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To Love and be Loved


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About the Author

Sam Keen is a noted author and lecturer who has written thirteen books on philosophy and religion. He earned graduate degrees from the Harvard Divinity School and Princeton University, and spent twenty years working as an editor of Psychology Today. Keen coproduced the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary Faces of the Enemy, and was the subject of a PBS special with Bill Moyers entitled Your Mythic Journey with Sam Keen. When not writing or traveling around the world lecturing and giving seminars on a wide range of topics, Keen cuts wood, tends to his farm in the hills above Sonoma, takes long hikes, and practices the flying trapeze.


"In the depths of our being, in body, mind and spirit, we know we are created to love and be loved," writes Keen (Hymns to an Unknown God) in this wise and inspiring reflection on love. "Fulfilling this imperative... is the central meaning of our life." There are many kinds of love besides romantic couplings, Keen affirms. All of them express our earliest needs to be held, and each of them can be a way to forge a meaningful link with the universal. Asserting that our culture's "narrow focus on romantic and dyadic intimacy warps our field of vision and produces a severe erotic stigmatism that distorts everything we see," Keen puts the focus on learning how to love. He urges readers to avoid both being cynical about love and hanging all their hopes on the response of a particular lover. He somewhat subjectively breaks down love into 16 elements (sensuality, compassion, etc.) that combine in different proportions in different kinds of love. Romance, for example, is "compounded of equal parts attention, erotic longing, sexual desire, and ersatz-adoration created by an idealizing imagination." Keen finds the love of parents for a young child closer to a full expression of love, combining "attention, empathy, compassion, commitment, unconditional acceptance." He interweaves stories with exercises (sometimes about "un-doing" and "dis-illusioning" stereotypes), gently urging people to come home to themselves through the practice of love. Throughout, Keen turns his laid-back erudition and ebullient prose to good use, offering a wide, inviting approach to an ancient subject. (July)

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