LIVING, LOVING & LEARNING.
is a delightful collection of Dr. Buscaglia’s informative
and amusing lectures, which were delivered worldwide
between 1970 and 1981. This inspirational treasure is
for all those eager to accept the challenge of life and to
profit from the wonder of love.
Edited by: Steven Short.
Nikos Kazantzakis suggests that ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.
The various presentations included in this volume represent such bridges. They are simply ideas, concepts and feelings which I shared in joy. They were delivered with the full understanding that they could be accepted, celebrated over, ignored, or rejected. It didn’t matter.
They are restated here for those who may have missed them the first time, or for those who may desire to experience them a second time.
I am pleased that I shared these ideas. I am still rather awed that there were also thousands who cared enough to listen. For me they represent ten exciting years of growth and sharing. In retrospect, I have no regrets, and I know, for better or for worse, there will be more to come for I am determined to continue building bridges.
By merely opening this book at random to decide where to commence with some excerpts to publish herein I found so many wherever I happened to look that I made a decision to just tease you with them as they occurred without regard to how much I might have enjoyed them because I am sure our enjoyment and interests will vary. So here they are just as I discovered them- - - hope you find them as thought provoking as I did and thereafter rush out to get this book for yourself.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I FEEL VERY STRONGLY ABOUT CHANGE.
As teachers we must believe in change, must know it is possible, or we wouldn’t be teaching—because education is a constant process of change. Every single time you “teach” something to someone, it is ingested, something is done with it, and a new human being emerges. I can’t understand why people aren’t just dying to learn, why it isn’t the greatest adventure in the world—because it’s the process of becoming. Every time we learn something new, we become something new. I’m different tonight for having been here today. I’m overwhelmed with Texas hospitality, and I’m not just tossing off compliments, because that’s not for me. This afternoon I was rewriting my whole speech. I had thrown the other one in the old wastebasket and started all over again pounding out a new speech for you because the other one wasn’t right. While I was doing this, the phone kept ringing, people kept saying, “We’re going to get together tonight—be with us.” “We’re over here in such and such a place—will you come over and see us? We’d like to talk with you.” Little notes under the door. This is fantastic! Human beings are relating with human beings , and that’s what it’s all about.
And so I have changed. I am no longer the person who walked in this morning. I’m something new because I experienced something new with you. This is why learning is such an exciting thing, why it shouldn’t be a drag. Every book leads you to new books. Every time you hear a piece of music, there are ten thousand new pieces it introduces you to—you listen to one Beethoven sonata, and you’re lost! You read one book of poetry, really hear it, and you’re lost! And then there are thousands of things to read, to see, to do, to touch, to feel. And each one of them makes you a different human being. So are you really what you are or are you what you are learning and what people have told you through time that you are?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
YOU KNOW WHAT OCCURRED TO ME?
We teach everything in the world to people, except the most essential thing. And that is life. Nobody teaches you about life. You’re supposed to know about it. Nobody teaches you how to be a human being and what it means to be a human being, and the dignity that it means when you say, “1 am a human being.” Everyone assumes this is something you have, or you should have gotten by osmosis. Well, it’s not working by osmosis!
I love to do talk shows because you encounter so many beautiful people. Everybody wants a definition. Isn’t that interesting? “Dr. Buscaglia, will you define love?” And I say, “Noooo! But if you follow me around I’ll try to live it.”
It’s very difficult to define, because it’s such an enormously broad concept. The more I live in joy and beauty, the greater a lover I become. Every day, I’m becom-ing a greater and greater and greater lover. And to define it would be to limit it. But at least along the way I kind of have an idea where I am. But I also know that if I put my hand out, you could give me new definitions, new strokes, even new ideas, and together we could grow.
There are maybe two thousand people here tonight. There isn’t one person who hasn’t known loneliness . Isn’t that wonderful? There isn’t one person who hasn’t known despair. Isn’t that wonderful? There isn’t one person who hasn’t cried. But also, there aren’t many who haven’t laughed, who haven’t known joy. And in all those ways, we can communicate . We’re alike, because I’ve known it too, and we’re all involved in the same struggle: to become fully human—which is the best thing we can become. And what a goal! What a wonderful goal.!
To me, probably the most exciting thing in the world is the realization that I have the potential of being fully human. I can’t be a God, but I can be a fully funct-ioning human being! And what I’d like to do is talk to you about some of the things that I think are essential in order to become a fully functioning human being.
We must get back to the point again; and, this is going to shock a lot of people, and you’re not going to like it, but I’m going to risk it. I feel this very strongly. We’ve got to risk again by saying that “1 like me.” You cannot give to anybody in this world what you do not have. And therefore you must concentrate on getting. You must become the most beautiful, most sensitive, most wondrous, magical, unique, fantastic person in the world to be able to have all of these things in order to give them away and share them. Think about it. If I don’t have wisdom, I can only teach you my ignorance. If I don’t have joy, I can only teach you despair. If I don’t have freedom, I can only put you in cages. But everything, everything that I have I can give away. That’s the only reason for having it. But I’ve got to have it first. And so, I dedicate myself to becoming the best Leo the world has ever known.
