Love Life

What is one man’s and one woman’s love and desire, against the history of two worlds, the great revolutions of our lifetimes, the hope, the unending cruelty of our species? A little thing. But a key is a little thing, next to the door it opens. If you lose the key, the door may never be unlocked. It is in our bodies that we lose or begin our freedom, in our bodies that we accept or end our slavery.

– Ursula Le Guin, Four Ways to Forgiveness

            Freedom, in Scotland and elsewhere, isn’t something that is given by governments or other authorities. It’s something that’s practiced. And not just in social movements or halls of power. It’s part of everyday life. It’s in our bodies, in our relationships with ourselves and each other.

I am grateful to feminists such as Le Guin who remind me of this. All too often in social movements or political discussions, it’s those everyday things that can get left out, made out to be ‘just personal problems’. I don’t see that neat line, myself, between personal and political. The relationships of domination that make up official economies and political systems aren’t magically stopped by little things like bedroom doors, declarations of love or other markers of personal life.  And, as Le Guin and others point out, genuine acts of love are part of revolutionary change.

And so this column, where I am serving as Bella Calledonia’s new Anarchy Aunt. Writing and talking about the links between intimacy, sexuality and radical politics is what I do. I taught sex education in Edinburgh schools for 8 years (what a great job!) and did a PhD on anarchism and sexuality. Doing that, I learned that intellectualising the emotionally challenging stuff in life doesn’t make it all better. Oh, no! I still appreciate political theory and intellectual discussions. But I like them even more if they’ve got heart. How do we really learn to listen to ourselves and each other? How do we practice that freedom that I suspect we all want? It doesn’t happen (just) from reading Karl Marx or even Emma Goldman. It happens from the real life practice of relationships. And it’s not easy. We all need help.

In another essay, Le Guin (can you tell I’m a fan?) laments how reading has become instrumental, ‘so you can read the operating instructions’. Stories, she says, are important. They help us imagine. ‘All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don’t, our lives get made up for us by other people’. The guides? Stories. So my aim in this column isn’t to give you advice on how to live your life. Only you know how to do that. It is to write stories in a way that may offer some guidance, that may help you and me and everyone live a little more freely, equally and lovingly.

The title refers to love, sex and romance in our lives because these can be sources of great joy and great pain. They are areas people want to talk about, and might not have people around who are understanding. As a friend of mine said recently, “I asked you about it because I knew you would understand. I didn’t want to have to deal with other people’s emotional reaction to the topic.” Now, I’m not saying I won’t ever have an emotional reaction to a letter. If I do, I’ll sit with it carefully before writing a response.

     Love Life is also a reminder that being radical doesn’t have to mean being grumpy. Nietzsche reckoned that holding on to resentment about the world not being the free and equal place you or I might want it to be can be a way of holding on to that inequality and lack of freedom. I think he’s got a point. It certainly fits with my experience and things I observe in others. And so, this column is an invitation to love life, even when it hurts: to recognise the beauty that surrounds us, to see beyond the official ‘reality’ of borders and markets and violence, to notice that there is something much more fundamental to life itself.

So, dear Bella readers, is there anything happening in your life that you would like to ask for help with? How are relationships with friends or neighbours, collective members or co-workers, lovers or family members? Or are you troubled by my linking of love and revolution and want to talk about it? Want to ask about ethics, erotics or ecology? Or perhaps anarchy, autonomy, or anatomy? I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer every letter, but I’ll certainly do what I can. And maybe, even if I can’t answer each one, just writing a letter down will help.



[email protected]

Comments (6)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Great Jamie…or can we call you Auntie Bella ? 😉 I’m sure I can think of a few topics for you. Should we post them on here or email them to you ?
    Have you heard of Soma Experiments , facilitated by Brazilian guy in Brixton. Worth checking out if you haven’t. Some excerpts –

    ” When Roberto Freire created ‘Soma – an anarchist therapy’, in the 1970’s, he was looking for therapeutic methodologies that could help and support people who were involved with the resistance against the dictatorship. He studied the psychological and emotional aspects of being an activist, the contradictions between ideology and practices. Why is so difficult to overcome emotions such as jealousy, envy and fear, which disrupt the collaborative process?

