood reminds us: “dreaming that love will save us, solve all our problems or provide a steady state of bliss or security only keeps us stuck in wishful fantasy, undermining the real power of love – which is to transform us.”
But most of us do not wish to be transformed. We rather stay the same and have someone make us feel good. We project our fantasies onto another and are disappointed when our unrealistic expectations go unmet. Fear – the opposite of Love – often drives our relationships. We have yet to master the art of solitude, so we cling to another in our loneliness. We rather possess than give ourselves to Love.
Yet, we are here to learn Love. It’s important we redefine Love and develop new visions to guide us. Others have paved the way, and we can turn to them for some direction. It took years of research for Bell Hooks to discover a definition of Love that resonated. She found it in ‘The Road Less Traveled’ by M. Scott Peck, who defines Love as:
“the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”
In my experience, nine years into a loving relationship, that is the truest definition of Love. I have learned that Love is a choice – “the will” – we make each day. Love demands that we “extend one’s self”; that we come out of self-centeredness and become aware of how our actions affect another. It is a reminder and exercise in interconnectedness. Love’s language is “nurturing,” it can only thrive in truth and has the courage to achieve it. Love has one “purpose”: our spiritual growth. Love accepts us as we are, yet will transform us through its process.
Today’s Seven Senses is a guide to Love through the senses – see, hear, smell, taste, touch, balance and envision.
“All About Love, New Visions” | book by Bell Hooks
Available at your indie bookstore or online.
Reading “All About Love'' was like finding a dictionary of Love. Mixing personal memoir and cultural criticism, the book offers a layered and cohesive framework on Love. Written over 25 years ago, it seems more pertinent than ever.
“All About Love” examines how our families and culture influence our misguided search for Love. Hooks also shows the layered ways in which our society often profits from this confusion. She quotes Erich Fromm in saying: “The principle underlying capitalistic society and the principle of love are incompatible.” We are indeed encouraged to fill our void for Love with the pursuit of material things.
“All About Love'' offers a radically honest portrayal of Love. More than a book, it’s become a compass for my relationships. Bell Hooks died in December 2021, leaving a legacy of Love for many generations.
James Baldwin | interview
Interviewed by Mavis Nicholson, originally aired February 12, 1987. Listen on YouTube
James Baldwin never ceases to move and awaken me. His words, whether written or spoken, always soar with passion, intelligence, and eloquence. I often revisit his book “The Fire, Next Time,” which offers an in-depth view of race, gender and social class in America.
Baldwin’s wide perspective and detailed analysis can be applied to any topic. So when he’s asked about Love, Baldwin guides us from romance to activism; from personal desire to spiritual quest. Every statement made is clear, concise, and electrifying. I’ve been contemplating his words:
“When you can’t love anybody, you’re dangerous, because you have no way of learning humility.”
If you’re in New York, check out James Baldwin’s archives at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. For a sneak peek, read “A Report from James Baldwin’s Archive” by.
And if you’re in Los Angeles, the American Cinematheque is currently hosting “James Baldwin on Film: A Tribute.”
Pheromones | nature
Pheromones have mystified us for centuries. As early as Ancient Greece we observed how female dogs “in heat” could attract a male dog from several miles away. The word derives from the Greek, “phero” meaning “to carry,” and “hormone” meaning “to excite” – a pheromone is a “carrier of excitement.”
Pheromones are tiny compounds that transmit information and alter the physiology or behavior of other members of the same species. Many animals, including insects and mammals, utilize pheromones to communicate danger, and attract fitting mates.
It’s still debated whether pheromones can be smelled or not, since they rely on an independent and separate system from our main olfactory senses, the vomeronasal organ (VNO). Located above the roof of the mouth, the VNO detects large molecules such as those dissolved in liquid, which explains why dogs lick various body parts to receive pheromonal information.
The question that continues to baffle us is whether humans can detect pheromones. Since humans lack a functioning VNO system, it seems that we don’t experience pheromones. But there’s at least one human pheromonal behavior that’s been observed so far. The “McClintock effect” is the phenomenon that happens when a group of women, living in close quarters together, sync their menstrual cycles. The research shows that one particular “driving female” sparks the rhythm for others to follow. The process behind the “McClintock effect” remains a mystery and we have yet to find other evidence for human pheromones.
Aphrodisiac | food
Can food arouse our sexual desire? Aphrodisiacs are thought to contain special properties that stimulate our sexual drive. So far, we haven’t scientifically proven that foods can alter our physiology. But sexual desire isn’t strictly tied to the body, it also lives in the mind. If foods sexually stimulate us, it’s typically due to their symbolic shapes and colors. The power of imagination cannot be discredited in its erotic effect and foods will continue to seduce us. Here are seven of my favorite aphrodisiacs:
Pomegranate: The word “aphrodisiac” originates from Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love who is credited with planting the first pomegranate tree. The many seeds of pomegranates are a symbol of fertility. And in some myths, it is not the apple but the pomegranate that is thought to be the “forbidden fruit.”
