Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory

2017 Edition
| Editors: Michael A. Peters

Alchemy of Love an Artist Praxis to Autonomy and Political Visibility

  • Sylvia Richardson
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-588-4_472



Either the world is so tiny or we are so enormous; in either case we fill it completely… . (Kafka, cited in Buber-Neumann 1989/1988, p. 56)

Love is an alchemic process that expands and evolves our wisdom through a mastery of awareness, attention, and intention that is single-minded in focus. I believe it is impossible to be in love and be in fear at the same time. Love opens our Imagination, is a gate to possibilities; what we believe is possible, we can create. All stories reflect the storyteller and where they are in their lives.

The truth is not in the story. The truth is in the power that creates the story.… When the voice of knowledge becomes the voice of integrity, you return to the truth, you return to love. (Ruiz 2004, p. 228)

What is love? “Love is a quest for truth” (Badiou and Truong 2012, p. 22); it forms and informs my epistemology, ontology, axiology and methodology of how I come to know my world(s). “Every head is a world…Your world is your creation, and it’s a masterpiece of art” (Ruiz 2004, p. 51). The multiple worlds we create: political, economic, cultural…reveal the affect of individual and collective imagination. An intentional path to being in resonance with a living world inspires a call to be attentive, a deep listening.

Stories are co-created in relational reciprocity – co-author – by the writer and the reader. We are defined by our stories of love, death, and rebirth. In the sharing of my stories I “witness a part of myself, the part that views the world as miraculous that is surprised at the chance of existence…., continually moving outward, gathering knowledge, and skills” (Leavy 2015, p. 110), a reflexive process of learning and experience…then returning inwardly to love (truth). Listening for, the titbits of knowing revealed in the daily rituals we adapt to, reject and or invite.

Remembering what we have forgotten we forgot.

LOVE Is the Golden Key to My Deserted Castle

My heart holds secret fires, sparked by a lover’s time-stopping gaze penetrating and revealing of my soul. The sensuousness of my lover’s voice across a crowded room; the tingling of skin provoked by a gentle kiss. The rupture that lingers after orgasm, amidst creased sheets, a private secret …at last is out. In the twilight, eyes reveal not so much the past, as the future struggle …the fear of the end. Is this love? In surrender to the impulse, the cobwebs from the mirror are removed, and my secrets revealed. The truth that lies within…

“Love is a quest for truth” what kind of truth? “truth in relation to something quite precise: what kind of world does one see when one experiences from the point of view of two and not one? What is the world like when it is experienced, developed and lived from the point of view of difference and not identity? That is what I believe love to be.” (Badiou 2012, p. 22)

We lived within multiple worlds, the world that plays out in our head – in memory or imagination, in speculation or interpretation – the worlds we imagine and worked to create. The heart is a marvellous muscle of memory and strength. A faithful guardian of the spirit (soul), courage is cultivated in adversity. My fear and courage are tested in those magical moments of coincidence, in the serendipitous encounters that birth new awareness.

Born to a world filled with violence, fear would not let me stand still… fearful of the unknown. I was a wanderer, clutching to my need for certainty in a world of uncertainty. I tried to convince myself that “life is what we make of it” and immersed myself in the daily rituals of subsisting, adapted to the busyness of doing, to the habit of getting by. And without warning I have become lost in the non-stop emergencies that plague the chronically poor.

To live with and open heart means that pain is no stranger, but wonder will be a constant companion. David Oldfield (cited in Badonsky 2007, p. 9)

I loved with fearful confidence that whatever the consequences love was worth the risks. There is never smoke without a fire…. Love is the alchemy that births us into being in awareness of each other, of ourselves, of our surroundings, into awareness of this perfect…temporal and fragile life.

Death… Do I dare love life, knowing life will end?


It was a perfect night to die.

The air was moist and humid inside the apartment, though the temperature outside was a comfortable 22° Celsius, the heat from the oven where his prized Sockeye stakes bake with a light batter of dill and mayonnaise (his secret recipe) had created a savannah like environment.

