Love dissipating hate - the life and death of Liu Xiaobo

I woke up this morning to the sad news that Liu Xiaobo had died. I recall hearing about this activist for the first time recently as news of the progression of his liver cancer spread and still the Chinese government refused to allow him to leave prison and receive treatment outside of the country.

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia
Photo by: Ng Han Guan/AP

The brilliant author and intellectual was abroad during the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests of 1989 and decided to return to his country and be part of the uprising, despite all the risks. He played a key role in being one of the "four gentleman" who launched a hunger strike in support of the students and then helped to negotiate a peaceful exit from the square for remaining demonstrators amid the bloody crackdown. This incident got him his first nomination for the Nobel peace prize.

Ten years later three hundred Chinese intellectuals and activists were poised to publish Charter 08, a political manifesto calling for peaceful political reform in China. Xiaobo had not initiated it, but co-authored it, gathered signatures for it and, say friends, volunteered to take the fall hoping his international fame would spare him too harsh a punishment.

On Christmas Day 2009, a strategic date chosen to minimise international media coverage, Xiaobo was jailed for 11 years for inciting subversion. In 2010 he was awarded the Nobel peace prize to which China's swift reaction was to place his wife, Liu Xia, a poet, under house arrest. She was isolated from the world, with no internet or telephone connection, in order not to be able to speak out about her husband and his condition. Still his in absentia acceptance speech for the Nobel, Xiaobo reaffirms his belief in love as the way to dissipate hate, and shows the expression of a forgiving and spiritually generous man, speaking kindly of the police, prosecutors and judges.

"I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity, including those of the two prosecutors, Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing, who are now bringing charges against me on behalf of the prosecution. During interrogation on December 3, I could sense your respect and your good faith.

Hatred can rot away at a person's intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation's progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation's development and social change, to counter the regime's hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love."

As the end of the 11 year sentence was coming closer, the final blow came. Xiaobo discovered he was terminally ill, diagnosed with liver cancer. Despite international pressure for him to be treated abroad, the Chinese government rejected all efforts even though they finally allowed international doctors to fly in to treat him. But it was too late. The government had already done it's part in silencing and contributing to the death of this brave man.

Even more moving than the compassion and respect he felt even for those who judged him and incarcerated him, was the love he had for his second wife, some of which can be felt in his Nobel speech:

"The most fortunate experience of these past twenty years has been the selfless love I have received from my wife, Liu Xia. She could not be present as an observer in court today, but I still want to say to you, my dear, that I firmly believe your love for me will remain the same as it has always been. Throughout all these years that I have lived without freedom, our love was full of bitterness imposed by outside circumstances, but as I savor its aftertaste, it remains boundless. I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning. My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight. I am an insensate stone in the wilderness, whipped by fierce wind and torrential rain, so cold that no one dares touch me. But my love is solid and sharp, capable of piercing through any obstacle. Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you.

My dear, with your love I can calmly face my impending trial, having no regrets about the choices I've made and optimistically awaiting tomorrow. I look forward to [the day] when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views ... can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist; where both majority and minority views will be equally guaranteed, and where the political views that differ from those currently in power, in particular, will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will spread out under the sun for people to choose from, where every citizen can state political views without fear, and where no one can under any circumstances suffer political persecution for voicing divergent political views. I hope that I will be the last victim of China's endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech."

Revolutionary Love

I first heard of Valarie Kaur when a video of her speaking went viral on Facebook, in the beginning of 2017. This Sikh American civil rights activist speaks of an era of rage, of darkness, of not seeing each other as we truly are - brothers and sisters. She speaks passionately and eloquently about the spirit of ever rising optimism and a call for revolutionary love.

If you haven't done so, watch Valerie speaking on the last night of 2016, soon after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. This video has had over 4 million views on Facebook.

