Friday, January 05, 2007

The Wisdom of Love: Toward A Shared Inner Life

I received a review copy of this latest little book by philosopher Jacob Needleman in the mail yesterday. I had to smile in a wry fashion having very recently experienced the end of a relationship that I thought might actually have some legs to it -- but just reading the back of the book filled me with appreciation and clarity, as in "YES! That's what I want to be able to do with someone!"

Here's the quote from the back of the book.

"We think we can play with love, but we are mistaken. Love plays with us. It is far more powerful than we are, and if at first we seem to be fitting love into our lives, this is only love's way of smiling at us as we are drawn under its thrall. Lightly, ecstatically, we cross the bridge that love lays down for us. And soon enough we are fighting for our lives." -- from Chapter One

The back cover goes on to say:
Philosopher Jacob Needleman begins his exploration of love where others leave off. Our culture abounds with commentary on the blazing course of passion. But what happens after you fall in love?

Needleman suggests that for lovers, real sustenance is to be found in the cool embers of daily life -- and in the mature, sustained love whose deeper purpose is to support the search for personal meaning.

I can't wait to read this. Given that my most ardent romantic fantasy lately has been that I am an unwanted spinster in the Old Country and that my father arranges a marriage for me with a kindly widower in the village who actually appreciates my intellectual curiosity and penchant for books, and that he is gentle with me and that we live together in respectful companionship and eventually grow to love each other truly and deeply, you can imagine how hungry I am for this book.

This should be required reading for everyone in America. I think we're all poisoned on some level by the consumeristic mentality that tells us that there's always a "product" out there potentially better than the one we've got, including mates and lovers. It takes conscious and sincere effort to fight against this immature, pervasive and ultimate destructive worldview. I think Needleman's book can do a lot of good in turning our hearts and minds in the right direction.

As someone who is coming closer to ditching my own rather long checklist of requirements for PeaceBang's Ideal Dude, this book could become my new love charter. Perhaps Needleman will persuade me that the only real dealbreaker in a love relationship is the unwillingness to abide together in a spirit of mutual respect and emotional solidarity. Who knows? Maybe we don't all need spiritual, religious, and political compatability, a laundry list of common interests, sexual fireworks, similar earning power and financial prospects, the same level of energy for life, friends and family who get along, and similar taste in food and home furnishings. Hard to believe it, but still, maybe. Or maybe there's a middle ground in there that I and millions of other single people who would like to have a mate need to find.

Having only skimmed it, I can say that this should be in every pastor's library, and in every partnered person's personal collection. Read it with your honey for Valentine's Day with my blessing and appreciation for what you are daring to do in attempting sustained love* in this throwaway culture.

* Needleman's term, intended as a counterpoint to "romantic love."


Anonymous PastorP said...

I got the same book in the mail, and after struggling to find resources for an adult RE course for couples, I think I've found the very thing! I'm always skeptical about free books that come in the mail, since so many are schlocky spearitchul bs, but this seems like the real deal. Hurray for freebies!

Blogger Adam Tierney-Eliot said...

I am reading it and I like it. Which is too bad in a way as I entertained the Church Admin. with an extended monologue mocking it and all its ilk. Ah well, sometimes we are the fool...

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

I don't understand what the paragraphs on the back cover mean, but the rest makes sense. I like bell hooks book "All About Love," even though by the last chapters it starts to become redundant. Love is an act, she says!

Anonymous Mary Ann said...

That commodification-of-humans thing is one of my pet themes. I will certainly get the Needleman-- thank you.


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