Hello I’m John Seigenthaler once again welcome to a word on words I guessed it bell hooks welcome bell hooks the word on words this book is called all about love new visions it sure as I count 18th book that is a high achievement to be an author with with 18 books and this one about love approaches the subject from fascinating perspective you say at the at the outset maybe in the preface or the introduction you say that as a small child you knew love and then somehow was taken from you you lost it and in trying to rediscover it you found it was terribly difficult to do and that when you would talk to people later on and I’m moving ahead now when you would talk to people later on about your search for love people would say you know you really need to see a therapist but talk about because you write about it so eloquently talked about the need of children for love if they’re going to have it throughout their lives well I start off this book saying that I felt as a child what it was like to be loved and to be recognized and then I felt that love move away particularly talking about my relationship with my father which I think that lots of people feel that are intimate connections with our mothers remain forever but many many adults have talked with me now about their since as children that they held their father’s regard in love at a certain moment of time and then lost them and I’ve been amazed at the number of people that have come up to me after reading the preface and said to me that’s exactly how I felt as a child but I couldn’t tell anyone because we’re not allowed to talk about not being in our culture we’re made to feel that everybody knows love I mean III talk in the book about all of these people who’ll say you know my dad beat me your mom did this but she really loved me and a key chapter in the book is the chapter on children where I’m saying that no in fact if we are being abused in any way we are not being loved that love is antithetical to abuse and to domination and that a marvelous moment and for me in the book when I’m talking about what do we teach our children about love what is the miss we give them and part of the mis-education we give them is that you can violate someone and then say you love them and I think as we pondered why we are raising a nation of violent children what we have to ponder that miss education about the nature of love you recite a cliche of a Papa with the strap on the switch saying you know this is gonna hurt you more than it’s gonna hurt me or I’m really doing this for your own good and then you sort of attack that that thesis why if that’s the case is that happening it is it is it is an act of violence not an act of love and to put another coat on it really covers up the myth rather than exposing it which doesn’t mean to say that we I’m not saying in the discipline is important because discipline is crucial to any true love with that we have boundaries that we set boundaries so that I think part of what’s happened to us as a nation is we have confused discipline with a kind of blind obedience to Authority Arianism whether it’s children to parents or us to a government or a nation that is acting in a way that is is is autocratic and and wrong so that the book doesn’t just try to look at our personal relationship to love but what’s happening to us as a nation as we move away from the kind of ethic of love that many of us felt undergirded all the great social movements movements for social justice in our society you say that we really as a nation and as a society forgotten what it is to really love to find true love and that it’s evident in our music we used to sort of go let’s croon about the moon in June in tune and now we come up with lyrics from Tina Turner and others what’s love got to do what’s love got to do with it that’s right and that and that the culture itself has hardened and especially the youth culture I mean one of the things that’s so disturbing about gangster rap and let me say that I’m not attacking all hip-hop there are lots of forms of hip-hop but in its most brutal forms it’s anti erotic it’s anti female it’s an entire life it’s a it’s a cult of death and one of the passages that I quote often in this book is a passage from the Bible from the book of John that says anyone who does not know love it’s still in death and we’re at risk at being a culture that cultivates this sort of worship of death and it is fascinating to me that to me when I think about the defining movement for social justice that we had in our culture that rocked the world it was a civil rights movement the fact is there could be no end to apartheid in South Africa today had there not been a civil rights movement in the United States whether we’re talking about Aborigines in Australia or so many people around the world that looked to the civil rights and freedom struggle here in the United States is an emblematic of justice but the heart of that movement was an ethics of love when I began writing this book I went back to Martin Luther King’s strength to love which was such a marvelous book and and he was one of the first leaders in our society to really talk about love not as a sentimental emotion you know many of my readers my bell hooks readers who are used to the hard-hitting you know social human is exactly have said to me well why I love and it’s you know I I people something we hope we’re not going to lose that you know that biting intervention and I said but to talk about love and the relationship between love and ending domination whether we’re talking about racism homophobia class elitism because a lot of the book talks about greed and how does read has