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Books Chat

Bell Hooks

A chat with the Author of "All About Love: New Visions"

February 17, 2000
Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- bell hooks, author of "All About Love: New Visions", was a guest in the chat room on February 10, 2000, to discuss the nature of love.

bell hooks joined us in the chat studio in CNN headquarters in Atlanta, GA. provided a typist for her. The following is an edited transcript of the chat.

Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, bell hooks, and welcome to chat.

bell hooks: Hi.

Chat Moderator: Please tell us a little about your background and your book.

bell hooks: Well, I wrote this book because I was having all these arguments with my ex-boyfriend about the nature of love. I kept saying to him, "I'll find you a book," and I couldn't find one that said what I wanted to say so I said, "I'll write one". I've written 18 books, mostly dealing with issues of social justice, ending racism, feminism, and cultural criticism.

Question from Rory: Ms. hooks, in your book, you say that we should think of "love" as an action and not a feeling. Can you expand on that thought?

bell hooks: Rory, most of us think of love as having to do with feelings of attraction to someone and whether or not we feel happy with that person. But love is really more of an interactive process. It's about what we do not just what we feel. It's a verb, not a noun. So many people think that it's enough to say what they feel even if their actions do not correspond to what they are saying.

Question from SickOfIt: Ms. hooks, can we end racism with love, considering that the federal government advocates race distinction?

bell hooks: Certainly we can end racism with love. We can demand that the federal government change its emphasis on racial distinction. The greatest movement for social justice our country has ever known is the civil rights movement and it was totally rooted in a love ethic.

Question from Genie2_In_Love: Ms. hooks, do you think its possible to fall out of love?

bell hooks: I'm laughing at the question, "Do you think it's possible to fall out of love?" Because the kind of love I'm writing about you don't fall into. It's really about knowing and communicating so love actually deepens through the effort we make to get to know someone. A major part of love is commitment. If we are committed to someone, if I'm committed to loving you, then it's not possible for me to 'fall out of love.' It's possible for me to change the nature of my commitment, or even to break that commitment, but most people do not break that commitment when they make a covenant with someone else about love. The people I love, I'm committed to loving for the rest of my life.

Question from Genie2_In_Love: Ms. hooks, after 40 years of marriage, do you think its still love or tolerance?

bell hooks: That's why people can be together for 40 years or more than 70 years, like my grandparents, in a marriage or a partnership and still no love.

Question from Zephyr: Do you think we have lost the true meaning of "love" because we use the word too loosely? After all, we "love" ice cream, our favorite color, and a favorite movie. After that, saying we "love" someone doesn't seem so special.

bell hooks: Our culture has absolutely lost the true meaning of love because we have no shared definition. That's why the first chapter in this book is about defining "What do we mean by the word love". And I say in the book that love is a combination of care, knowledge, respect, commitment, trust, and openness. So when you have that kind of definition you can't say I love ice cream or I love inanimate things.

Question from Dane: What do you suggest if the sexual attraction has faded in a loving relationship?

bell hooks: One of the most controversial passages in "All about Love" is one in the chapter on romantic love where I say that people can have loving relationships long after they have sex. We would like them to, but in real life many people are in relationships that lack sexual passion where they feel deeply loved.

Question from Genie2_In_Love: Ms. hooks how is it possible for two strangers, which is what two people getting married are, to actually know if its love or just plain loneliness?

bell hooks: This relates to the question of strangers getting married, because if two people are strangers, they shouldn't be getting married. Since loving is about knowing, we have more meaningful love relationships when we know each other and it takes time to know each other.

Part of why we have so many breakups is that so many people try to legitimize commitments in marriage way too soon.

Question from SickOfIt: Ms. hooks, any secrets on how to love those who are hostile toward us?

bell hooks: We can love people that are hostile to us because many of us have a vision of the love community and the vision of community is rooted in the sense that all love is about interconnectedness. Central to that love is the question of forgiveness. Here I want to return to the civil rights movement in the United States, because it was so effective, because it urged people to value forgiving one's enemies.

Question from Bessie: Despite the Truth & Reconciliation Commission many of us in South Africa still find it very difficult to love those who in so many ways profited in our debasement. How do we reach a stage of loving those who have always represented the worst of our fears?

bell hooks: We reach a stage of loving those who have always represented our worst fears by working through fear. In Christian tradition we learn that perfect love is without fear. Knowledge is one of the ways that we conquer fear.

Question from Genie2_In_Love: Ms. hooks, do you think there is a fine line separating love from hate? Can it go either way, depending on a bad experience?

bell hooks: I don't think you can hate anything that you know intimately. There is no fine line separating love from hate because there's a deep chasm separating love from hate.