“Dinner is ready” his eyes anxiously awaiting my response to the first bite. “Yum!” exclaimed our daughter capturing his attention; her brother joined the chorus of praise that ensued. He waited with an anticipating smile as I exclaimed, “Honey, this is delicious!” Love is revealed in moments, simple acts of kindness, of appreciation… his face was luminous with love.

Love! Not just some passing moment a glance however open but some deeper compassion radiating permanency. (Vanier 1970, p. 38)

In the kitchen a mountain of cut fries remained.

After dinner, still in disbelief of his achievement, praise for his accomplishment continue… “Daddy you are a good cooker” said our son with a smile. We snuggled in front of the TV… “Did you turn off the fire daddy?” asked our precocious 6 year old to which he replied “I am still cooking”… “Why” she insisted, “we don’t waste food” he said firmly, and she smiled approvingly…

On this summer night, with bellies full, the heat of our bodies squeezed into the sofa bed, lulled by the nice breeze, scented air, and music played softly in the kitchen, sleep crept upon us all.

Feeling thirsty, I wandered into the kitchen half asleep,


What lies deeper than the moment? …

Standing inside the shipwrecks, inside the chaos, the golden key…. stillness, a single-minded focus. I see myself at last, “How naturally what’s needed comes from you, always.”

I remembered the fire extinguisher we had bought only a month earlier at a garage sale… “it’s brand new” the woman who sold it to us said smiling. She neglected to mention it needed to be pressurized for it to work. And we did not read the fine print.

The world have us pre-gown…life as a continuous running and never arriving…missing the writing (the fine print of life) I had adapted to a self-flagellating story marking stones in my reverence of being good. Freedom had eluded me in a state of non-stop emergencies….

Feeding myself a daily diet of shame and guilt, of “not having done enough” …, running to do more….

Poor people make an art of living, being alive in the moment was an artistic, existential and political act. “In politics, events are ordered by history in retrospect. But art is alone in restoring or attempting to restore completely their intense power. Only art restores the dimension of the senses to an encounter.” (Badiou and Truong 2012, p. 78).

There is always another story, beyond what meets the eyes…a breath, divided this gulf of life and death.

Love is an art of obstinacy, the miracle that brought us together, that scripted our lives into this particular family, and in this particular moment. Love, revealing and advancing a higher understanding of who am I, of who we are…what is worth saving of myself?

What is worth dying for?.


How can one word, inspire so much terror?

The smoke made it impossible to see 2 ft in front.

“GET OUT” he yells, our daughter was first to wake up as he picked up both children in his arms and began running towards the door. Her kindergarten teacher had conducted a fire drill only a week earlier and she seemed ready for this…“CRAWL DADDY SMOKE RISES” she tells him in a matter of fact way, with intermittent coughing. He ignored her requests but she persisted “CRAWL DADDY, SMOKE RISES” as he made it out of the building with both children in his arms.

“Why is the fire alarm not working?” without notice my partner returns to the building to knock on every one of the 12 units in the 3-level walk-up apartment building. A neighbour across the street had called the fire department on his cell phone. A crowd now gathered on the street.

The Fire Fighters truck’s sirens and ambulance lights were calming to my fears.

The fire trucks arrived shortly after. It only took minutes to extinguish the fire; but the apartment and everything in it was destroyed. “The fire is out, all of you but the family where the fire originated may return to your home” approaching us the chief said gently “The fire alarm in your building had been shut off, you are very lucky to be alive.”

No one spoke…

Inside the ambulance, the oxygen masks, distorted the faces and cloaked in silence. The scene was surreal; a caricature of our family, about to be devoured by the monster, FEAR. The uncertainty of the unknown silenced the screams that would be hysterical but for the disbelief of what had just happened.

