Episode 3

In the dark and all about love

The Secret Garden, 2021, Danielle McKinney
Following up from the last episode about the pineal gland, we continue the exploration of darkness - this time the psychological darkness of the mind. As much as we hate to admit it, it's one of our favorite places: we take ourselves into the dark to find things for our own growth.

Without darkness, we would have no definition of light. This episode explores that idea of dualistic "sides" and the illusion of lightness and darkness – in between which is healing. Later comes a passage from all about love, the much-beloved book by the late, great bell hooks.

bell hooks uses Erich Fromm's definition of love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." This definition of love is very different than defining it as a feeling, and might be of more use to use when we are trying to figure out what are loving relationships and what aren't.

Throughout the episode is music from Shane Mendonsa. Listen to the full albums here on Shane's Bandcamp.

You can also watch videos of how he makes his music on his YouTube Channel.

all about love, bell hooks



You’re listening to the track Lavender, produced by Shane Mendonsa and his lavender plant on the album Signs of Life: an artistic endeavor to revive our lost connection with nature and discover more about who and what we truly are. Herb Garden is a collaboration between Shane and a collection of plants from his yard. This series of vegetal compositions invites you to rediscover that connection with the plant body. 

What you’re listening to are the synthesizers, timbres ,and electronic instrumentation expressing the raw electrical data output from the plant. Shane tweaks some of the parameters, but the rest is all Lavender. We’re listening to a plant. Kind of. We’re kind of listening to it. We’re listening to the information of a plant.

One of the many sage things that clown guide Christopher Bayes teaches is that the song of life doesn’t repeat. I love that this music doesn’t repeat. Throughout this episode about healing and some of the slow songs of life, you’ll hear more of Shane’s music. If you want to see how this music is created, you can watch the really nice beautiful he’s made on his youtube. You can also listen to and download the whole album at shanemendonsa.bandcamp.com. 


Happy New Year. Happy Martin Luther King Day. Happy Insurrection Day. What? I mean yeah, but not that way. Like, yes, but no. Like we’re all in total agreement, but we completely disagree. Which is like, I hate this for us, the non-billionaires. I hate this for us. We’re fighting over straws when they have rocketships.

Which is why the focus is not on fighting a thing that you can’t win because it’s not a fair game. The focus is on nurturing new community energy, nurturing life based organic structures, nurturing biodiversity, nurturing that which comes from the heart outward; that which is obviously in harmony. Begin where you are. It always starts exactly where you are because that’s the only place you ever are.

Welcome back to 1-800-POWERS I’m your host Lex Brown. Preparing you for the dystopia which everyone is so hell-bent on creating, which we already live in, and finding a way out of it on top of it, rolling around with it, turn it into a silky ribbon and pull it out of a hat. It takes some finesse to see beyond the illusion.

So much to get into in this epi because because because. Everyone is going through it. We’re going to go in deep today. We’re going to go into the darkness now that it’s so dark. It’s dark outside, it’s dark inside. So let’s air it out. The sojourn through darkness. Through darkness, unease, uncertainty, loneliness, and continue healing through this season.

So last ep we talked about the pineal gland and how we sense light and darkness visually. Now we’re talking emotionally and psychologically. Light and darkness. We put so much meaning into lightness and darkness. It’s kind of the central theme, and this is why racism is so embarrassing and so painfully stupid. Because when an object is dark, there are fewer photons hitting it. When it’s light, there are more photons. The object has not changed. It’s just the energetic field projected upon it. So the notion that so much control and suffering is based upon a supposed physical difference is laughable Like the moon. Sometimes it’s black, and when it’s black it’s acutally the entire sky. Sometime’s it’s white and then you say ah there’s a discrete object. But actually all the time it’s both, its’ light and dark the whole time it just depends on your position. And it’s grey.

But this paradigm this duality of lightness and darkness, and of course healing is in between that symbolic spectrum, this paradigm of duality is central to us because we are dualistic. We don’t need any philosophy I’m just gonna say look everybody’s got two titties. Everybody’s got two nipples, two hands, two feet, two eyes, two lungs, two nostrils, two ears, two brain hemispheres and if you don’t have one of those or you’re missing both or you have three, you have mostly two of everything else. Willing to bet. It’s not the duality that makes us human. It’s the human that makes the duality. It’s this volumetric reality that makes lightness and darkness. And for those who are sight-free, let’s go warmth and coldness because both light and warmth are functions of radiation. Radiating energy. Sun. Sol.

