Throughout the ages, prophets, artists, musicians, saints and sages have espoused the importance of love above everything else. While it is said to be one of the most important factors in our lives, how often do we examine love in an attempt to understand how it affects us and our world? Cardiologist and professor Armin Zadeh does just this in his newest book The Forgotten Art of Love: What Love Means and Why It Matters.
By outlining the types of love, why we love, and love as an art, Dr. Zadeh lays a foundation for further examination of love in the world and how we can facilitate personal growth, fulfillment, health and happiness by understanding the various aspects and potential that love offers. Through the lens of psychologist Erich Fromm's classic book, The Art of Loving, as well as historical philosophers, biologists, sociologists, economists and historians, a comprehensive analysis of love is detailed for the reader to comprehend the vast multi-faceted nature of love. While the first chapters are devoted to a historical understanding of the concepts of love, the remaining chapters dive deep into the myriad of ways we connect, live and breath love throughout our lives. Understanding the vast landscape of love enables us to make sense of the tremendous role love plays in each of our lives.
Each chapter focuses on different aspects of love when understood enable us to live a happier and more productive life. A big concept of grasping this understanding involves moving our focus from an egocentric viewpoint to one of placing value on the well being and happiness of others. In the chapter titled "Love and Romantic Relationships", Dr. Zadeh notes that long lasting romantic relationships require a commitment to prioritizing love over other time restraints such as work, social contacts, personal ambitions and economic worries. By making balance a key priority, we are able to "keep a close eye on each other's contentment all the time" while also receiving love which is just as important. Five common ways of conveying love to a partner, as outlined by author Gary Chapman, are: words of affirmation, spending quality time together, offering gifts, performing acts of service and physical touch. Clear communication is paramount for partners to identify what makes them happy. "Focus, attention, effort, and communication are the fundamental principals that allow us to make our partner happy."
While philosophers throughout history have pondered love and the meaning of life with varying conclusions, one fact that is consistent with each analysis is "the belief that human suffering is relieved by achieving a state of selflessness, sometimes referred to as a 'liberation of the soul'" that allows us to "achieve peace by defeating our instinct for egotism." Each of us has the ability to experience profound love in our lives but only to the level we invest in it. Dr. Zadeh emphasizes the fact that "our success largely depends on how much effort and focus we are willing to expend. Love is not free in the sense that it may require as much dedication and focus as any other great aim in life. The good news is that we can have it if we really want it and are willing to value it over other goals. In other words, if we manage to maintain control of our self-serving impulses and concentrate on love, we will achieve happiness. Guaranteed."
"A Call for Teaching Love", is a chapter in which Dr. Zadeh brings our attention to the importance of educating our children in the aspects of love and personal development to prepare them for life. While children learn other skills to prepare them for life, such as history, mathematics, science and languages, the skill and art of mastering the principals of love are largely absent from our education system. By being prepared to deal with emotions and relationships, our children will have the ability and confidence to tackle societal pressures and stress in a productive way that will enhance and benefit their lives as well as those around them. "Children who recognize the critical need to love themselves and also accept love, without the need for external validation, are better positioned to face life," says Dr. Zadeh. By laying the foundation in every child to find love and mature into a loving person, the author emphasizes that "we can teach children that love starts with awareness of our actions and thoughts; that love is innate in all of us, but we must protect it against competing, self-serving impulses; that love is not a stroke of fortune but something that is under their own control; that anyone can attain love if they devote effort and focus to it."
In his conclusion Dr. Zadeh makes a profound statement for all of us to consider; "While love cannot explain the purpose of all life, it can provide the guidance for purposeful living. With or without the structure of religion, love provides the answers for a happy, fulfilled life." This book is a must read for everyone who values the myriad of relationships each of us has with the world and how we can thrive and grow in those relationships and have a positive impact on the world around us.
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