Today’s topic was “love”. Although it may appear to be a simple and perhaps cliché topic for discussion, the word love can mean many things to many people. What exactly is love? How do we understand it? Do we have the same understanding of love, across countries and cultures? Is love always good, healthy, forgiving, kind? These are questions we had on our minds as we organized our couches and chairs into our usual circle and got ready to share ideas.
We started with introductions and then challenged ourselves to share the first word that comes to mind when we think of the concept of “love”. Some of these words were: balance, mystery, respect, LIFE, endless, mercy, forgiveness, balance, inter-dependence, passion, trust. We started sharing personal stories about love, whether it was our own or those of people we know. Love, we agreed, was something that all of us could be passionate about and discuss. We heard about two friends who waited for each other for 2 years until they decided to be together romantically. We heard about a girl who didn’t want a boyfriend and yet with time and patience, was convinced and won over. We heard about the love of our grandparents and how borders can’t control the force of love. We talked about marriage and the kind of love you want to hold onto for the rest of your life. The conversation started about romantic love- the kind that we as a mass culture seem to obsess over and perhaps be the most familiar with.

As we continued to discuss and dissect our concept of love, our conversation became intensified. We started opening up our ideas of love and discussing alternative narratives of relationships and connection. We discussed the love we encounter in friendships and how love can allow us to support and see each other in new and empowering wars. We discussed how in some cultures, men can be married to multiple women (polygamy). We started to discuss how different people have extremely different ideas about what is socially acceptable for relationships and marriage. Some people passionately defended these relationships and discussed how they are economically beneficial, culturally balanced and perhaps consensually agreed upon. Furthermore, they argued, where they do exist they are extremely rare. Others wanted to jump in and discuss the absurdity of these engagements and how marriage and families should include two partners, no more, no less.. interesting ideas! Next, we floated to another controversial subject, the subject of sexuality. We discussed how heterosexuality (between a man and woman) is the most common and globally accepted; however, how no one could deny the plurality of relationships, love and sexuality between humans. Homosexuality exists all over the world and seems to have always been a part of many many societies and yet there is a strong resistance, unfamiliar, phobia and even hatred towards these less-celebrated forms of relationships. We discussed the idea of nature vs. nurture in our sexuality and attraction. We discussed how many people face oppression, hate and discrimination because of who they love and/or are attracted to. We engaged in important, perhaps difficult and yet intriguing conversations about these sensitive subjects.

In addition, we continued to discuss the complexity of love. It became evident early on in the conversation that love was not as “cheesy” and touchy-feeling as we may originally think. Love is a concept that can be discussed, discovered, understand and experienced in many different ways. We engage and connect with each other every single day and we all experience love at some capacity in our lives. Love is more than just a bunch of words, love is action and intention and love is most definitely worth talking about:)

To conclude our time together, we looked to Han Sem Sun, for our final parting song. Han Sem has been a part of our conversation circle since we started and he has contributed exciting ideas and beautiful songs. Today was his last discussion group as he leaves this coming weekend. He offered his friends his teary gratitude for this space and the memories we all created together. There is no question that Han Sem will be missed dearly and that our group will not be the same without him- We LOVE YOU HAN SEM!

Thanks again to everyone for coming out and remember that questions and comments are always welcome! Also, we always welcome new ideas for our conversation circle and invite you to explore what topics you may find interesting to critically analyze and discuss!