Our cultural mythology depicts love as something that happens to us -- somethng we fall into, something that strikes us arrow-like -- in which we are so passive as to be either lucky or unlucky.  Such framing obscures the fact that loving -- the practice of love -- is a skill attained through the same deliberate effort as any other pursuit of human excellence.  Psychologist, psychoanalyst and philosopher Eric Fromm, in his 1956 classic "The Art of Loving," addressed the case for love as a skill to be honed the way artists apprentice themselves to the work on on the way to mastery, demanding of its practitioner both knowledge and effort.  Fromm wrote, "[t]here is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love."  Much later, Thich Nhat Hahn admonished that "to love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love."  The only way to abate this track record of failure is to examine the underlying reasons for the disconnect between our beliefs about love and its actual machinery -- which must include a recognition of love as an informed practice, rather than an unmerited grace.


    The first step to take 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.  The process of learning an art can be divided conveniently into two parts:  (1) the mastery of the theory, and (2) the mastery of the practice.  You master the art once, after a great deal of practice, you are able to blend in the results of your practice with theoretical knowledge to formulate your intuition, which is the essence of the mastery of any art.  So, why do people in our culture try so rarely to learn this art, in spite of obvious failures?  Perhaps 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 the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.

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