I’m not sure how I made it all these years without ever coming across Tim Wise, but I stumbled upon him and this Youtube video last night, for the first time. His words really resonate with me, and my ideals on the topic of white privilege and racism in America.
What if we as humans knew what it was to truly love without condition?
We are, of course, not capable because we place conditions on most of our interactions and relationships, whether we purposefully do it or not.
Even those of us who should love the most, and love the best, often look for reasons to withhold that love, whether conscious or not, intentional or absent-minded.
Oh, but to offer love, love that knows no bounds, love that does not know how to stop, waver, or grow weary, love that cannot be swayed, no matter what it receives in return, and no matter what precedes it…true, stubborn, unconditional love.
Many people often say that we, as humans, are inherently selfish, and though this is often validated by the behavior of humanity, I believe humans were made to live in community, sharing life with one another freely, giving of self, and receiving from others; the African ideal of Ubuntu, “I am because you are”.
But many people in Western civilization are not afforded the opportunity to see this life outside of self, and selfishness. We build competitive societies that turn us against each other, making us strive to be better than the other, rather than striving to help better one another.
And like our wealth, that we are told to work hard to make and spend on ourselves, deciding when and how to spend it, we learn to treat our love as a similar commodity; and we are often very greedy with it, using it sparingly, and in ways that serve our selfish desires.
I do think from the bottom of our hearts, we all want to love, and to be loved. I merely think that most of us don’t know how.
Our first failure is believing love is an emotion or a fuzzy feeling. Sure, sometimes a byproduct of love can be these things, but we are fooled in thinking that love is purely emotional.
Another shortcoming of our understanding of love is trying to base it off of our experiences, whether good or bad, pure or evil, loving or abusive. With our dirty filters and bag of burdens, we begin to love others, not the way that we desire to be loved ourselves, but rather in the way we have learned what love is, often warped and misguided.
Sometimes the way we desire to be loved is even warped, and we crave that which is not true love, but abuse others have done to us in the name of “love”.
The fact that we selfishly look at love as an emotion, or that we base the love we are able to offer to others on our own experience, only further complicates the conditions we put on the love we extend to the world around us. But true love is out there, and though we may not be capable of ridding ourselves of all of the conditions we place before the love we offer others, we can try to lessen them, through our understanding of what love is.
Here is what I have learned love to be…
Love is an act, and very much a choice. We choose to give it, and choose to hold it back, occurring both with awareness and sometimes without the knowledge of what we are doing.
Love is selfless, and best when given with nothing to gain.
Love is not always comfortable, and can often be inconvenient, even sacrificial.
Love has no ulterior motive what-so-ever, and is offered with no strings attached.
Love looks to serve the other, with the best interests of the other in mind.
Love celebrates others’ victories, and mourns others’ losses.
Love is uncompromising, and fearless.
Love looks for ways to bring out the very best qualities of its recipient.
Love is not chased away by negative behavior, but seeks out the good within every person, in every moment.
Love sees beyond those individuals considered undesirable, and even goes further by seeing beauty within them.
And love knows not one single condition that would cause or allow it to cease.
Unconditional love is far beyond human conception. It is divine. But imagine how the world would look if we were all dedicated to attempting to see and know true love, and not place conditions on the way we give and receive it.
That would be truly lovely.
I’m still struggling to find the words to express all that I feel about Clinton’s death. I have so many thoughts and emotions, and no words seem sufficient enough to explain them, not to mention even beginning to explain how much that kid meant to me. At first, one of the most painful thoughts was thinking of those last few moments of his life, knowing that he died in such a violent way, thinking of him having to fight in those last few seconds, being fought against, rather than being warmly, and lovingly embraced. This breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces.
The day after his mother phoned to inform me of his passing, I went down by a river to process, sob, throw rocks, and sob some more. I kept getting an image of what I imagine his face to have looked like in those last moments. It was haunting. It was terrible. It was heart wrenching. I wanted to run and bust down the door of that fabricated memory, grab Clinton just in time, and hug him tighter than ever before. That’s no way for someone to have to go out, especially not a seventeen-year-old boy, especially not Clinton!
The last few days of processing has been difficult and strange. I’ve cried more than I probably have in the last year, often totally out of the blue, and unexpected tears. It’s hard being so far away. It’s hard to know I will never, ever speak to him again. And though I still struggle to make peace with his death, I have begun to find comfort in his life. I’ve seen the outpouring of thoughts, wishes, condolences, and memories, from loving people who truly cared about Clinton, people who were also not there in those last moments, but loved him so well throughout his life; people who were involved in all different stages of his life, from the first time I met him as a high-pitched-speaking, tiny little seven-year-old, all the way to the very present, long, lanky seventeen-year-old he grew to be. I know that Clinton felt loved.
I’ve begun to find comfort in the funny memories of him, along with the touching, more difficult times I’ve walked through with him. And though I know Clinton longed for his biological family to love him more than they were ever capable of showing, I know that he found a family, outside of blood relatives; a family that supported him, loved him, embraced him, taught him, laughed with him, appreciated him, and allowed him to love them back. And because of this family, I can find peace in my heart knowing that he knew how precious he was, that he was wanted and appreciated, that he was treasured and loved by so many. And I know he knew that.
Still, no words seem adequate to express all I feel, but I felt it was important express to all of those who had anything to do with his life, at any given point or season, that I know your involvement made a difference in his quality of life. And I know, thanks to the many people he adopted as family, he felt and knew love. Thank you for loving him, and allowing him to love back. Thanks for being that family his family didn’t know how to be. Even though I may never make complete peace with the way he went out, and I will forever love and miss him dearly, I have peace in knowing that he was loved by so many, and was allowed by them to love back.
I’m still completely floored about Clinton’s death. My heart is a big lump in my throat, and I start crying pretty much every time I begin to speak about it. I plan on writing a well thought out blog about my feelings around it all at some point. But for now, I just wanted to share this video with you guys.
Anyone who knows Clinton knows he loved to laugh and make jokes, pretty much all the time. Last year when he was staying with me he would occasionally break out into this fake American accent. It never failed to make me laugh. The accent itself is like a mixture between me, our friend Terrance (from Nashville), and Austin Powers. It’s classic.
Last year Clinton had a teacher who would call me (Clinton’s guardian at the time) “Prison Break” (because of my tattoos) behind my back. It bothered Clinton that the teacher would refer to me as “Prison Break” in front of the whole class and Clinton never failed to report each and every occurrence. Yeah, real professional on the teacher’s part, right?! Anyways, one night Clinton and I were playing around with my laptop and he started making videos and talking in his weird “American” accent, and at one point I could literally not breathe I was laughing so hard. I miss him so bad already.
The Youtube video’s jacked up, so if you’re on Facebook here’s a link to a better version.