K so we have this predisposition to translate things and assign certain meanings to lightness and darkness. Usually assigning negative things to the darkness. Like fear, uncertainty, not being able to trust, something sinister, trickery, evil. But the irony is, for all the things we fear about darkness we actually love it. That’s where we find things. That’s the cave. That’s the mind. That’s the primordial goo.

The thing about darkness that we have to remember is that we come from darkness. We come from and are in the cosmos. We all descend from dark skinned people. Soil is dark. That’s where things grow. Don’t hate where you come from. Woof. Isn’t that the whole story anyways. You gotta come back home.

Here’s a movie pitch I wanted to make last episode. The Odyssey, starring Omicron Johnson. He’s an American who was visiting Mozambique and he’s gotta get back the US. His name is actually Omicron Johnson, named after his dad’s HBCU fraternity Pi Gamma Omicron, one of the first black fraternities, true story, but because of the pandemic, and that his name is Omicron Johnson, he’s barred from re-entering the country of his birth, so he has to go on an epic journey to break back into the US. That’s a movie for sure.  He’s got to go the distance. And the distance that Omicron Johnson must go is equivalent to the lengths people will go to erase anything that reminds us of the cosmic darkness from which we originate.

One of my favorite things that Kenya Robinson talks about in one of her instragram lives is that we are as dark as space on the inside of our bodies. There’s no light inside our body. We are as dark as space. Isn’t that beautiful? That’s something to think about. Because then you can think about how everything is actually dark on the inside, beyond the visible surface. Everything is actually infinitely dark when light is not reflecting off of it. Like your couch, is infinitely dark just  beyond the surface you can see. And your books are infinitely dark, until light is bouncing off of them. Everything is infinitely dark except from the point at which light is bouncing off of it.

Y’all. Like look out the window and realize everything is actually a dark object. It’s just photons bouncing into your eyeball,  And if you’re blind you have a whole other level up of understanding. Because blind people can see without their eyes. That’s another thing. Racism, sexism, ableism it’s all so backwards that I can’t even. 


So of course, when it’s dark outside this time of year, and it’s cold, we’re going to meet the lizard brain. Because remember, from last episode that we actually have a lizard brain. And this gland that’s regulating the hormonal flow and our sense of light and dark is wedged right between the lizard brain and the higher, more logical centers of cognition and meta cognition. So I think something kind of weird happens when it’s almost like we’re going back and forth between these two brains: one which is very unconscious and concerned with heat, light, warmth, and energy and the other which is analyzing and feeling things. I think it has a tendency to make the darkness feel extra dark.

There’s lizards that can hunt in complete darkness. And there’s a part of us that can hunt in darkness and has the ability to find things in the darkness. What determines whether we get snatched by Hades down the river Styx, or treat this moment of withdrawal as a chance to heal, is how conscious we are of our relationship to the darkness. First and foremost that we are of darkness, things emerge from that which is occluded. And then to be conscious of our perspective on it.

I actually like the word position more because it helps to think about it spatially. In relationship to a situation or life cycle maybe it’s like the dark side of the moon. But nothing in life is flat everything has volume, everything has another side. Can you remember that there’s another side to everything? And sometimes that side looks completely different from the side you can see.

Now we’re talking about the beauty and importance of sculpture. The beauty and importance of sculpture in the age of crisis trauma and trash. Even crisis, trauma, and trash has another side and we have to remember that. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

The Covid era is very much true darkness, add in winter, add in your own personal narrative, add in your own rhythms in your household you might we going through a lot. But no matter how hopeless or uncertain or isolated you may feel, you can always always always have faith in life, in that which facilitates existence, and have faith in a fact that you are a part of life, and your personal is of the intelligence of universal life, that of the universe which is, factually, where we are.

The intelligence of life which heals the salamander’s tail or makes the leaves fall off the trees, or brings a new life into this world or takes someone out of it. It's all life, and you can always have faith in the cycles. Whether those are cycles beginning or ending.

To have faith in life is not to be naive about death. It’s just life is the name we give to this side. Death is not an end, it’s just an edge to an otherwise continuous volumetric entity. We get afraid of the other side because we literally don’t know what it is but we all know it’s there and it is promised to all of us, but we don’t know when, and we don’t know how, and we don’t know what it’s like over there. On the other side. There’s a curve that we can’t see beyond, or a corner, but it’s continuous to where we are now.

And the life cycle is essentially creative. It is generative. It is regenerative. And you can take the idea of this big life and death cycle to all the little life and death cycles we experience, coming out of that unknown. So even in the darkness, we are generating.

Even in this age of crisis, trauma, and trash – and winter. It’s really not all about what we can plainly see, or what we can plainly gather from the intolerable news report.

Part of healing is understanding the function of the crisis, because the crisis is a part of life and life is essentially generative. Big crises like mass extinction, sure, but mostly the small ones. The personal crises. Because the big crises are an accumulation of all the small crises that were never healed. That pain and that trauma was never processed, and properly decomposed, it was just dumped into something else.

We’re so frightened to go into the darkness and feel around and find the parts of ourselves that we discarded, or the parts that are still in pain. We’re so afraid to be left with there in the dark with our own pain and abandonment. And have to embrace it. Not like fuck yeah my pain and trauma is awesome. But embrace as in touch that part of yourself. Feel that part of yourself, accept that part of yourself is you. Hold that part, carry that part.

It’s scary to do that because we have to confront, then, the ways in which we left ourselves in our most painful moments. We fled from ourselves. And instead of holding, processing, decomposing the pain it was dumped somewhere else. Or there was some quick fix, an addictive behavior, a compulsion, or extracting that sense of peace artifically from somewhere else.

That’s what most of us do most of the time. It’s extractive emotional capitalism and it doesn’t work. Because life is more intelligent than that. It will put things in balance. It will not let you run from the crisis forever until you sit in the dark and recover what was abandoned and heal, and become conscious of the function of the crisis.

Healing is the necessary understanding of the process in order to grow. Healing doesn’t prevent future pain, future darkness, future crisis. It simply adjusts the perspective, the position, and it expands the wisdom. And healing really about creating a sustainable ecology within our selves. How will we really know what to do instead of extractive capitalism as an economic model until that’s no longer the way we treat our own selves. On the most controllable unit. One person that is you.

And this whole earth right now. Most people don’t know that. That’s why it’s so dark. The darkness of the times. Or let’s say the crisis of the times, to be more clear. The level of crisis. The level of global crisis is the direct evidence of the lack of awareness. The lack of awareness of oneness. The lack of awareness of the people’s power. The lack of awareness of the feminine. The lack of awareness of ecology. It goes on and on and on.

That’s why this is about capitalism, even if we’re not always talking about capitalism is because how is anybody even going to attempt to make a meaningful change in society, radical change, if you’re all jumbled up inside and you’ve lost all connection to the big context. How are you going to feel empowered? How are you gonna get in the streets if you can’t up off the couch? Which is most of us right now. We have a lot to do before we can do a lot.

So yes, healing is real politics. It’s power. It’s imperative. It’s constant. It’s not all at one time. It takes practice it’s a muscle. Healing is a form of intelligence which our society does not support.

So yes, I know some people take the word healing lightly like, in some weird misogynistic way, but if you don’t heal something you move towards death, and I know just went on a whole thing about how the end isn’t the end and it’s literally fine, but the whole point of being here is to try, so let’s give it an honest shot.


bell hooks, the prolific author, activist, educator, and poet passed away from kidney failure pretty recently on December 15, 2021. One of the things she spoke most often about in her long, incredibly meaningful career. is the transformative power of love. This excerpt that I’m about to read is from the first chapter of her 1999 book all about love. It’s actually most of the first chapter, it’s powerful and good to really cut it down. And it speaks to growth, to healing, and the reasons why it’s useful to have a definition of love.

Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word "love" is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb.

I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the word "love," and was deeply relieved when I found one in psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's classic self-help book The Road Less Traveled, first published in 1978.

Echoing the work of Erich Fromm, he defines love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." Explaining further, he continues: "Love is as love does. Love is an act of will-namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love."

Since the choice must be made to nurture growth, this definition counters the more widely accepted assumption that we love instinctually. Everyone who has witnessed the growth process of a child from the moment of birth sees clearly that before language is known, before the identity of caretakers is recognized, babies respond to affectionate care.

Usually they respond with sounds or looks of pleasure. As they grow older they respond to affectionate care by giving affection, cooing at the sight of a welcomed caretaker. Affection is only one ingredient of love. To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients-care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.

Learning faulty definitions of love when we are quite young makes it difficult to be loving as we grow older. We start out committed to the right path but go in the wrong direction. Most of us learn early on to think of love as a feeling. When we feel deeply drawn to someone, we cathect with them; that is, we invest feelings or emotion in them. That process of investment wherein a loved one becomes important to us is called "cathexis."

In his book Peck rightly emphasizes that most of us "confuse cathecting with loving." We all know how often individuals feeling connected to someone through the process of cathecting insist that they love the other person even if they are hurting or neglecting them. Since their feeling is that of cathexis, they insist that what they feel is love.

