Building an Authentic Community of Practice


[0] Challenging a Loveless Generation

My usual routine on the first day of class is to sit down quietly in the front row, observe the professor’s teaching style, and organize what I need to get an A for the semester. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when we experienced our first class together. Instead of the norm, I was invited to sit in a circle with my peers and tackle the big question of “what is love?” together with them. Peer-to-peer interaction took up most of the time during the session. I tried to see through the eyes of others and they tried to see through mine. Professor Dunne also sat among us in the circle but quietly observed our exchanges, only offering her own thoughts and questions on occasion. And both the syllabus along with the question of how to get an A were no where in sight.

It was mad fun to be thrown immediately into the kind of philosophical discussion I would normally have with my friends over coffee. I don’t know what it was about the environment or comfort, but I ended up sharing something with the class that I normally would keep very private which was that the process of learning how to love has always been a centered pursuit in my life. I knew from a young age that because I came from a broken home and a broken family, as bell hooks admits too, “I was not really ready to love or be loved in the present…[because] I was still mourning [the past].” That is why I commented in class that I think there is an important distinction between the home we come from and the home we create. Especially for women, we are traditionally expected to see the home we can create as really just the home of our husband’s family that we join but aren’t empowered to actively create as much as we are to passively accept. Yet, I think that difference should be an important question for anyone to put their past trauma into perspective for their present day selves. If many of us know we do not come from the kind of loving home we wished we had, then what do we need to learn about what makes it possible before we create it?

For the rest of the class, I found myself wanting to express more and more about what I had been theorizing on my own about love for so long but found myself getting pushback when I offered more abundant feelings of love I have recently arrived at. In relation to Harold Kushner’s claims of our “loveless” generation, it was ironic to have the gut repulsion many classmates gave me when I proclaimed that I believed in “giving yourself entirely to others.” Even though I stated later on that the wording was “reckless,” the phrase itself still doesn’t seem all that radical to me. I feel like it is the only way to love. To be open to love even when it becomes strained and seeing it as an opportunity to improve understanding. I don’t hesitate to engage myself entirely in the loving relationships I have in my life today—because I know it will always be returned to me tenfold. That goes especially to my closest friends I consider my family. Even in the case of a failed relationship, showing my capacity to love only revealed the limits of my ex partner’s own capacity to love. It enlightened them to the possibility of deeper connection and taught the both of us that it was time to bring our three-year long relationship to a healthy end.

So I think the ultimate debate we arrived at between those, often men, who claim to know about love because they have received it and those, often women, who claim to know about love because they’ve lacked it is essential to resolve if we wish to cure our generational curse of “lovelessness” and create the loving homes we wished we had. I would personally reframe the question from who is right to who is grounded in reality? Because the question of our generation is how do we cure lovelessness when there is an endless list of reasons not to love? Should we always set hard limits and swear to never past them? Or should we consider our tendency toward lovelessness as a limit that should be challenged and overcome? If it’s the latter, then where do we see the most opportunity for that growth? In attempting to achieve great love only theorized through fantasy, or in attempting to fill those with love who have historically lacked it?