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Submitted by KimberlyBrown on Mon, 2/13/2012, 8:04am
Is love an art? Then it requires knowledge and effort. Or is love a pleasant sensation, which to experience is a matter of chance, something one "falls into" if one is lucky?
Not that people think that love is not important. They are starved for it; they watch endless numbers of films about happy and unhappy love stories, they listen to hundreds of trashy songs about love -- yet hardly anyone thinks that there is anything that needs to be learned about love.
To love somebody is not just a strong feeling - it is a decision, it is a judgement, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgement and decision?
The first thing we have to learn is that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art. Maybe here lies the answer to the question of why people in our culture try so rarely to learn this art, in spite of their obvious failures: in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power - almost all our energy is used for learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.
The first step is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.
From one of my favorite books, The Art of Loving, by the great psychoanalyst and sociologist Erich Fromm. I return to it again and again as a reminder that true loving is not a puerile emotion as fantasized in popular culture, but rather the greatest of all art forms and a skill developed and mastered with patience and care. Just as Buddhists learn to strengthen their compassion and lovingness by practicing Metta (lovingkindness) and Tonglen meditation, all people can learn to become better at loving simply by recognizing its importance and value, and making its development a priority in their lives.
I'm on retreat at Insight Meditation Society this week! Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!
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