    Taking part in different kinds of social and cultural movements, Freire realized traditional forms of activism, from political parties to clandestine organisations, have the same limitations of the power structure they want to overcome. And he dug deep, finding virus of authoritarianism not only in the state political system, but in all relationships, family, school, sexual, leisure, moral values, in the minimum rules of behaviour which regulate life in association with other people.

    Capitalism contaminates everyday activities and private relationships, making it difficult to associate and collaborate, therefore an anarchist therapy like Soma should be like an anti-virus to capitalism.”
    “Why are those who want to change society unable to comprehend the nature of this society? Because they want to make omelettes without breaking the eggs, that is to change society without changing themselves.”
    ” Drawing on Max Stirner’s anarchist ideas, Freire developed his own theory about a biological pleasure principle that should be an internal compass to guide our decision making. We would need to re-learn how to perceive our feeling and emotions, doing things because they bring us satisfaction, pleasure, fulfilment; otherwise, if we do things sacrificing our pleasure, we expect other people to do the same, and will feel upset and frustrated when they don’t. The ideology of pleasure is Freire’s anarchism against the ideology of sacrifice of capitalism.”

    “Declaration of an anarchist lover: Because I love you, you don’t need me. Because you love me, I don’t need you. In love we never let ourselves be completed by the other. We are deliciously unnecessary to each other”
    “I only talked about love in all my life, in all the books I wrote, but I haven’t got any explanation to it. With love you can just do a necropsy, never biopsy. If I examine it, I stop loving. Love is not to be understood, but felt, experienced.”

    Roberto Freire created Soma dreaming to spread out personal and social change like an infection: once you’ve got that taste of freedom on your body, you won’t be satisfied with less. I worked with him for almost 20 years and shared a beautiful collaborative friendship. In his last years, I was already living abroad, but got in touch frequently with him telling about my experiments with Soma, and how it still leaves indelible pleasure experiences of utopia and passion. Doing Soma is not just to keep alive Freire’s work, but his desire to see more and more people infected with tesão.
    “If therapy has found space to spread out as a commodity in capitalist society, it’s because being listened to became rare and institutionalised, as the notion of a private life grew, rather than the function of friends and communities. In this crazy time when people spend lots of money to have someone to listen to them talking about their life, we could think of psychological therapies as a new religions, with all metaphors well applied, like guilt/sin, therapy/confession, prescription/ritual and health/cure.

    Neurosis, paranoia, anxiety, or depression; everything becomes a symptom for the prescriptions of pills, and recipes in self-help books. The speed that ‘scientific’ truths change place confuses anyone that relies only on cartographies such as psychology, neurophysiology, cognition, hormones, genetics. What we believe today as a fact, using science to explain feelings and emotions, might be in doubt tomorrow, but this doesn’t matter to the consumers of therapy. They carry on believing in the authority of the therapist with scientific knowledge, which is another product of the neurosis of capitalism.”

    ” How do we relate to each other? In a period where we are surrounded by video games and virtual social networks, it is quite easy to forget the body and the skills necessary to form social relationships. Our approach breaks the traditional way to develop skills, where the mind is split from the body, the individual removed from its surroundings. The games are invitations to play in a group, sharing experiences of collaboration, trust and responsibility. After the games, a process of reflection, talking and writing will unpack the group’s perceptions and behaviour when playing together. ”

    1. carandol says:

      Every culture has it’s ‘remedy’…..some times one has to get right out of the box 😉

  2. Davy Marzella says:

    Interesting post & comments on “internalised consumerism” in commercial gay ghetto

  3. Jamie Heckert says:

    Email, please! Letters to Aunty Bella are confidential. And, Soma is great. I’ve practiced a little and watched a documentary.

    Jamie x

  4. Pingback: Love Life (Sept) |

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.