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All About Love: New Visions (Excerpt)

Author: bell hooks for Harper Collins Publishers

The vast majority of books about love work hard to avoid giving clear definitions. In the introduction to Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of Love, she declares, “Love is the great intangible.” A few sentences down from this she suggests: "Everyone admits that love is wonderful and necessary, yet no one can agree on what it is." Coyly, she adds, "We use the word love in such a sloppy way that it can mean almost nothing or absolutely everything."

I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the world “love,” and was deeply relieved when I found one in the psychiatrist M. Scott Peck’sThe Road Less Traveled. Echoing the work of Erich Fromm, he defines love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Explaining further, he continues: “… Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action…”

When we understand love as the will to nurture our own and another’s spiritual growth, it becomes clear that we cannot claim to love if we are hurtful and abusive…. It took me a long time to recognize that while I wanted to know love, I was afraid to be truly intimate. Many of us choose relationships of affection and care that will never become loving because they feel safer.

To begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility. We are often taught we have no control over our "feelings." Yet most of us accept that we choose our actions, that intention and will inform what we do. We also accept that our actions have consequences. To think of actions shaping feelings is one way we rid ourselves of conventionally accepted assumptions such as that parents love their children, or that one simply "falls" in love without exercising will or choice, that there are such things as "crimes of passion," i.e.. he killed her because he loved her so much. If we were constantly remembering that love is as love does, we would not use the word in a way that devalues and degrades its meaning. When we are loving we openly and honestly express care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment, and trust.

DMU Timestamp: January 07, 2015 02:48





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