made us less loving as a nation I mean why do we think welfare is bad we should be triumphing as a nation that we have the resources at our disposal to provide for people in love you say there that that we now embrace the reform of welfare not on the basis that there was needed compassion we use welfare abuse as the excuse to cover up the fact we’ve lost our compassion for those who have nots exactly I mean I have been so disturbed by seeing so many people of my generation who came out of radical thinking into a kind of thinking that says we can’t give to others people only appreciate what they work for there’s a lack of compassion a hardening of the heart Marianne Williamson began to talk about that in her book the healing of American i mean it’s it’s this sense that the kind of love epic and i think people have to hear those two words in combination love ethic which means that it’s the values i mean we talk about family values in this nation but we don’t talk about what are the values that underlie a love ethic the sense of respect i mean i say to people well what love has to do with respect when we we look at children particularly the violence of children against children in our nation right now part of what we’re seeing is a lack of err a lack of respect a lack of understanding we’re seeing Envy I mean Envy is a crucial emotion connected to greed and that you want to destroy what you Envy when you have a ten year old kid wanting to destroy another kid because that kid is more popular or that is something deep and profound that is a deep and profound lovelessness and we can’t just talk about it in relationship to what parents are doing we have to talk about it in terms of what we have been saying as a nation what matters to us as a nation you know I knew that you had written previously to both feminists and themes and racial themes and so it didn’t surprise me to find in all about love that you say gender has and that concept that men look at love one way that has has really sort of inhibited our ability to meaningfully meaning meaningfully bring the search for love to an end as a society I talk a little bit about about that that concept of the role the gender plays what just recently I was talking about love in it at the LA Public Library and a man in the audience said that you know growing up I wanted to be loving but I had gotten the message that you could not be a man and be loving so he wanted me to talk to him about how did how do men in our culture move into a space where they can have that healthy masculinity that that is not the patriarchal dominating masculinity but one that allows them to claim the space of their own hearts and their own need for love and one of the major studies I think that feminism has brought forth is our emotional neglect of adolescent males you know the idea that somehow when a boy starts turning 12 or 13 we suddenly decide he doesn’t need effect anymore if he wants to be aloof and not speak I mean one of the stories that I tell in the book and that I remember from my childhood I have five sisters and one brother and as my brother was getting I guess his patriarchal masculinity happening he comes home from school one day and we’re all sitting around in the living room and he raises him because he’s going to go out and be with his buddies and he races past all of us and he goes to his room and he raises back out and mom stops him just as he’s going to go out the door and she says we need to start this over when you come into this house and your sisters are here and I’m here you greet us you acknowledge us and you go back and you do that over and it was for me an incident that stayed in my mind that instead of allowing him to assert that kind of negative masculinity that says connection doesn’t matter intimacy doesn’t matter all that matters is my kind of homo social bonding with my male buddies I felt that she she showed us both one her daughter’s the respect that we should want to have in our relations with a male including our brother our father and she enabled my brother to see that this is this this connection is important to you and I think that many men have been falsely led into thinking that love is not vital and important to them in early on in the book I talked about the fact that despite the fact that we live in a culture where we basically believe love is a woman’s issue but most of the books on love that have become you know kind of are sort of archival texts I think of the one I talked about and praised so much is our Erich Fromm’s art of loving that as a teenager when I wanted to know what is love I went to that book and um it’s still to me a crucial book but in general we don’t look to books by women women right romanticize oak in the book that if a woman had written The Bridges of Madison County women would have said this is ridiculous right this woman out here taking the initiative to first of all taking the photograph and then initiative well you also sort of give us a preface just a glimpse you know you that’s what you you tell about the story of your of your of your brother and your sisters and your family it would be impossible to tell this story without personalizing it in some ways and still much of your writing seems to lean away from personalizing it but but you talk about the end of a 15 year relationship and how devastating it was and how it set you on your own search to reevaluate your own life in light of the love you sought you also write later on about romantic love and a relationship with a younger man very briefly again just enough to whet the appetite and make the point and then at another point you talk after quoting st. Teresa of ávila about spiritual love in a in a in a really beautiful way I I think that it is clear of that this book despite your efforts to d personalize at times is a very personal reflection of what you’re about I thought it was a kind of combination of trying to share the personal but also trying to say our personal attitudes about love are tied to our culture’s politics to what our nation tells us is important I mean that chapter on greed where I’m talking about I talk about the fact that one of the wonderful aspects of love is giving and that as we give to others we grow in our capacity to connect I mean the first major chapter in the book is a says how do we define love how can we know love in a culture where most of us don’t have a sense of what it is in fact the book is dedicated to my ex-boyfriend the younger man that you just evoked because we had these continual fights and are still having them after eight years we broke up five years ago where we kept talking about well what is love and it was clear that he felt often that he didn’t know what I was talking about and then I talked to other women who say the same thing about the partners in their lives men who say well I don’t know what love is so I try to sort of echoes that idea that gender does make a difference in the way women look at love and men look at love well I think what most men feel they’re not looking at love at all and so part of what the book tried to say is perhaps if we had common definitions if we started out from a certain a common point I mean what would it mean for us as a nation to start off feeling that love is important for males as much as it is for females because deeply embedded in our national psyche is an assumption that love can’t be important to me in how will men go and fight wars if they are dedicated to love and until we begin to recognize that love has to be essential to men if we’re going to end sexism if men are going to reclaim the spaces where they can be connected to their feelings to their fathers to their mothers in different kinds of ways but partially the book says romantic love has been the myth that has as the only love that really matters it challenges that notion that’s one of the new visions that it says all the foundation of all our love like the foundation of a house there are certain principles that will make you have a sturdy house and those principles are the same irrespective of the kind of house you’re building the same is true of love and we have been a culture that has over valorized romantic love that no matter how horrible and miserable your life has been as a kid or as a teenager’s someday you’re going to find this love and it’s going to come into your life and it’s going to change all of that and many of us found that that was not so and I think a lot of men felt that one day they’ll grow up and they’ll be humanized by a woman or a partner giving them love rather than thinking about what will it mean what will it take for me to become a loving person well I mean I define I use a kind of M Scott pick whose I love him a number of times I know it probably offends a lot of people that this intellectual is a quoting in Scott Peck but I felt that his books I love mass literature I love the fact that we can have books like the road less traveled like Thomas More’s care of the soul that reach out with broad intellectual concepts to a wide audience and I particularly take his definition of love as the will to nurture one’s own and another spiritual growth and Link it to erich fromm saying love is a combination of care knowledge responsibility commitment and trust because one of the things that’s happened in our culture is we equate love primarily with care and that’s why we can say parents who brutally beat their kids but who still love them because I look at my own childhood and I say in the book again and again my parents cared for my me deeply but they also wounded me in ways that were violating wounded my spirit and I think that I would be a different person today had they not given me care because I’ve met lots of adults who didn’t get care but I did not feel loved you talked about how your family reacted how your mother reacted again just a glimpse when you began to publicly discuss your own dysfunctional family It was as if she didn’t know what you were talking about well John I told you when we were talking right before the show began that I see myself as a southern writer I see my sensibility as a southern sensibility and we know one of the heart of the southern sensibility is that if there is anything going wrong in your family life you don’t talk about it you know talk about it within the family and you don’t talk it out about it outside the family so that part of what has been for me a radicalization of my being is trying to to to innocence claim a new sense of a southern sensibility because I think that you know I was as I was going home from from Nashville the other day to visit my folks in Kentucky I saw a sign that said something about about the new south and I kept thinking that part of this a new south hit because I think the South has a unique Sensibility for me informs my work the civility the courtesy the kind of things I evoke the community that I write about it right linked about the community and and how you can’t have love unless it goes beyond yourself and reaches out to a community at large and I write again and again that these were the lessons about love that I learned here in the South in the southern black Baptist Church that sense of what it is to care for the stranger to be to move beyond yourself all of those things but I think the it’s a big challenge when it means us telling the stories that we’ve been told to keep secret I mean I like the chapter in the book on honesty that says when are we going to face as a nation and this goes back to our president that we cannot be loving and tell lies when I heard about Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky the first thing I thought about is this man violated not just his own the codes of some kind of morality but the idea of of the trust and honesty that should have been essential to the fabric of his familial relationships because his actions didn’t just affect himself and it affected his family they must live with the burden and consequences of those actions you know I hadn’t thought of it until this minute when you brought up President Clinton and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky but in a very real sense the public the national public’s willingness to tolerate that and to forgive the line just sort of make sure case that that love is a lost value in a society that will embrace a liar and a cheater especially when it would imagine what would it have happened if it to just imagine this scenario in our nation what if this couple had come together on national TV and said the the essence of our marriage is honesty and communication and whatever month has taken place it was discussed in the car texts of our marriage I mean that would have really rocked the foundation of of everyone in our society because it says that we all make mistakes and we all do things and we we don’t we’re not all always faithful but the key question in in love did I just hear you put the burden on the woman not at all I meant that as a couple I said they would come together as a couple and talk about the dynamics of their relationship because I still am proud of the Clintons in terms of their relationship as a public couple it’s very hard to be a public person you know that I know that it’s hard to be a public couple but I felt let down by the fact that this woman that many of us looked forward up to and forward to how she would progress in the White House who was a woman of powerful voice was suddenly silent and she wasn’t saying we have a marriage and we have determined the terms on which we communicate because the heart of love too that I talked about in the book is forgiveness so certainly do you say that it is and it’s part of that larger community it’s in that chapter when you talk about a larger community forgiveness is crucial you know talked about our nation’s ending racism he talked about forgiveness is crucial to how we as people of color as black people in particular calf to extend to those who have wounded us compassion and forgiveness or we always end up in the same violent well you know that reminds me of what he said to white liberals he said those of you who are and aren’t able to say so in the end we will liberate you which was another act of love not just to those who hated to me but those who supported him but couldn’t tell them in the few minutes that are left let’s focus on that chapter that deals with spiritual love absolutely because I think that our nation after all we’ve said John I want to say too that our nation is yearning for love and community that people want to know how we can live deeper and more meaningful lives and the focus on the Dalai Lama the focus on a Buddhist monk took not Han who might quote a lot in the book is we have been looking for those spiritual teachers in our life today who can help us return to love and community and part of what what is interesting about us as a country is that the vast majority of people in this country still say they’re Christians when we know one of the the heart beats of Christianity is the idea that God is love that we are realized more fully as spiritual beings through love so the question becomes if we think this if this is at the core of our beliefs why are we not living it out in our actions and that’s the kind of political and spiritual question because I feel like we have to attend to the needs of the Spirit and one of the things that I would say about the American left is that the American left has never been interested in talking to the needs of the Spirit its rhetoric is not loving exactly and that’s part of why the conservative right wing always reaches out more to masses of people because it acknowledges emotional needs it acknowledges the needs for family now listen to you and you’re losing your reputation as a radical I’m talking about I’m trying to make radicalism be true to the spirit of itself which is if you are thinking wrongly that you have to be willing to change that thinking I think the left has to begin to talk about love me think was there any more radical movement in our country than civil rights in the sense that I mean feminism is radical but men and women have always lived together the civil rights movement the end of a certain kind of white supremacist apartheid that was about love and it changed us and it changed us as a nation for the better so I don’t think that I’m you know breaking with that tradition I’m trying to revoke it because by losing it we are losing the kind of radical love of Justice that has the potential to make this nation be a great nation always and not be a nation that’s that’s false to its own values fall to that notion of really believing in freedom and justice one of the things I say in the book is that there can be no love without justice you know there’s a line in George Bernard Shaw and I’ll conclude this says must another Christ die in every generation to save those who have no imagination as you talk a lot of you have great imagination bell hooks