Measuring Love: Discussing the Brown Paper by Shiree Teng and Sammy Nuñez
How do you measure love? Shiree Teng and her co-author Sammy Nuñez blow up the concept of evaluation as an attempt at precise measurement and an effort to find objective truth.
When my dear old friend and colleague Shiree Teng asked me to read a draft of her new paper entitled “Measuring Love,” I didn’t know quite what to expect but I knew Shiree well enough to trust her and eagerly plunged in. In this “brown paper” (to distinguish it from the standard “white paper,”) Shiree and her co-author Sammy Nuñez blow up the concept of evaluation as an attempt at precise measurement and an effort to find objective truth. They replace evaluation with the concept of “valuation.” It is a simple thing, but when you remove the “e” you find an effort to more fully understand and value the complex life-giving work being done in community – to measure the love.
It all sounds a bit woo-woo, they acknowledge, but then they ask: Why do we do racial justice work if not out of love? Isn’t it love of ourselves, our colleagues, our families, and our communities that drives us? Love of values we hold dear? Love of the worth of the work itself? Once we accept that premise – and who among us would reject it? – the argument unfolds beautifully, at the levels of rational thought, deep feeling, and spirituality, the three levels of experience Measuring Love urges us to consider and more, to use in our work. The default white supremacist culture we all live in prioritizes rationality above all, leaving 2/3 of the iceberg of experience submerged, unused. Shiree and Sammy ask us to dive deep, to see our work as the fully-engaging struggle it is, to be our whole selves, and in doing so, to change the world. That’s the power of love. Check it out.