A stranger’s voice interrupted the silence. “I need to know who was exposed to the smoke the longest” said the ambulance attendant. “It was me…” said my partner removing his oxygen mask “I went back to knock on my neighbors’ doors…” I looked up lovingly and filled with pride, acknowledging the risks he had taken.

The ambulance attendant seemed unmoved by his heroics.

Pulling a syringe from his first aid kit, he approached him and reaching towards his arm said, “I will need a blood sample from you then… to check for carbon monoxide in your blood.” Afraid of needles since childhood (a secret he would rather keep to himself) his pupils grew wide but his usual wit returned with lighting speed “actually it was my son…” pointing to our 5 year old being cuddle in my arms.

We burst out laughing aware of his mischief. “I guess you won’t be cooking again, hah daddy” our daughter interceded looking at him with a sweet smile and everyone joined in the laughter that was now contagious. Beneath the thorn of disappointment, a wide-awake, exhilarated, and heart-pumping feeling of sensuous awareness (as when you are in love) consumed me.

We spent the night at the hospital.


…In the morning light, the apartment seemed magical.

I remember covering the walls of our apartment with royal blue, paisley patterned wallpaper (purchased at 80% discount) “the discolored patches add an aesthetic quality to the pattern.” I insisted trying to convince him that our purchase (which was not refundable) had been wise, “it’s beautiful” and “authentic” … I insisted as I tackled hand-made curtains to the wall.

Accustomed to life’s imperfections (inequality) and coincidences of fate (injustice), the ironies became epiphanies to my willing youthful heart. What is a home? … a sanctuary of unanswered prayers for the marginally employed (chronically poor), a co-creative hub where bill payment strategies were achieved through intentional ingenuity of living.

A home is filled with symbols that defining a shared space, the ordinary objects imbued with the essence of life in this particular family, our particular story. Even the patchy papered walls had been imperfectly beautiful…

A home is filled with heart secrets; the walls were faithful confidants embracing the laughter, tears, dreams, and longings shared out loud, the sounds of awe and wonder in conversations shared, and now imprinted in their smoke scented planes.

Love is revealed in daily rituals of living,… designed by necessity and ingenuity. The deepest desire we share is that of connection, free to be fully ourselves, to risk and create…revealing ourselves in our stories.

“Are we poor?” our daughter asked one day as we walk home from school fixing her brown eyes upon my partner’s blue eyes, the way she looked at him when she wanted a straight answer.

He felt his heart leap to an accelerated rhythm, moved by her intensity.

Then, as if prepared for this inevitable moment he replied:

“Not at all!… We are Hundredners!”

and opening his wallet he produced two banking cards…

“look we even have two bank accounts” (he neglected to tell her, both accounts were overdrawn).

She smiled and happily skipped the rest of the way home.

He winks at me and approaches my ear as if to plant a soft kiss, then whispers…

“We won’t always be so poor.”

The daily habits of getting by, loving, sharing our lives, making a sacred ceremony of life itself, celebrating our infinite subjectivities, carrying the sun in a golden cup, singing, dancing…Inventing worlds, and words to describe our world.

Co-creating abundance by embracing simplicity of life, the lightness that comes from having few things, creating a habit of defining needs as wants and declaring them “non-essential”. Looking for the magic of life, in the daily nuanced ways of mitigating the fear of hunger, homelessness, marginal employment, and poverty enduring wages, in a wealthy nation.

We choose connection with our world when we choose the ability to respond and take action. True freedom is the ability to choose one response over another. The beauty of life experiences is that while we cannot undo what is done, we can succeed it, understanding it, learn from it, and change, so that every new moment is spent not in regret, guilt, fear, or anger but in wisdom. Standing at the cross roads of doubt (fear) or courage to surrender. Lived experience had taught me I can choose to stay prisoner of my regrets and sadness, re-living each painful detail of the fall, which only brings more suffering… immersed in the waters of my failed expectations.

A life is made up of promises, of dreams, and of longings and memory. The ontological being-ness of my soul is my physical body; these memories captured in photographs, the objects I surround myself with allow the world to see into me, to know me.

