BOOKREVIEW#72 We, Love by Sara Black
After you have your heart broken truly broken once or twice, it gets easier to imagine bitterness towards love and romance. It becomes safer to tip toe around the debris of the past and to cling on walls instead of braving the view from the highest highs.
Here's a favorite Neil Gaiman quote on love, from The Sandman Vol.9 The Kindly Ones
"Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love."
Love is a huge deal to me. It is a strong uncontrollable emotion that is impossible to size up in words--so enter pictures. One of the country's premier photographers, Sara Black, recently launched her second book We, Love--an anthology of real life love stories made to capture how it is in our humanity to love, strongly, fearlessly, passionately--across borders and classes, and I was fortunate enough to have sat with her to discuss that glorious concept of love, in its many faces.
On putting We, Love together:
"I worked with two researchers in coming up with this book. You can't just get any story for the book. Every story speaks for something, as if they talk to each other where one story is there and the other is also there and they're woven into this tapestry," Sara said. "It's a person's life in the pages."
The book is a collection of stories of love. I asked Sara, how the process of coming up with We, Love began and she shared how the concept behind the book has been a flickering flame at the back of her mind. It features love stories from both prominent people and regular civilians--because isn't that one of the great things about love? It doesn't choose class and overlooks every superficial notions a worldly world can give.
"No matter what background we come from, we're all the same. The feeling of them explaining how they love other people, it's the same banana. It's so inspiring. When is there a force that can bind people that way? It's amazing. It may be what threads us together. Even before I did this, I didn't have a sugar-coated understanding of what love is, but now, it's more grounded on reality."
When I met with Sara late 2012, I held my tongue for so long cause I particularly wanted to launch this feature as a New Year's special, but realized there's not better way to share with you the magic of We, Love than against the sweet-romantic atmosphere of February, and against a background of the world's greatest love stories told. So I waited and immersed myself more, deeper into the emotion, until I find myself now, exuberant in sharing with you what Sara's We,Love project is all about. She's quite an empowered role model, and what better way to close this frantic month to begin a month-long celebration of women than her story of facing fears, shoulder to shoulder, with fellow lovers and their remarkable journeys towards love's uncharted corners.
We, Love then taught me the important sometimes forgotten facet of love, of how it can come in very different forms.
It can come as a regret, a desire to redeem lost lives, even chances (A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving); or as a love of craft, of the difference that make this world err, but with resonance (The World According to Garp by John Irving). If you ask me, my favorite is the slightly obsessive and always romantic type of love, one that is inspiring yet destructive in just one wrong move (The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie).
On venturing on writing We, Love, her goals:
"If you're a pastry chef and you're making macaroons every day, seriously, how long would it take before you go crazy doing macaroons? I don't think I really had any specific goal that I wanted to achieve. But We, Love is a really honest idea that comes from inside me that I wanted to release. I think creative people just have that burden sometimes. To be honest, I didn't do this for anyone, I did this for me. This isn't even everything that I have to give yet, I have so many ideas that I want to execute, and We, Love is one of the things that I just felt I needed to do."
When I was younger, I thought this life is about collecting the different forms of love, as if they're angel figurines you will display and leave to dust once you grow off your fondness. Then I experience the sweeping whirlwind romances of mid-life, and realized that more than collection, this life is about recognizing love's many forms. Love, is a very strong force, a ball of energy that we can never really hold a grasp of but will always be at the tips of our fingertips. It's the aftertaste of this world's strongest emotions. Simply, what I learned, is that when We Love, we become.
On finding beauty, in life:
"If you're keen enough to see beauty even in the ugly things, than that's one of the things that will tell you that your eyes are more sensitive to things."
On writing We, Love:
"You can't be boxed in your own world, and when I talked to people and showed them the early stages of We, Love, they felt they wanted more. And I can't really give it to another writer (the way I perceived their lives), the more people I bring in the more you lose the intimacy so I felt I had to write it."
The becoming of self is something very essential for me. And I draw inspiration from the people and the stories that make up the people I meet in life. I learn from their successes and I learn from their mistakes. The mannerisms I notice, and the flaws that make each individual a hint bit more memorable, these all settle down my throat as lessons and memories at the end of the day--and when it comes to love, lessons and memories play a very important role.
If like me, you cling into that appreciation of life, you would feel We, Love pulse through the pages. It's authentic, free from boundaries, honest and it's as raw as listening to the people shot in pictures tell their personal love stories themselves, to you. And with Sara's eagerness with life, there's a lot to expect upon opening We, Love's box.
On what makes We, Love different:
"Because I do a lot of commercial work, We, Love is the complete end of the spectrum. There's no client telling me what to do. There's not parameters telling me what's accepted and what's not. And you'd find that a lot of the stories actually defy convention, that will inspire you to look at life in a non-stereotypical way, and not care about what other people think. We, Love is more of that, defying social conventions."
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Before parting, I asked Sara to complete these sentences... and her answer was worthy of our notes.
We, Love because...
We, Love despite...
We, Love until...
"That's one of the reasons why I made We, Love, because I don't have the answers. It's these people saying their life experience. Seriously, in the process of creating this book, I learned ten years worth of life lessons and I'm a different person. I can't even touch the tip of the iceberg (of lessons). But I'm truly inspired by a lot of the stories. Most of the stories is about how one person is able to let go of their self centeredness and make another being more important than themselves. Sometimes, it sounds so simple, but it's the hardest thing. But if they can't do it, what's the reason that we can't do it?"
How about you? What's your answer to Love?
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