Love is Subversive- Written for Varal do Brasil

“ Love is subversive”


It was what I thought  when I finished reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez “Love in the Time of Cholera”. Florentino lived stories where he was never present, waiting his whole life for a childhood love. In Colombia of the book, it was only possible when the flag separates them from it all, the flag of the Cholera. Because Cholera is contagious, and love could only exist in this way contained in a boat in a river because in society it corrupts everything. It corrupts all the visions.

This thought came to my mind a thousand times. Every single time that I have been to violent places. Every single time when I have been to very developed places. Why is it that love is so difficult?

In my whole life I have searched to give love to so many people in so many places. There was however always a point that I left. It was because the love that I searched to rescue me from myself, could not do it. Love made me vulnerable. It was because love was missing inside of me.

Love collapses something from which we are not prepared for Ideas versus the body. We feel love or some form of it in our body and we think about it in some other way.

I feel that love is compassion. Compassion is to understand what Asians philosophers; religious men, sociologists and many others have touched the idea that we are all of the time individuals in a plural world. Love collapses separation from the other. Love is human.

And as has Victtorio Arrigoni, the Italian activist killed in Gaza, said, we must stay human.

When I crossed the wall of separation in Israel, to get to the West Bank, (against the will of my friends) I, for the first time, met Palestinians. At the time I already used to write the stories of the people I met around the world. From Palestine I wrote about my daily life.

One day an Israeli philosopher with whom I was supposed to meet and kept postponing because I kept staying everyday one more day in the West Bank, sent me a text message saying he wished he could see what I was seeing.

I offered to send him the emails I had sent to my friends and within hours he sent me a text message saying,

“I cannot see you anymore”.

I asked him whether it was because of what I had written in my emails and he agreed. I was intrigued since I had not written anything about the occupation or the politics. I called him and he explained to me he did not know why it was so difficult. I insisted, after all he was a philosopher that was his job to make something familiar, strange.

“It is too human”.

It was difficult for him to say this. I was thankful. He followed by saying: “had you written about the occupation or the politics, I would have understood. I could have agreed or disagreed, I am prepared for that. But when you write about yoga or love or how they take care of you like we do here, it is too human”.

That day I went to Jerusalem to talk to him. I have never seen him again. But that has remained in my mind forever. When I write about the Human, I collapsed all separations, all of them.

And there is nothing more human than love, collapsing the mind versus the body dichotomy. It is very difficult to deal with all the confusion that comes from the enormous vulnerability of love, of being human of not being separate from the other, the others.

In Colombia, not along ago, I met a man from Gaza. He has a bar/restaurant in Taganga, (a fishermen village by the Tayrona Park). It was his way for fighting for Palestine: serving food.

In front of his cafe/restaurant, there were drawing of Handalas and “revolucion” written on the wall.


Handalas is a cartoon. He is the most famous character by the Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al Ali. Handala is depicted as a ten year-old boy, the figure has turned his back to the viewer, and has clasped hands behind his back.

He has always his back turned to the viewer and hands clasped because Naji Al Ali was critical of both Israeli and Arab leaderships. He rejected all peace solutions that came from outside.

It is different in Colombia. When I arrived in Taganga, I first saw the Palestinian flag, and then the Revolucion written in the wall and then the Handalas. I introduced myself to Yassert, the owner of the cafe/restaurant as someone who loves the Middle-East and who has friends in both sides of the wall.

I went back to Yassert’s cafe every single day. I went back to hear his story, to drink his coffee, and to see his son, he had become a friend.

Right on the first day I had been there, I went back to my hostel and decided to research more about the character Handala. I read why he had clasped hands. He refused help of the outside world.

I immediately remembered that there in Colombia the Handalas painted in the restaurant of a man who had fought in the Intifada, who had been released by the Red Cross, held hands in a massive hug. I remembered that one carried a key, the other a weapon; one had a sling shot downwards. All carried by their shoulders.

I disliked seeing a weapon. I however, when I read that Naji al Ali had made them in clasped hands and separated, with their back to the viewer, felt relief. There in Colombia they held each other. There is one who carries a weapon in his shoulder, but his arms and hands supports the other. The neighbour.

I looked back on my mind, to remember that the WORD Revolucion was written differently as well. There was the word LOVE in the middle backwards. It was in bright red letters. There where love was so subversive that was kept in a boat, a man who had fought in an Intifada, serves food. He fights for his cause with his restaurant, feeding people, bringing those who are willing to talk to talk.


And in his wall Handalas hug and the biggest word is LOVE.

Love, is subversive, but has not been contained by the boat of Florentino. Love is human. With all it perfect imperfection. And Vittorio Arrigoni, italian activist who was killed in Gaza, knew that.

I have been sometimes disturbed by activists who seem to all fight their own ghosts in other places. The same thing I have done myself in so many places in the world.

That day, someone I love, showed me for the first time Vittorio’s blog. His main message was “Stay Human!”

To love is to remain human. With the weapons, the cameras, and the fears. Love is subversive because it forces us to stay. It collapses all divisions.

So from Colombia, from Taganga, I thanked the universe, humans, god…. that cholera had been contained, but not love. Love exists in every part we allow it to be. That might be the path: to allow it to be in its full humanity, in all its perfect imperfection.

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