Originally posted August 27, 2018
Your first impulse after reading this quotation may be to disagree with it. You may believe that it’s just not true. That a lot of true learning takes place without any resulting change.
But all quotations have a context. And all quotations have a primary meaning.
We do a disservice to a quotation when we try to make it say more than it was meant to say. This quote by Leo Buscaglia is a good example.
But first, who is Leo Buscaglia?
Leo was an original
In my opinion, Leo Buscaglia was an original. Professor, motivational speaker, philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist in one package.
He was born in Los Angeles, California in 1924 into a family of Italian immigrants. He spent his early childhood in Italy before going back to the United States for his education.
Earning three degrees from the University of Southern California, Leo eventually joined the USC faculty.
While teaching at USC, one of his most talented students committed suicide, having shown no signs of her despair.
It so shook Buscaglia that it led him to contemplate the underlying reasons for human disconnectedness and the ultimate meaning of life.
Not long after, he offered a non-credit course at USC called, Love 1A. A class size of 50 was anticipated. 600 signed up. It became a favorite at the school.
He taught the class free of salary and tuition. His goal was for his students to learn the essentials of life, and what mattered most.
Leo was known by various titles including “Dr. Love,” and “Dr. Hug.”
He gave hundreds of love lectures, which usually started with an hourlong talk, and ended with three hours of meeting, greeting, and hugging members of the audience.
Buscaglia became so associated with his spontaneous embraces that he could hardly walk down the street without having a stranger come up and give him a hug.
Buscaglia would go on to write 15 books, five of which were on the New York Times Best Seller list at the same time. His books sold more than 11 million copies.
Love is the essence of life
I don’t believe Leo was suggesting that everything we learn results in a change in our behavior.
We learn countless things in our lifetime. Some of the things we learn are tucked away in our minds. We may never have a use for them again.
We may forget that we ever learned these things in the first place.
But I don’t think this is what Buscaglia had in mind when he made this statement that lives on as one of his many insightful quotations.
What I believe he had in mind was the learning of essential life principles.
First and foremost being the learning of the meaning of life itself.
He believed that life had one primary purpose. One essential meaning.
He believed that love is life’s primary purpose.
And that love is life’s essential meaning. That love gives life its ultimate meaning.
He put it like this:
Love is life. And if you miss love, you miss life.
This was the philosophy he believed, taught, and modeled. It was at the core of his countless lectures, and it was the focus of his writing.
He believed that once a person really grasped that life is about love. That if they came to understand that life in its essence is about love—one could never be the same.
Such knowledge would compel them to change.
This is what I think he meant by his statement that change is the end result of all true learning. That change is inevitable when the meaning of life is grasped.
In other words, what we truly believe determines how we actually behave.
He also claimed that love could be learned like anything else. And that we can learn to love better and better with time and focus.
He believed that it was never too late to learn to love. He said that in the final analysis, love is what really matters.
Leo’s insightful quotations on life and love
From his study of love for more than 25 years, and through his interaction with countless students in his courses, he drew many practical principles.
Here is a sampling of his other quotations.
- The easiest thing to be in the world is you…the most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be.
- Don’t hold to anger, hurt, or pain. They steal your energy and keep you from love.
- A growing relationship can only be nurtured by genuineness.
- I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate…it’s apathy.
- Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Love is always bestowed as a gift, freely, willingly, and without expectation.
- Find the person who will love you because of your differences and not in spite of them and you have found a lover for life.
- The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, or love. Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom. Only the person who risks is truly free.
- To laugh is to risk appearing a fool. To weep is to risk appearing sentimental. To reach out to another is to risk involvement. To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self. To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss. To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure. But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
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