As I've explored the universal idea of humanity through this project, I've delved deeper into my own conceptions of what it means to be human and the areas of my life that have helped me to recognize both my own humanity and that of others. The greatest truth to this idea , the element that is crucial to understanding the core of human rights, and interestingly, an element that is not explicitly stated in the Principles I am working on is the element of love. Love being the capacity within a person to have deep and intimate connections with a fellow human being to the fundamental parts of who we are, reaching the points within ourselves that transcend all other realities and bias'.
I learned this lesson several years ago....one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking times of my life...for to love wholy, completely and unconditionally is by far the hardest thing that I've ever had to do....but through it, within it, stood the greatest beauty I've ever been able to feel within my life. We may not be able to stare directly at the sun, but we are able to know the warmth it brings to our hearts. Love to me is the same thing...maybe we don't know it completely, or maybe it varies from person to person, experience to experience. It's too large to define, or to completely comprehend, but at the most basic level we know that at the very least, it warms us and brings beauty to our life in many different ways.
Before I knew this reality, I can't say that I didn't have love in my life, but I failed to recognize it. I failed to see that love was all around me, and that in many ways I took it for granted or negated it's presence within my life. And because of that, I grew cold; numb to the experiences within life that allowed me to see both myself and the greater world around me.
After realizing my own capacity for love, for the deep and intimate connections that I as a human being am able to have with others, I began to see the world in a different light. It wasn't about the one person that I found myself connected too; it was about how being connected to that one person showed me the ability I had to connect with others. After experiencing such a profound emotion, I couldn't help but see how it was reflected in every other part of my life. How I appreciated the whole world in a much more fundamental way. How I began to VALUE and be thankful for the things that my interactions with other people brought to my life.
I recognized through my own capacity to love, that I was connected to something much larger, greater than myself, but something I was no more or less connected to. Suddenly I was able to tie my own experiences within life to that of others. I was able to reflect on a human level the realities of racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, injustice, trauma, etc, etc. And just like the sun, while I would never truly know the day to day details of what it means to be an African American walking the streets of America, or to live in poverty in the slums of India, I was able, to a degree, to feel fundamentally what that experience may mean. And I was able to know it, not through my own imposition of my truth, my reality; but understanding it through the unconditional, the selfless act of love where through my capacity to completely and wholeheartedly open myself up to another person's life, to have a deeper understanding. To value my own life and all that it is made up of, but to at the same time be completely and utterly open to the whole life and all that makes up the life of another and the interdependence that I have with that person; those people.
Thus as I move forward developing these trainings on human rights as it applies to sexual orientation and gender identity I am reminded not of my own; or our, singular identity, rather the greater love I have felt within my life which connects me to a greater human identity that each and every person has, including those of us within the world who are treated differently because of our sexual or gender identity. I am so thankful for the love that has existed within my life up until this point...it has helped me to discover even greater things within my present life, and I know that it will continue to drive me as I move forward within my life advocating for this greater humanity I have found within the world.
Peace to those out in the world who strive for love in all they do. Love to those who value humanity holistically. And forgiveness to those who struggle to see the humanity in others. May you begin to value their humanity, through your own.
A Beautiful poem introduced to me from a friend here in Nairobi:
Isabel Heyward, on Love.
Love, like truth and beauty, is concrete. Love is not fundamentally a sweet feeling; not, at heart, a matter of sentiment, attachment, or being drawn toward. Love is active, effective, a matter of making reciprocal and mutually beneficial relations… Love creates righteousness on earth… As advocates and activists for justice know, loving involves struggle, resistance, risk. People working today on behalf of women, blacks, lesbians and gay men, the aging, the poor know that making justice is not a warm, fuzzy experience. I think also that sexual lovers and good friends know that the most compelling relationships demand hard work, patience, and a willingness to endure tensions and anxiety in creating mutually empowering bonds. For this reason loving involves commitment. We are not automatic lovers of self, others, world, or God. Love does not happen. We are not love machines. Love is a choice —not simply, or necessarily, a rational choice, but rather a willingness to be present to others without pretense or guile. Love is a conversion to humanity —a willingness to participate with others in the healing of a broken world and broken lives. Love is the choice to experience life as a member of the human family, a partner in the dance of life.
— Isabel Carter Heyward (b. 1945 in North Carolina) is a lesbian feminist theologian. Oft-cited author, Heyward’s most distinctive theological idea is that it is open to each of us to incarnate God (that is, to embody God’s power), and that we do so most fully when we seek to relate genuinely to others in what she calls relationality. God is defined in her work as ‘our power in mutual relation’. For her, ‘the shape of God is justice’, so human activity can, as theologian Lucy Tatman has observed elsewhere, be divine activity whenever it is just and loving. In Heyward’s work, God is therefore not a personal figure, but instead the ground of being, seen for example in compassionate action, which is the movement of God in and through the depths of all that is.