When we understand love as the will to nurture our own and another's spiritual growth, it becomes clear that we cannot claim to love if we are hurtful and abusive. Love and abuse cannot coexist. Abuse and neglect are, by definition, the opposites of nurturance and care. Often we hear of a man who beats his children and wife and then goes to the corner bar and passionately proclaims how much he loves them. If you talk to the wife on a good day, she may also insist he loves her, despite his violence.

An overwhelming majority of us come from dysfunctional families in which we were taught we were not okay, where we were shamed, verbally and/or physically abused, and emotionally neglected even as we were also taught to believe that we were loved. For most folks it is just too threatening to embrace a definition of love that would no longer enable us to see love as present in our families.

Too many of us need to cling to a notion of love that either makes abuse acceptable or at least makes it seem that whatever happened was not that bad. Raised in a family in which aggressive shaming and verbal humiliation coexisted with lots of affection and care, I had difficulty embracing the term "dysfunctional." Since I felt and still feel attached to my parents and siblings, proud of all the positive dimensions of our family life, I did not want to describe us by using a term that implied our life together had been all negative or bad.

I did not want my parents to think I was disparaging them; I was appreciative of all the good things that they had given in the family . With therapeutic help I was able to see the term "dysfunctional" as a useful description and not as an absolute negative judgment. My family of origin provided, throughout my childhood, a dysfunctional setting and it remains one. This does not mean that it is not also a setting in which affection, delight, and care are present.

On any day in my family of origin I might have been given caring attention wherein my being a smart girl was affirmed and encouraged. Then, hours later, I would be told that it was precisely because I thought r was so smart that I was likely to go crazy and be put in a mental institution where no one would visit me.

Not surprisingly, this odd mixture of care and unkindness did not positively nurture the growth of my spirit. Applying Peck's definition of love to my childhood experience in my household of origin, I could not honestly describe it as loving. Pressed in therapy to describe my household of origin in terms of whether it was loving or not, I painfully admitted that I did not feel loved in our household but that I did feel cared for. And outside my household of origin I felt genuinely loved by individual family members, like my grandfather.

This experience of genuine love (a combination of care, commitment, trust, knowledge, responsibility, and respect) nurtured my wounded spirit and enabled me to survive acts of lovelessness. I am grateful to have been raised in a family that was caring, and strongly believe that had my parents been loved well by their parents they would have given that love to their children. They gave what they had been given – care.

Remember, care is a dimension of love, but simply giving care does not mean we are loving. Like many adults who were verbally and/or physically abused as children, I spent a lot of my life trying to deny the bad things that had happened, trying to cling only to the memory of good and delicious moments in which I had known care. In my case, the more successful I became, the more I wanted to cease speaking the truth about my childhood.

Often, critics of self-help literature and recovery programs like to make it seem that far too many of us are eager to embrace the belief that our families of origins were, are, or remain dysfunctional and lacking in love but I have found that, like myself, most people, whether raised in an excessively violent or abusive home or not, shy away from embracing any negative critique of our experiences. Usually, it requires some therapeutic intervention, whether through literature that teaches and enlightens us or therapy, before many of us can even begin to critically examine childhood experiences and acknowledge the ways in which they have had an impact on our adult behavior.

Most of us find it difficult to accept a definition of love that says we are never loved in a context where there is abuse. Most psychologically and/or physically abused children have been taught by parenting adults that love can coexist with abuse. And in extreme cases that abuse is an expression of love. This faulty thinking often shapes our adult perceptions of love. So that just as we would cling to the notion that those who hurt us as children loved us, we try to rationalize being hurt by other adults by insisting that they love us.

In my case, many of the negative shaming practices I was subjected to in childhood continued in my romantic adult relationships. Initially, I did not want to accept a definition of love that would also compel me to face the possibility that I had not known love in the relationships that were most primary to me.

Years of therapy and critical reflection enabled me to accept that there is no stigma attached to acknowledging a lack of love in one's primary relationships. And if one's goal is self-recovery, to be well in one's soul, honestly and realistically confronting lovelessness is part of the healing process. A lack of sustained love does not mean the absence of care, affection, or pleasure. In fact, my long-term romantic relationships, like the bonds in my family, have been so full of care that it would be quite easy to overlook the ongoing emotional dysfunction.

In order to change the lovelessness in my primary relationships, I had to first learn anew the meaning of love and from there learn how to be loving. Embracing a definition of love that was clear was the first step in the process. Like many who read The Road Less Traveled again and again, I am grateful to have been given a definition of love that helped me face the places in my life where love was lacking. I was in my mid-twenties when I first learned to understand love "as the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."