A campfire scent permeated the air… announcing the death of simple things. Love is a spiritual awakening, when we love we pour ourselves over the object of our affection like water on parched earth, a freedom envelopes the lover with limitless resources and resourcefulness and no fear of running out. In love, we become the reservoir of love…. “Love is an essential project: to construct a world from a decentred point of view other than that of my mere impulse to survive or re-affirm my own identity” (Badiou and Truong 2012, p. 25).

Amidst the ashes, we found rebirth.

In the ashes of what was, lovers risks creating again….

LOVE’s Alchemy is LIFE

Art reduced to its simplest expression, namely, love. Andre Breton, (cited in Badiou 2012, p. 80)

Time takes shelter in a silent obscurity, without roadmaps we are free to wonder new worlds and when old words die out, and familiar paths are lost, new ones are revealed to the open hearted. Becoming present to our rituals of relating to ourselves, to other peoples, and to our surroundings. Love invites a new script of living that disrupt individualistic competition and power with an embodied, relational, and located subjectivity that is interdependent.

To hope is to risk despair.

To try is to risk failure.…

The greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

Only a person who risks is free.

(Author unknown, quoted from “The Psychology of Courage” 2010, p. 112)

Love’s nuance affect, confronting tropes of authority with a collaborative ethos of decentralized power, committed to open spaces for those silenced (by economic, political, and social exclusion…). Connection is our deepest desire and need for survival.

Love is always the possibility of being present at the birth of the world. (Badiou and Truong 2012 p. 26)

Love stories, written in moments of embodied symbolism that birth new categories: woman, mother, journalist, artist, … each locating and displacing within geographies of power, revealing the multiple layers of objectification that must be overcome on the path to liberation from a colonial, anthropocentric, market-oriented world, mechanized way of seeing without presence.

The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alteration of old beliefs (Dewey 1966/1963).

We create the world each day, with each action we take or fail to take. The journey of self-awareness is never ending. In the fire, there is life. I am the artist of my life, as I grow in awareness of my own inner wisdom and surrender to my heart’s sensuous calling: to love with earnestness and strength… inviting joy, playfulness, curiosity, and wonder to each moment. Being open hearted is to be willing to risk, to embrace the unknown, and see possibilities where others see dead ends.

Artists make a small thing big, allowing expansion form the inside out…tapping into experiential wisdom attempting to include the nuanced beauty, love, and hardship of life into a canvas, a poem…a story. Weaving the Ontology, epistemology, methodology, axiology into an interdependent circular process, forming and informing each step; shaping a praxis of autonomy and political visibility. Revealing ourselves in our process of knowing and how we come to know what we know. Rather than compartmentalize each, research can be embrace as a “Ceremony of Relationality” (Wilson 2008 p. 70).

Our stories make visible the worlds we live in and within; narrative represents, constitutes, and shapes social reality (Bruner 1987, 1990, 1991), as authors of our stories we come to know ourselves and create meaning of the world (Bruner 1990). Story telling is a way of knowing, revealing “reality and knowledge as socially constructed” (Etherington 2010, p. 75), exposing the positionality of power and knowledge as situated within contexts and embedded within historical, cultural stories, beliefs, and practices.

To love is to be willing to die to our old habits of thinking and risk being in awareness of the our feelings, surrendering our private fear of failure with compassion and courage to start again…honouring the courage and love of self and others we are manifesting every time we get up from a fall.

Everything is relationships. The ontology (what is real) and epistemology (beliefs systems of how we come to know what we know) are grounded upon a process of relationships that form a mutual reality, each informing and forming the other. The axiology and methodology are grounded upon maintaining responsibility (ethical accountability) to these relationships.

What is truth is real.

Love is real.

It is the supreme expression of life. Don Miguel Ruiz, a Toltec Wisdom Book “The Voice of Knowledge”.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arts EducationSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Tina Besley
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand