(Excerpted from chapter one of The Art of Loving)
an art? Then it requires knowledge and effort. Or is
love a pleasant sensation, which to experience is a matter of
chance, something that one "falls into" if one is
lucky? This little book is based on the former premise,
while undoubtedly the majority of people today believe in the
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.
particular attitude is based in several premises which either
singly or combined tend to uphold it. Most people see the
problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather
than that of loving, of one's capacity to love. Hence
the problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable.
In pursuit of this aim they follow several paths. One, which
is especially used by men, is to be successful, to be as powerful
and rich as the social margin of one's position permits.
Another, especially used by women, is to make oneself attractive,
by cultivating one's body, dress, etc. Other ways of making
oneself attractive, used by both men and women, are to develop
pleasant manners, interesting conversation, to be helpful, modest,
inoffensive. . . . what most people in our culture mean by being
lovable is essentially a mixture between being popular and having
premise behind the attitude that there is nothing to be learned
about love is the assumption that the problem of love is the
problem of an object, not the problem of a faculty.
People think that to love is simple, but that to find the
right object to love -- or to be loved by -- is difficult. . . .
to a vast extent people are in search of "romantic
love," of the personal experience of love which then should
lead to marriage. This concept greatly enhances the
importance of the object as against the importance of the function.
error leading to the assumption that there is nothing to be
learned about love lies in the confusion between the initial
experience of "falling" in love, and the
permanent state of being in love, or as we might better
say, of "standing" in love. . . . people take the
intensity of their infatuation, the being "crazy" about
each other, for proof of the intensity of their love, while it may
only prove the degree of their preceding loneliness.
attitude -- that nothing is easier than to love -- has continued
to be the prevalent idea about love in spite of the overwhelming
evidence to the contrary. There is hardly any activity, any
enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and
expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love. if
this were the case with any other activity, people would be eager
to know the reasons for the failure, and to learn how one could do
better -- or they would give up the activity. Since the
latter is impossible in the case of love, there seems to be only
one adequate way to overcome the failure of love -- to examine the
reasons for this failure, and to proceed to study the meaning of
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.
be that only those things are considered worthy of being learned
with which one can earn money or prestige, and that love, which
"only" profits the soul, but is profitless in the modern
sense, is a luxury we have no right to spend much energy on?