Labour of Love

Labour of Love
I have experienced the labour of love in many forms, it is an important part of any functional bond; the act of service, doing something for someone purely out of your love for them. For me, it has provided a sense of warmth and security, without words having to be said.

Coming from a society where community spirit has traditionally been so strong, labour of love is enrichingly entrenched. I also think that it is widespread as the sole expression of love for especially older men in Punjabi cultures. I used to think that that was okay, that it was enough for someone to show their love solely through acts, because people love in different ways, ways that work for them. Now I think it works neither for those that solely give such love, and those that solely receive it.

There is an old working definition for love, put forward by M. Scott Peck:

“The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”

It emphasises the will; it is a choice we make, but the will does not guarantee the act. How do we help those that want to love but struggle to in its entirety?

Whilst reading about men, masculinity, and love, in a 20-year-old bell hooks book, I came across an excerpt:

“a man cannot connect with others and remain cut off from his own heart. Intimacy generates too many raw emotions. Contending with them is requisite work for staying close.”

The foundation for complete loving is there; it just needs building upon. But what does this all mean?

For me, taking a step back to think how societal factors such as immigrating, having to constantly provide and protect, hardship, racism, and patriarchal masculinity, may have forced some older men in our community to compartmentalise in order to keep going is important. When this occurs, loving solely through acts of service is safe, and when you have experienced hardship, and developed what you have needed in order to contend with this, introducing a more vulnerable love feels foreign, unnatural, against the deep-rooted grain.

It makes one vulnerable, but it is necessary. It is the helping hand to achieving spiritual growth as Peck alludes to, and for this, it is never too late.

An evergreen challenge for our community will be how we can combat such societal factors that create compartmentalisation, better translate how important vulnerability is in all our relationships, and highlight the courage required to show it. Common critiques will touch on whether men can bare vulnerability whilst keeping that warrior mindset that can be so heavily linked to us; but the two do not have to be at odds.

It is a sentiment touched on by bell hooks in her book, where she quotes an interaction between therapist Terrence Real and a Masai wise man:

“When the moment calls for fierceness, a good morani [warrior] is very ferocious. And when the moment calls for kindness, a good morani is utterly tender. Now, what makes a great morani is knowing which moment is which”

I hope that calls for changes in how we approach love and masculinity in our community continue to proliferate, for me, these calls will always be accompanied by questions for myself about what the textures of these changes will actually be, how I can strive for them, and help those around me to do the same.

It is a labour of love unto ourselves.

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