Living, Loving & Learning

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There are books that should be re-read every year. Living, Loving & Learning by Leo Buscaglia is one of them. The story behind how I came across the book is interesting, so bear with me as I share it.

In college I set Wikipedia’s random page generator as my home page. Every time I opened a browser I would be shown a random Wikipedia entry. One day I opened to Leo Buscaglia’s Wikipedia page.

Felice Leonardo “Leo” Buscaglia PhD (March 31, 1924 – June 12, 1998), also known as “Dr. Love,” was an American author and motivational speaker, and a professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Southern California… While teaching at USC, Buscaglia was moved by a student’s suicide to contemplate human disconnectedness and the meaning of life, and began a non-credit class he called Love 1A.

That fascinated me, and his name stuck in my mind.

A few months later I went down to Moab with several friends. I needed to rent a mountain bike, but all the XL frames were rented out from all the stores, except one that was out of my poor college student price range. Someone in our group had thrown their beach cruiser on the bike rack, and instead of mountain biking I cruised through the paths around town all day.

The library was having a book sale, and my love of books drew me immediately in. As I was browsing the stacks I saw on old hardcover copy of Living, Loving & Learning by Leo Buscaglia. The dust jacket was yellowed and torn. Publish date was 1982. I bought it.

I rode along a path until I came across a peaceful bench among some trees, and I sat down and started reading. The book captivated me. It’s a collection of speeches, so the pace is faster and more varied than a normal book. It’s amazing. All about being human, being authentic, and loving other people.

What a shame if all you believe exists is what can be shown statistically. I feel very sorry for you indeed if you are ruled only by what you can measure, because I’m intrigued by the unmeasurable. I’m intrigued by the dreams, not only by what is here. I don’t give a damn what is here. I can see it. That’s fine, measure it if you want to spend your life measuring it, but I am concerned with what is out there. There is so much that we don’t see, we don’t touch, we don’t feel, we don’t understand.

We assume that reality is the box we’ve been put in, and it’s not, I assure you. Open the door sometime and look outside and see how much there is. The dream of today will be the reality of tomorrow. Yet, we’ve forgotten how to dream.


First of all, I believe that probably the most important thing is that this loving person is a person who loves himself… I’m talking about a person who loves himself as being someone who realizes that you can only give away what you have, and so you damned well better work at getting something. You want to be the most educated, the most brilliant, the most exciting, the most versatile, the most creative individual in the world, because then you can give it away; and the only reason you have anything is to give it away.

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As individuals we must not be satisfied with just becoming like everybody else. We must fight the system. For example, art supervisors ( I have nothing against art supervisors. I feel very sorry for them, poor old things.) I can remember when they used to come to my classroom in elementary school, and I’m sure you can remember it, too. You were given paper and the teacher would put up the drawing in front of you and you were really excited. It was going to be art time. You had all the Crayolas in front of you and you folded your hands and you waited. And soon this poor, haggard woman would come running in, because she had been to fourteen other classrooms that day teaching art. She ran in, her hat askew, and she’d huff and puff and she’d say, “Good morning, boys and girls. Today we are going to draw a tree.” And all the kids would say, “Groovy, we’re going to draw a tree!” And then she’d get up there with a green Crayola and she’d draw this great big green thing. And then she put a brown base on it and a few blades of grass. And she’d say, “There is the tree.” And all the kids would look at it and they’d say, “That isn’t a tree. That’s a lollipop.” But she said that was a tree and then she’d pass out these papers and say, “Now draw a tree.” She didn’t really say, “Draw a tree;” she said, “Draw my tree.” And the sooner you found out that’s what she meant and could reproduce this lollipop and hand it to her, the sooner you would get an A.

But here was little Junior who new that wasn’t a tree because he’d seen a tree such as this art teacher had never experienced! He’d fallen out of a tree, chewed a tree, smelled a tree, sat in the branches of a tree, listened to the wind blow through the leaves of a tree, and he knew that her tree was a lollipop. So he got magenta, and orange, and blue, and purple, and green, and he scribbled it all over his page and happily brought it up and gave it to her. She looked at it and she said, “Oh my goodness, brain damaged – Special Class.”

How long does it take somebody to realize that what they’re really saying is, “To pass, I want you to reproduce my tree.” And so it goes through the first grade, second, third, fourth, fifth, and right on into seminars in graduate school. I teach seminars in graduate school. It’s amazing how people have learned to parrot by then. Think? Don’t be ridiculous. They can give you the facts, verbatum, just as you’ve given it to them. And you can’t blame those students because that’s what they’ve been taught. You say to them, “Be creative,” and they’re fearful. “He doesn’t really mean this, does he?” And so what happens to our uniqueness, what happens to our tree? All this beautiful uniqueness has gone right down the drain. Everybody is like everybody else and everybody is happy. R.D. Laing says, “We are satisfied when we’ve made people like ourselves out of our children: frustrated, sick, blind, deaf, but with high I.Q.’s.”

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  • Ryan March 31, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    I like it D. My favorite quote is about being the most amazing person. Why? So you can give it away. That’s my idea of a fulfilling life.