Question from Is: Ms. hooks, what love ethic do you see most heinously absent today?

bell hooks: The love ethic that's most absent in our culture and in the world today is the belief that we want the same well-being for the stranger, the person we don't know, that we want for ourselves. In a world where people are daily more estranged and alienated from one another, we need values like a love ethic to promote compassion.

Question from Genie2_In_Love: Ms. hooks, if there is no fine line between love and hate, then why do husbands kill wives and wives kill husbands?

bell hooks: Husbands, who kill wives and vice-versa, are not expressing love. Those relationships are usually power struggles. One of those most publicly documented relationships of domestic violence was the marriage of O.J. Simpson and Nicole Simpson. But clearly these two people were more engaged in struggling for power than with loving one another.

Question from Is: If we don't fall into love, what do we do to be someone filled with love?

bell hooks: If we don't fall into love, we come to love through our engagement with someone else.

Question from Steph: bell, you were great at Gloria Steinem lecture last week. Very funny.

bell hooks: I thought I was great at the lecture last week as well. And for those of you who weren't there, this was a discussion on love that took place at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. But I was worried that, because I was so funny, people wouldn't take me seriously. At that discussion, one of the big issues that people kept raising, particularly young women between the ages of 20 and 30, was that they didn't have time for love because they had to work so hard. Particularly woman who work in male-dominated fields. Like our host here in this chat room, she works in a room with all men. And it does take time to love. So when we talk about becoming a more love culture, we have to talk about changing the nature of work. That means that we might cure our unemployment problem, and increase people's capacity for love by having more job sharing, a shorter work day, and more pay for fewer work hours.

Question from Genie2_In_Love: Ms. hooks, as a Southern Baptist, I am supposed to be a servant to my husband. Do you think that LOVE can exist under this circumstance?

bell hooks: There is an aspect of service in all love, so the person who wonders, "If I'm a Christian and I feel that I should be a servant for my husband, can love exist", of course it can. But your husband should also be a servant for you. The best love is mutual. If one person serves only, then you're back in a relationship of power and domination usually.

Question from Bessie: Ms. hooks, one thing you speak about often is the absence of love in the academy. How do you think we can re-introduce this concept so that future students can see that the pursuit of knowledge is so inextricably linked with notions of love?

bell hooks: I believe we should have love in all our work places. One of the big places of work and learning in our culture is the academy, colleges, and universities. The true meaning of the word "intellectual" was originally to be a whole person and that included being a person capable of loving. It included a union of mind and heart. We need to bring that back to all places of learning and we do that by giving all those ingredients that make up love in the classroom: care, knowledge, responsibility, respect and commitment.

Question from BuckSeven: Ms. hooks, how do you feel about office romances?

bell hooks: Now, I'm asked how I feel about office romances. I want to go back to what I just offered as a definition of love. When two people are in a group environment and they develop a bond, they have to be very careful that they maintain respect for everyone in their surroundings. Usually, it's very difficult to create an atmosphere of mutuality of love in a group setting.

Question from Genie2_In_Love: Ms. hooks, do you think it adds anything to a marriage to have lived with your mate before marriage?

bell hooks: Now, I'm asked here about living with your partner before marriage. I read a study, recently, that suggests that more people are living together without marriage, and I think that all our love relationships grow stronger in a context of communalism. Often people who live together before marriage work at communicating and getting to know each other much more than people who jump into marriages.

Question from SickOfIt: Ms. hooks, how can you explain Bill and Hillary's "love" for each other when you take into account Bill's behavior throughout the marriage. Is this love?

bell hooks: There's clearly a lack of integrity in that relationship. His dishonesty, both to them and his civic dishonesty, suggests that he lacks the necessary self-love that is essential to being loving.

Question from Veritas: Ms. hooks, what I understand here is that loving someone is not the same thing as liking them, which is an emotional sentiment. Is this true?

bell hooks: Loving someone is not the same as liking them, because we can like people with whom we have no commitment, but love means commitment.

Question from Veritas: Ms. hooks, would you agree that love is not an emotion, but love can produce an emotion?

bell hooks: Someone is asking me again about love as an emotion, and we started our conversation by insisting, as I do throughout the book, that love is an action, not just a feeling.

Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with us?

bell hooks: Finally, I hope people will see "All About Love: New Visions" as a guide to understanding love. It stresses that all our loves are important. Romantic love, friendship, our love of strangers and community.

Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today!

bell hooks: Peace and love to all our guests.

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