Walk across the Boston Common in the afternoon shadows when the office workers flood down from the State House. In every face you see a longing for love. Forget for a moment the supposed romance of San Francisco. Look rather at the impassive faces of the passengers clustered on the cable cars. Each one seems to be waiting to be lighted up by love. All the imagery of man in our age gives the same message. The most unlikely face, the fierce scowl of a red-neck sheriff, the glazed eyes of the man gone on drugs, the unravaged innocence of a child: In all these you sense man's deep loneliness and his hunger for closeness with others.
There is always something touching about man, even when he disguises his need for love behind the primitive mask of hatred and aggression. Even when man is at his worst, he is telling us how bewildered he is when he has lost touch with the values that make him truly human. I am writing this book in hopes that it will help men who have lost their way to find it again in friendship and love.
Only the most naive author would think that he could solve the problems of the human race with his words. This is particularly true when you think for a moment about all the words that have been written or spoken about love. There is nothing we humans talk about more, no subject about which we give out so many subtle signs of yearning, and, at the same time, no subject with which we have more difficulty in the practical order of things. I suppose it is because it is so much easier than doing something about love in our lives that we talk and write so much of it.
Why is it that a great deal of what we write and say does not have a greater effect on us? The answer to that is complex, but one important aspect of it is the failure of motivational force in anything that gets too intellectualized. We are not moved totally as human beings by those phenomena that are directed to only a portion of our personality. Whatever is told mostly in intellectual terms or is directed only to our minds has already been abstracted from life. While this is necessary for some purposes of understanding and analysis, intellectualization can be carried to the point where it divorces even the most vital subject from the context of ordinary living. Love can thus be divested of its human trappings. It then emerges defused of its explosive possibilities, a cooled-down topic that can be approached more safely. You don't need tongs or asbestos gloves to pick it up and inspect it from various angles. Intellechializing too much about a subject like love tones it down for us and wraps it in a defensive cover that marks it for the mind only. There is no stirring in the rest of us, no pressure on our innards to change ourselves or to be different in our dealing with people.
We do this to love and to other related subjects whose full meaning only comes clear when we open our total personalities to them. Faith and hope are classic examples of other values that we systematically eviscerate of their human fullness in order to deal with them in a more antiseptic intellectual way. A high price is exacted from us when, for fear of challenge or of being hurt, we deal with the most important values of life in a way that imposes distance between them and our own experience. Because we have indulged in over intellectualization for so many centuries we have gotten our human personalities barfly out of focus. We have, for example, tended to idealize practically out of sight the elements that arc most important for a fully human life. You only exaggerate things in an ideal manner when you have dealt too long with man in a totally intellectualized way. The idealized version of personal existence encourages man to believe that he is alive when he is only thinking vaguely beautiful thoughts about being alive. This approach also makes the ideals of life virtually unattainable by men who can still feel the wounds of their own humanity a thousand times a day.