Honey: The “nectar of the Gods” – honey – has been revered by so many civilizations. Archaeologists found 3,000-year-old honey while excavating tombs in Egypt, and it was perfectly edible. The eternal shelf life of honey must have been equated with immortality. Equally celebrated by ancient Greece, Hippocrates prescribed honey for sexual vigor. And in France, an old myth promoted a bee’s sting as a “shot of pure aphrodisiac.”
Avocado: In Aztecs culture, the original name of avocado, “ahucatl” also means testicle. This was to not only describe their physical appearance but also their ability to incite sexual passion. “The Aztecs believed in the aphrodisiac power of the ahucatl so much that they would not allow virginal women to leave the house while they were being harvested.” French King Louis XIV turned to avocado when he wanted to revive his aging libido, nicknaming the fruit “la bonne poire” (the good pear).
Beets: I continue to be fascinated by beets, a vegetable I featured in “Got a Moon Room?” Due to their bright fuschia-red color, beets have often been associated with love. Ancient Romans believed beets promoted amorous feelings and featured it on the frescoes of its brothels. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was known to eat beets to enhance her appeal. The ancients might be right. Beets contain lots of boron, a mineral that increases sex hormone levels, as well as tryptophan and betaine which promote a feeling of well-being.
Figs: one of my favorites fruits, figs have complex associations. Like pomegranates, they’ve been linked to the biblical story of Adam & Eve, where their leaves are used as clothing. They represent both fertility, through their many seeds, and also modesty, with their wide covering leaves. In Ancient Greece, sexual rituals were practiced at the arrival of a new fig crop. They were also rumored to be Cleopatra’s favorite fruit.
Chocolate: The idea of chocolate as an aphrodisiac was first introduced in the 1980s by Donald F. Klein and Michael R. Liebowitz, two doctors at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. They theorized that since chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the chemical the brain releases when we’re in love, chocolate could produce similar pleasurable results. Liebowitz even wrote a book in 1983 titled "The Chemistry of Love" and the chocolate love myth spread like wildfire. In recent years we’ve discovered that the PEA amount in chocolate is too low to make it to our bloodstream to have an effect.
Oysters: The reputation of oysters as an aphrodisiac may have been sparked by Giacomo Casanova, an 18th century Italian author. Known for his sexual exploits which he detailed in his memoir “Histoire de ma vie,” Casanova credited oysters for his sexual appetite. Apparently he ate copious amounts of them, including for breakfast. Though oysters contain lots of zinc, an essential mineral for our sexual health, their aphrodisiac effect is more likely due to their shape and texture.
Kiss | cultural practice
When did we start kissing each other?
India seems to be the source of this tender ritual. The oldest proof of kissing can be found circa 1,500 BCE in the Indian Vedic Sanskrit literature, which describe customs of rubbing foreheads and noses. Five hundred years later, the epic Indian poem Mahabharata contained references of lip kissing. And the Kama Sutra, written around the third century includes numerous kissing techniques.
Kissing was introduced to Europe in the fourth century, following Alexander the Great’s invasion of India. It immediately became popular in ancient Rome, where they developed various types of kisses. The osculum was the peck on the cheek of friendship, the basium was a more erotic type of lips-to-lips kiss, and the savium was the passionate kiss, later known as "French kiss."
The kiss also evolved to represent one’s identity and sincerity. Since most of the world was illiterate, people drew an "X" for their name on a document and kissed it as a way to make it legal. That tradition still continues today as we sign our letters (or emails) with an “xo” for kiss.
By the 1300s, kissing became dangerous. The Catholic Church started to condemn the practice, fearing it would lead to sexual acts. Before they could pass laws to restrict kissing, the Black Plague put an end to mouth-to-mouth and the handshake was introduced as its replacement.
Eventually, we returned to kissing. But not all cultures lip kiss. Indeed, the Maori people of New Zealand press their noses and forehead together as a form of greeting. This social gesture called Hongi encourages the exchange of one’s ha (breath of life) with another. The Inuit also rub their noses and smell each other’s cheeks. That same practice is observed in Thailand with the ‘sniff kiss’ known as ‘hawm-gaem.’
How many types of kisses exist today? German neuroscientist Onur Güntürkün spent two years watching people kissing around airports, railway stations, parks and beaches. He recorded 124 "scientifically valid kisses."
So I’m curious to know:
Jumbled Mantra | visual meditation by Kenshō studio
A new visual meditation as part of my Jumbled Mantra series. I invite you to reflect on the following words:
Walk in Love, find yourself.
To me, this message illuminates that our true essence is Love. Each time we speak or act on Love, we get in touch with our own spiritual nature. The path of Love is courageous but its reward is priceless – we get to be our true selves.
Visions of Love | video poem by Kenshō studio
Inspired by Bell Hooks’ book, I wanted to articulate my Visions of Love. Beyond any intellectual concept, Love is an experience. No words, nor video can truly encapsulate what Love is. I can only hope this video poem reaches close to its essence.
What's Love Got to Do with It?