That 4 - Letter Word

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That 4 - Letter Word

That 4 - Letter Word

As soon as upon a time, the philosophy of love was a effective topic for the man of ideas, like Erich Fromm or C. S. Lewis. In recent years, the subject has been relegated to self-help, a style that many mistrust for its propensity to suggest simple answers where there are none. Self-assist has its makes use of, nevertheless: it neatly undoes the facile concepts of left (we are powerless victims) and right (we now have total company in our lives) alike, and it supplies the calming reassurance that others out there are as tousled as you are.

Now comes the feminist cultural critic bell hooks books Hooks with her new book of essays, ''All About Love,'' written in a didactic model that might merge ethical philosophy with self-help. It's a warm affirmation that love is possible and an assault on the culture of narcissism and selfishness. ''We yearn to finish the lovelessness that's so pervasive in our society,'' she writes. ''This book tells us learn how to return to love.''

Her finest factors are simple ones. Neighborhood -- extended household, inventive or political collaboration, mateship -- is as essential because the couple or the nuclear family; love is an art that entails work, not just the fun of attraction; desire may depend on illusion, but love comes solely via painful fact-telling; work and money have changed the values of affection and community, and this should be reversed.

In Hooks's view, women have little hope of happiness in a brutal culture in which they're blindsided because ''most men use psychological terrorism as a approach to subordinate girls,'' whom they maintain around ''to care for all their needs.'' Males are raised to be ''more concerned about sexual efficiency and sexual satisfaction than whether or not they're capable of giving and receiving love.'' Many males ''will, at instances, select to silence a associate with violence rather than witness emotional vulnerability'' and ''usually flip away from real love and choose relationships in which they are often emotionally withholding when they feel like it however nonetheless receive love from someone else.'' Ladies are also afraid of intimacy however ''focus more on finding a associate,'' regardless of quality. The result is ''a gendered arrangement in which men are more more likely to get their emotional wants met while girls might be deprived. . . . Males are given an advantage that neatly coincides with the patriarchal insistence that they're superior and due to this fact better suited to rule others.'' Men must study generosity and ''the joy that comes from service.''

Hooks contends that she and her two long-term boyfriends were foiled by ''patriarchal thinking'' and sexist gender roles and by no means had a chance. She is true that many men and women, homosexual and straight, still fall into traditional traps, but she doesn't spend a lot time on why some dive into them, nor does she consider that such isn't everybody's fate. She takes her expertise, neatly elides her personal role in shaping it, universalizes and transliterates her frustrations into pop sociology.

Hooks's beliefs for love, her ''new visions,'' sound good, however there's something sterile and summary about them. The creative methods the mind has to console itself, the fact that relationships do not grant bliss and perfection, the essential impossibility of satisfaction, how desire can conquer the need -- to Hooks, these are but cynical delusions that can be thrust aside in a brave new world ready ''to affirm mutual love between free women and free men.''

Her invocation of master rhetoricians like Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Merton throws into painful aid the strange Pollyanna high quality of her prose; it's difficult to imagine either of them beginning a paragraph, as she does, with ''Once I first started to speak publicly about my dysfunctional household, my mom was enraged.'' She ends the book as Sleeping Beauty, awaiting ''the love that is promised'' and talking to angels quite than real people. Her book confirms fears about why jargon and prefabricated concepts, including id politics and self-help, so often flatten experience into cliché. Emotional waters run deep and wide. When one can't navigate them, it is possible to take refuge in a shallow, sentimental idealism.