#33 Love, Horses and a Hat


“We cannot have a healed society, we cannot have change, we cannot have justice if we do not reclaim and repair the human spirit.” ~Angel Kyodo Williams

If we do not work on our character, if we have not trained in generosity, morality, patience, energy, meditation and wisdom, we will not be able to do the work––to stand up to the bullies that are peeing all over our rugs––that we are called to do today. How are you training yourself? To what end? Listen to this podcast with Angel Williams, the second black female zen teacher in America talk about her own path of character design. 

One profound portion of the conversation focused on love and what it means and what it can also mean in a more expansive sense: 

MS. TIPPETT: I want to, also, talk to you about love. You first got thinking about love, with bell hooks. And I have to say, I think we forget, but we may be remembering that the great, not just spiritual geniuses but social reformers have used this “L” word, “love.” And it was absolutely central to the civil rights movement. And I hear this word surfacing everywhere, and also an attention to how we have to — how we have to revive it, how we have to fill it with connotations that take in the complexity of us and the hardness of what’s before us. You’ve been thinking about this, the role of love in movements, I think, for a couple of decades. And I wonder how your thought on that — also, what you see in the world — is evolving right now.

REV. WILLIAMS: I think you were pointing towards it. bell — and reading bell, and getting an opportunity to meet bell, also — gave me a lens into the possibility of love being something that I could — not only “could,” I want to say — that I had to bring into the language of my perception of the world; and that love was not to be limited to my bedroom or my family and just people that I thought that I liked; that what I was doing in the past and what we often do and what our culture calls us to do is to use love to be a quantifier of “Do I have a preference for you?” [laughs]

MS. TIPPETT: That’s really well put.

REV. WILLIAMS: “Am I aligned and in agreement and affinity? Are you reflecting back at me what I want to be reflected back at me? And if you are, and if you are enhancing my idea of myself, [laughs] then I love you.” And bell opened up the idea that that was a very limited way of understanding — and she still does — that that’s a limited way of understanding love.

The way that I think of love most often, these days, is that love is space.

MS. TIPPETT: Say some more about that. What do you mean?

REV. WILLIAMS: It is developing our own capacity for spaciousness within ourselves to allow others to be as they are — that that is love. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t have hopes or wishes that things are changed or shifted, but that to come from a place of love is to be in acceptance of what is, even in the face of moving it towards something that is more whole, more just, more spacious for all of us. It’s bigness. It’s allowance. It’s flexibility. It’s saying the thing that we talked about earlier, of “Oh, those police officers are trapped inside of a system, as well. They are subject to an enormous amount of suffering, as well.”

I think that those things are missed when we shortcut talking about King, or we shortcut talking about Gandhi, or we shortcut talking about what Aung San Suu Kyi was doing at some point. We leave out the aspects of their underlying motivation for moving things, and we make it about policies and advocacy, when really it is about expanding our capacity for love, as a species.

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2. What would you do with your life if the only thing you really, truly loved was taken away from you, just like that? Would you collapse in grief and despair? Would you cover that pain with depression? Would you reflect on what you lost, over and over again? Would you find compassion for others who also lost their life's path? Would you allow your compassion to show you a new path? To become a new path itself? If any of these questions ring bells, see this astonishingly beautiful, raw, and tender film about the masculine code of Native American rodeo cowboys, directed––astonishingly––by a Chinese-American woman, Chloé Zhao. 

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3. Surprise Photo Interpretation Contest! 

The character above, Darius, from the show Atlanta, re-designed his new hat. What does his re-design mean in terms of character? Send your answer to cxd@characterbydesign.org. Best insight wins a free beer and a jelly donut.