Valerie Kaur founded the Revolutionary Love Project that offers calls to action, tools, inspiration, and support to fight for social justice through the ethic of love. She is also the founder of Groundswell Movement, ta multifaith online organizing community for social justice. Valerie believes that "Love is not just a feeling but an action. Love is the commitment to extend our will for the flourishing of others, opponents, and ourselves. When we love even in the face of fear and rage, we can transform a relationship, a culture, and a country. Love becomes revolutionary. The way we make change is just as important as the change we make. In this dangerous new era, Revolutionary Love is the call of our times." I couldn't agree more.

You can read more and become a part of this movement here and here.

Love Tunnel NYC

A few years ago a dear friend and amazing photographer, Ruvan, started a love installation. Every 14th of February, Valentine's Day, he puts up pictures on the wall of a subway station in New York. They are pictures of what he feels are representations of love - couples kissing, nature, moments of joy - and they intend on creating power and positivity through the appreciation of each other.

People who pass by are invited not only to observe these manifestations of love, but also to take a gift home: they are encouraged to take a print and keep it for themselves or share with someone they love.

by @bfeigon

by @bfeigon

Ruvan has been collecting pictures of people kissing for some time now. Last year he invited friends and family over to his studio to photograph them kissing for this very installation. My picture kissing didn't have the luck of being produced but I love the result of the spontaneous, messy kiss anyway ;-)

For its forth year, he decided to take the installation a step further. He's inviting photographers, lovers and humans to participate in the Love Tunnel by sending in their own photographs. All you have to do is to choose a picture that represents love to you, go to this link and upload it by clicking on Submit a Photograph. Your picture will be printed out and will become part of this year's Love Tunnel NYC installation. A simple gesture that shares love in times when we need it most.




Doctor Love

Leo Buscaglia was teaching in the Department of Special Education at the University of Southern California in the late 1960s when one of his most talented students committed suicide. Her death had a great impact on him, since the girl's frequent responses in class rested him assure that at least one person was paying attention to what was been said.

This incident made him reflect on the educational system and how "it is always stuffing facts into people and forgetting that they are human beings." One if the most crucial developments for Buscaglia was Leonard Silberman's book, "Crisis in the Classroom". In it, the sociologist and psychologist concludes that the American educational system is pretty good at getting people to read, write, learn math and spell. But it is failing miserably in teaching individuals how to be human beings. 

Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.

Buscaglia formed a non-credit class called Love 1A in which there we no grades, that he taught free of salary and tuition just so students could have a forum to consider the truly essential things in life. But Buscaglia said he never taught the class, only facilitated it, adding that he learned as much as anyone. The class would share their knowledge on the topic, based on the thesis that love is learned. Psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists have stated for years that love is learned. It isn’t something that just happens spontaneously. Buscaglia defended that most of us do believe it simply happens, and that’s why we have so many hangups when it comes to human relationships.

Buscaglia reflected "if the Educational Policy’s Commission meets to decide the goals of American education, the first goal is always self-realization or self-actualization. But I have yet to find a class from elementary school right on up through graduate school on, for instance, "Who am I?, 1A;" or, "What Am I Here For?, 1A;" or "What Is My Responsibility to Man, 1A;" or, if you will, 'Love, 1A.'"

It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play — without seeing the vital connection between them.
— Leo Buscaglia

His class on love was so popular and his talks so warm and compelling, that soon Buscaglia was a popular lecture speaker and guest on television talk shows. He wrote many books, such as "Love", "Living, loving and learning" and "Loving each other", and even managed to have five titles of his on the New York Time Best Seller List simultaneously.

But if love is learned, Leo used to point out that we can always unlearn and relearn how to love, and that there is tremendous hope of for us all.

The revolution is love

A must-watch.

I think love is the felt experience of connection to another being. An economist says ‘more for you is less for me.’ But the lover knows that more of you is more for me too. If you love somebody their happiness is your happiness. Their pain is your pain. Your sense of self expands to include other beings.
— Charles Eisenstein

Check out to learn more about Charles Eisenstein's ideas for a new economy.