||| the blues note, the good tinged with the sad |||
Image by MoMo Productions/Getty Images, All Rights Reserved
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When I was fifteen, I made a new group of friends. I met them one weekend at a summer youth festival. Some friendships take a minute to form and last years. These were those friendships. Life saving.
I’m lucky, I know, because those friendships lasted. I can’t count the amount of phone calls, camping trips, long walks, all nighters we had.
Our favorite game was talking about how messed up our parents were. It was almost a competition. Someone said, “My parents don’t sleep in the same room,” someone else said, “My parents were forced into marriage.” Someone else told a story of moving between two homes. Someone else told another story. We could discern and diagnose with devastating clarity.
It wasn’t all youthful disdain. Some of us had serious issues at home, and those friendships were a salvation. But even in that, there was an idea of what love should look like: safe, yes, but tidy? No. Love is always messy.
Love — especially the messiness of love — is at the core of the episodes from On Being and This Movie Changed Me this week. In On Being, we’re re-visiting Krista’s conversation with Alain de Botton, one that over and over again returns to the fact that love — whether in couples, or families, or friendships — is true and hard work. Love is patient and kind, we read, but patience and kindness only emerge in situations where patience and kindness are tested.
Alain de Botton reminds us that one of the true works of love is learning: learning about the one we love. And for this, he says, we need a capacity for conflict within our lives of love. Conflict is the place where we can learn what is going wrong, and — if we do the work — find out what can be done to fix it; what gestures, what questions, what approaches to take toward the one who we love, but who is driving us round the twist.
Krista and Alain discuss flirtation and sex, and Alain suggests that at the heart of both of these is the possibility of reminding a person that they are attractive, accepted; that being turned on is an experience of the self, continuous with many other parts of our lives. Krista and Alain put words like love and loneliness alongside each other. They populate conversations about coupledom with words about singleness and connectedness and friendship. True love is not conflict free love, Alain de Botton says, and this conversation elevates the messiness of our lives of love richly.
In this week’s This Movie Changed Me, host Lily Percy speaks with the poet Danez Smith about Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s book The Color Purple. Their wide-ranging conversation — which includes Danez reciting two of their poems — considers the movie, as well as Walker’s book. Love is at the center of the movie, and attempts toward love — messy sometimes — are seen in the characters of Celie, Sophia, Shug, Nettie and Mister. Danez speaks about how “the blues note, the good tinged with the sad; and the sad always finding its way to jubilee” is throughout this movie, the only one they keep downloaded on their computer.
For Danez Smith, The Color Purple is a movie to watch and rewatch, a way to check in on your old pains and ghosts. Love, we hear, is a complicated thing, and complications are part of what makes a whole life. And that work is good. “It feels like I’ve been crying at this movie my whole life,” says Danez, “and I’m so glad that I get the opportunity to bask in this thing that teaches us so much about how to make a good story, how to write good work.”
In all your loves, we send you respect and fortitude, courage for the language needed, and joy amidst demands.
Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry Unbound
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This Week at The On Being Project
Our Latest Episode
On Being with Krista Tippett
Alain de Botton
"The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships"
Love as a skill, not just an enthusiasm. “So often we blame our lovers; we don’t blame our view of love...It’s simply not rooted in anything we know.”
This Movie Changed Me
“The Color Purple”
The transformational power and beauty of watching a Black woman’s life — from beginning to end — in the movie adaption of Alice Walker’s classic novel.
Work With Us
We're excited to share three current job opportunities. We're hiring a Senior Producer for On Being, Associate Operations Manager, and an Executive Assistant to Lucas Johnson, EVP of our Civil Conversations & Social Healing team. Detailed job postings can be found here.
Watch | The Esther Perel Love Lexicon
Esther Perel is a therapist who has changed our discourse about love, sexuality and coupledom. Her wisdom often shines through the language she uses to navigate the human theater of love and relationships. We collaborated with Carissa Potter from People I’ve Loved to compile an illustrated lexicon of some of the terms she uses in her On Being interview, from “erotic intelligence” to “play.”
Play | Florence
My recommendation is (maybe) our first ever Play rec: specifically, this beautiful mobile game called, “Florence.” Florence tells the story of Florence Yeoh, a young woman who feels stuck in the routine mundanities of her life. One day, she meets and falls in love with Krish — and things change forever. Told through a wordless narrative, with gorgeous music and art to accompany its simple gameplay, this game will have you crying in gratitude by the end. Florence is available on iPhone and Android. – Gautam Srikishan, producer
Listen | a note on the body by Danez Smith
As part of this week’s TMCM episode about The Color Purple, Danez read two of their powerful poems that felt kindred to the conversation: “a note on the body” and “waiting on you to die so I can be myself.”