It still took years for me to let go of learned patterns of behavior that negated my capacity to give and receive love. One pattern that made the practice of love especially difficult was my constantly choosing to be with partners who were emotionally wounded, who were not that interested in being loving even though they desired to be loved. I wanted to know love but I was afraid to surrender and trust another person. I was afraid to be intimate.

By choosing partners who were not interested in being loving, I was able to practice giving love, but always within an unfulfilling context. Naturally, my need to receive love was not met. I got what I was accustomed to getting-care and affection, usually mingled with a degree of unkindness, neglect, and, on some occasions, outright cruelty. At times I was unkind. It took me a long time to recognize that while I wanted to know love, I was afraid to be truly intimate.

Many of us choose relationships of affection and care that will never become loving because they feel safer. The demands are not as intense as loving requires. The risk is not as great. So many of us long for love but lack the courage to take risks. Even though we are obsessed with the idea of love, the truth is that most of us live relatively decent, somewhat satisfying lives even if we often feel that love is lacking. In these relationships we share genuine affection and/or care. For most of us, that feels like enough because it is usually a lot more than we received in our families of origin.

Undoubtedly, many of us are more comfortable with the notion that love can mean anything to anybody precisely because when we define it with precision and clarity it brings us face to face with our lacks – with terrible alienation. The truth is, far too many people in our culture do not know what love is. And this not knowing feels like a terrible secret, a lack that we have to cover up.

Had I been given a clear definition of love earlier in my life it would not have taken me so long to become a more loving person. Had I shared with others a common understanding of what it means to love it would have been easier to create love. It is particularly distressing that so many recent books on love continue to insist that definitions of love are unnecessary and meaningless. Or worse, the authors suggest love should mean something different to men than it does to women – that the sexes should respect and adapt to our inability to communicate since we do not share the same language.

This type of literature is popular because it does not demand a change in fixed ways of thinking about gender roles, culture, or love. Rather than sharing strategies that would help us become more loving it actually encourages everyone to adapt to circumstances where love is lacking.

No vehicle in our culture exists for readers to talk back to the writers of this literature. And we do not really know if it has been truly useful, if it promotes constructive change.

The lack of an ongoing public discussion and public policy about the practice of love in our culture and in our lives means that we still look to books as a primary source of guidance and direction. Large numbers of readers embrace Peck's definition of love and are applying it to their lives in ways that are helpful and transformative. We can spread the word by evoking this definition in day-to-day conversations, not just when we talk to other adults but in our conversations with children and teenagers.

When we intervene on mystifying assumptions that love cannot be defined by offering workable, useful definitions, we are already creating a context where love can begin to flourish. Some folks have difficulty with Peck's definition of love because he uses the word "spiritual." He is referring to that dimension of our core reality where mind, body, and spirit are one. An individual does not need to be a believer in a religion to embrace the idea that there is an animating principle in the self-a life force (some of us call it soul) that when nurtured enhances our capacity to be more fully self-actualized and able to engage in communion with the world around us.

To begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility. We are often taught we have no control over our "feelings." Yet most of us accept that we choose our actions, that intention and will inform what we do. We also accept that our actions have consequences.

To think of actions shaping feelings is one way we rid ourselves of conventionally accepted assumptions such as that parents love their children, or that one simply "falls" in love without exercising will or choice, that there are such things as "crimes of passion," i.e., he killed her because he loved her so much.

If we were constantly remembering that love is as love does, we would not use the word in a manner that devalues and degrades its meaning. When we are loving we openly and honestly express care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment, and trust. Definitions are vital starting points for the imagination. What we cannot imagine cannot come into being.

A good definition marks our starting point and lets us know where we want to end up. As we move toward our desired destination we chart the journey, creating a map. We need a map to guide us on our journey to love-starting with the place where we know what we mean when we speak of love.


That is just one tiny snippet of the book all about love which is the perfect read as we approach valentine’s day and it is unavoidable that we will contemplate commercial and conventional definitions of love and how those often don’t really work or speak to a real experience of love.

Thank you all for listening the next episode, which emerged as a part 3 because there was just so much to say is full of actual practical insights when it comes to healing from depression – loneliness, death, burnout, addiction, guilt, gaslighting, insults, apathy, and low-self esteem. If you’re ready to keep going even deeper that episode is there for you. And it’s there indefinitely to listen to whenever it’s the right time.

The questions for the episode are at the end of the next one. If you want to send feedback for this episode, you can send me email or to lex@lexbrown.com or you can DM me at @lex_brown_. Please share this episode if you found it valuable to you. If it touched you. And you value the labor.

Thanks again to Shane. His music is at shanemendonsa.bandcamp.com

Catch you in the next Ep - may the plants and the power be with you.

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