Remembering “Doctor Love” — Leo Buscaglia
All of us have the capacity to perform courageous acts and be courageous. Our challenge is to avoid taking the easy road in life and pursuing the paths of greatest resistance. To do the things that are the most difficult. To stand for the things that are least popular. To fight for the things that are noble and good.
I define courage differently than most.
To many, courage is associated with conflict. The most obvious example of conflict occurs with war. Sometimes brave acts are performed by extraordinary people in the most trying of circumstances which, no doubt, merits the badge of courage.
But courage is manifested in other ways, as well. In more everyday settings, not by brave soldiers, but by common people. By us and people like us.
Alas, we all have the capacity to perform courageous acts and be courageous. Our challenge is to avoid taking the easy road in life and pursuing the paths of greatest resistance. To do the things that are the most difficult. To stand for the things that are least popular. To fight for the things that are noble and good.
Indeed, courage can manifest itself in much simpler ways. It need not be a grandiose undertaking. It need not be associated with parades of publicity. Rather, some of the most meaningful acts of courage begin with a simple spoken word, a phone call, a smile, or a touch. This is not to say these simple acts of kindness are easy. Some are painstakingly difficult. Which is what makes them courageous.
The man I’m writing about today spoke, wrote, and lived with passion. Sadly, he is no longer with us. But his many inspirational thoughts and ideas remain with us. They have become his legacy. They were his gift to us. One of the most profound things he wrote was the following:
“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.”
What a beautiful idea.
The simplest ideas are sometimes the most powerful.
Consider the words and ideas of the late Leo Buscaglia — better known as “Doctor Love.”
Buscaglia passed away 14 years ago at the age of 74. He was a professor at the University of Southern California. However, beyond his role as teacher and academic, Buscaglia was best known to a much wider audience for giving hundreds of speeches and seminars around the world — all of which had to do with becoming and being fully human. His message was as simple as it was profound. Love is the answer.
Which naturally leads to the question. Who was Leo Buscaglia?
Many people – particularly the young — have probably never heard of Dr. Buscaglia. That’s unfortunate (and one of the reasons I have chosen to write about him today) because he was a wonderful man. He had an indelible impact on many people, including myself. This is not to say that I have adhered to all of the noble things that Dr. Buscaglia taught. On the contrary. Life is a daily struggle to apply the things he stood for and to adapt to our daily lives. I remember Dr. Buscaglia’s words. But I am not good enough to follow them all the time.
Dr. Buscaglia was one of the most popular lecturers on PBS. His two-hour speeches always drew capacity crowds and when they were shown on television, millions watched. Starting with “Love,’ his first book published in 1972, Buscaglia went on to write several more books which elaborated on the simplest of concepts. He didn’t just hit a note — he hit millions of notes and they collectively became a symphony. Buscaglia was so popular that, at one time, he had five books on the best-seller list.
As a writer, I am admittedly biased. The magical thing about writing and words is, they allow us to live on after we are gone. Words and ideas speak to us. Great words and ideas have no date. They never get old. They never expire. They never go out of fashion. They mean as much today as the time when they were written. That’s such a profound concept.
Indeed, great ideas are like great art and fine wine. They improve with age. They become more valuable over time.
Looking back now, Dr. Buscaglia’s words and ideas were compelling –and by that, I mean compelling in the sense they encourage and persuade others to do positive things. His words were compelling then, just as they are compelling now.
And, they are needed just as much now, than ever before.
Dr. Buscaglia wrote many words of great inspiration. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
A loving person is a person who abhors waste — a waste of time, waste of human potential. How much time we waste. As if we were going to live forever.
Relish love in your old age! Aged love is like aged wine; it becomes more satisfying, more refreshing, more valuable, more appreciated, and more intoxicating!
Don’t spend your precious time asking, ‘Why isn’t the world a better place?’ It will only be time wasted. The question to ask is ‘How can I make it better?’ To that, there is an answer.
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.
Man is happiest when he is creating. In fact, the highest state of which man is capable lies in the creative act.
The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be.
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.
Love is always open arms. If you close your arms about love you will find that you are left holding only yourself.
It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play — without seeing the vital connection between them.
The most damaging course of action is attempting to keep children from experience or protect them from pain, for it is this time that children learn that life is a magic thing, if not a rose garden. The parent’s role is primarily to stand by with a good supply of band-aids.
The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. 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. It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.
Live now. When you are eating, eat. When you are loving, love. When you are talking with someone, talk. When you are looking at a flower, look. Catch the beauty of the moment!
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool. So what? I often say that people look upon (me) as being some sort of a nut. Crazy, he is! But I’m having a blast while the sane person is dying of boredom.
Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.
The opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy.
Finally, Dr. Buscaglia was interviewed by writer and publisher Veronica Hay shortly before his death. The complete interview can be seen here:
She asked about what motivated him to spend much of his life on the concept of love, which all began with a college class, appropriately called “Love 101”
Question: Would you tell us about your very famous “Love Class” and how it got started?
Leo Buscaglia: I started my Love Class as a result of the suicide of one of my most talented students. She showed no sign of her despair. Then one day she took her life. I had to ask, ‘What’s the good of all our learning, knowing how to read and write and spell if no one ever teaches us the value of life, of our uniqueness, and personal dignity?’ So I started my Love Class. I taught it free of salary and tuition just so students could have a forum to consider the truly essential things. I really didn’t ‘teach’ the class. I facilitated it — helping the students to discover their own magic.
Now, several years after he is gone, Dr. Leo Buscaglia continues to facilitate magic — when we allow it to be so.