Living, Loving & Learning: Book Review

Leo Buscaglia’s collection of lectures, “Living, Loving & Learning” is exactly what the cover describes– “The JUBILANT #1 Best Seller.” His deep knowledge of the human condition and wisdom of the human spirit create timeless lessons that ring just as true today as when they written back in the 70’s. His remarks resonate deeply, articulating things that reverberate as the universal truths that we all knew but somehow have recently forgotten. His vast intellect is apparent but is conveyed as welcoming, rather than off-putting– he makes it repeatedly clear that his intention is to create a space for the sharing and the offering of knowledge, not to preach from a stance of resolute, unreachable knowing.

In the first lecture, “Love as a Behavior Modifier,” he explains his idea of teaching; the responsibility of the teacher to connect with students on a human level in order to foster excitement about learning. He quotes Carl Rogers saying, “I don’t believe that anyone has ever taught anything to anyone.” Buscaglia goes on to argue this point saying “No teacher has ever taught anything to anyone. People learn themselves.” (pg. 7). This idea is the first taste of the underlying truth in all the following lectures, the complete ownership and responsibility over one’s own life and our subsequent inability to truly control anyone else.

We are our own entities with a duty to understand ourselves and our place in this world; we create our own destiny, we teach ourselves. The role teachers, friends, co-workers, parents is to help each other on this journey toward our optimal selves. To see each other as human beings, complete with flaws and unmet needs and places of shame and self-deprecation. To accept each other anyway. To know that we are all doing the best we can and that we all have the responsibility over our own lives to continue doing so. Buscaglia uses a beautiful passage from Zinker’s On Public Knowledge and Personal Revelation which ends with:

“I know only this: I exist, I am, I am here, I am becoming, I make my life and no one else makes it for me. I must face my own shortcomings, mistakes, transgressions. No one can suffer my non-being as I do, but tomorrow is another day, and I must decide to leave my bed and live again. And if I fail, I don’t have the comfort of blaming you or life or God.”

Buscaglia is a so-called “love expert” but as he illuminates in the “Speaking of Love” section, “everybody is teaching everybody to love at every moment.” His passion for learning supersedes his passion for love; inspiring the same tenor of curiosity amongst his audience. His sustained extolation of the human experience– ups and downs both equally included– allows his life to act as a model for the very concepts he teaches upon: exploration, acceptance, and unwavering compassion. A large emphasis in this lecture collection is his instance that “Your main responsibility, along the way, is to yourself. Because if you don’t feel that way, you can’t bring anything to anyone else. You can only bring what you have.” This imposition of agency over one’s own life is empowering. It also forms a guideline for all people to finally find the balance between taking care of one’s self and reaching out a hand to others.

I found this collection of lectures to be very inspiring and illuminating, circling some of the same themes my meditative practice has guided me to. Buscaglia is ecstatic to share his observations and anecdotes and his excitement carries off the page and into the reader’s own mind. His propositions always seem rational and his challenges appear as welcome encouragement. His range of references is also impressively expansive and I found his selected quotes to provide welcome contextualization and paraphrase of his ideas.  I learned a lot from this book and it is always useful to have such a pleasant reminder of these truths that often slip through the cracks of everyday grievances.

I want to end this review by including his plan for action as written in “Speaking in Love” which he entitles “A Start.”

“Each day I promise myself not to try to solve all of my life problems at once. Nor shall I expect you to do so….

Starting each day I shall try to learn something new about me and about you and about the world I live in, so that I may continue to experience all things as if they have been newly born….

Starting each day I shall remember to communicate my joy as well as my despair so that we can know each other better. Starting each day I shall remind myself to really listen to you and to try to hear your point of view, and discover the least threatening way of giving you mine, remembering that we’re both growing and changing in a hundred different ways. Starting each day I shall remind myself that I am a human being and not demand perfection of you until I am perfect… (So you’re safe)

Starting each day I shall strive to be more aware of the beautiful things in our world…

Starting each day I shall remind myself to reach out and touch you gently, with my fingers. Because I don’t want to miss feeling you. Starting each day I shall dedicate myself again to the process of being a lover, and then see what happens.”

Image sourced from: Artist: Gustave Baumann

4 thoughts on “Living, Loving & Learning: Book Review

  1. Your review gave me both goose bumps and a desire to learn more. Zinker’s statement called me to get back on the path, as I sometimes go ‘window shopping’ for more—that hurried greed before one can process and digest what was just read.
    Starting today…hmm, so many thoughts come to mind but your placement of this quote was a perfect time to begin anew, to remember, to listen to our hearts, to look outward and be open to our innate calling of being one—together, loving others as a reflection of loving ourselves. Your writing impresses me, Caitlin. You are becoming a writer to pay attention to. Kudos to you!!


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