Being the best Leo, I can love you as the best you. I will not have anybody playing “follow me.” Because when you start following my way, it will lead you to me and you will get lost. The only way to follow is your way. You’re that magic combination that will never be again, and I don’t care who you are, how exalted you feel or how lonely you feel. Everyone of you is something unique and special. I wish we could tell this to children early so it wouldn’t take them a lifetime to find out! You have a unique world to share.
People who have studied perception and sensation know that everyone sees the world in a different way. Yet, it’s the same world. We don’t observe a tree in the same way. Yet it’s the very same tree. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could share that tree and see it in two different ways? Just the concept sends me in orbit. And yet I hear people constantly saying, “What have I to offer?” You know what you have to offer? A central piece of the crossword puzzle. Unless you assume the responsibility, that picture will never be completed. I’ll never see your tree and I’m convinced that we still have misery, despair, agony, all of those things, because people didn’t actualize themselves and share their worlds. Because if they had, our picture would have been clearer. You have something to paint on that tapestry, or weave, that’s uniquely yours. Don’t miss the opportunity. You are wondrous. You are magical. There is only one you.
The next time you pass a mirror, look in and say, “My goodness. You know, it’s true! There’s only one me!” Oh, if we could get into that! And the wonderful thing is, too, that it doesn’t matter where we are in that “you.” You’re only just beginning, because do you know that no one has ever been able to find a limit to human potential, or to humanness? You are unlimited possibilities.
Erich Fromm says the pity in life today is that most of us die before we are fully born. Erich Fromm says the pity in life today is that most of us die before we are fully born. ERICK FROMM ....... Don’t miss yourself! Elisabeth Kubler-Ross tells us that the people who scream the loudest on their deathbeds are the people who have never lived. They’ve been observers of life, but not active participators. They’ve taken no risks. They stood on the sideline.
Every time we put our hand out to someone, we run the risk of being slapped. But we also run the risk—fifty-fifty chance, which is better than you can get in Reno or Las Vegas—you also get a chance of somebody reaching out and touching you back in love.
One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen happened in a park. There was a mama and a papa who had taken—actually taken the time from this mad, busy schedule of all these essential things to be done, to take their little child to the park. Their little kid was walking down to the lakeside. Papa saw this, and started to stop him. Mama, who must have been a very unique, lovely person, (just like you) reached out and grabbed him. She said, “Let him go!” And down toddled this kid, just barely able to walk. This tale has a happy ending; the baby didn’t drown. I’m sure Mama’s heart was pounding hard. But all growth involves risk.
I’m one of those crazy people who loves to let everybody. know that I see them. Heaven knows, so many of us are lonely because nobody sees us. We’re sure we don’t exist. And so I walk down the campus and I say, “Good morning. Hi, how are you?” The reaction is incredible. Some people say, “Hi.” And then I get the opposite extreme of people who say, very angrily as if I invaded their privacy—and I probably did, ”Do I know you?” And I say, “No, but wouldn’t it be real nice?” And sometimes they say, “No, it wouldn’t.”
And then I have a wonderful thing—if you don’t think that I still get hurt—I have defense mechanisms that are outrageous to overcome my hurt. Freud would turn over in his grave . I walk away and I think, “Gee, what a pity that they didn’t want to know me, cause I’m so nice. And so tomorrow, when I see them again, I’m just going to say good morning again and give them another chance.” Works beautifully, you know. When I do see them again, I say, “Hi!” And if they say again, “Do I know you?” I say, “YES, I met you yesterday!”
Oh, learn to risk again. Go back to that point in childhood where the whole world was a gigantic, wondrous mystery that you just had to understand. Get hooked on it. Say to yourself, “I want to know everything. I want to feel and touch and taste and understand everything, and there isn’t time in life to do it all, so I’ve got to do it now.” Value every moment as if it really is your last because it might very well be.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A BUDDHIST TEACHER ONCE SAID TO ME, “WHY DO YOU KEEP MOVING? YOU ARE ALREADY THERE.” AND ALL OF A SUDDEN IT OCCURRED TO ME—MY GOODNESS, I AM!
A wonderful realization will be the day you realize that you are unique in all the world. There is nothing that is an accident. You are a special combination for a purpose—and don’t let them tell you otherwise, even if they tell you that purpose is an illusion. (Live an illusion if you have to.) You are that combination so that you can do what it is essential for you to do. Don’t ever believe that you have nothing to contribute. The world is an incredible unfulfilled tapestry, and only you can fulfill that tiny space that is yours.
“Oh, God, to have reached the point of death,” says Thoreau, “only to find that you have never lived.” You’ve never done anything. You’ve never felt intensely. You have never really laughed. You’ve never cried. You’ve never felt despair. You deny all these things and push them away and live in a Never-Never Land that doesn’t exist, that is illusion. But you are the best you. You are the only you. You have something to give. Give it! One reason I love this Association is that there are so many parents in it who give a damn. But it frightens me when I hear a parent say, “I’m just a parent.” What does that mean? As parents you make all things possible. That’s what you are. Teach us because you know.
Celebrate your humanness. Celebrate your craziness. Celebrate your inadequacies. Celebrate your loneliness. But celebrate you. I don’t want to be anything but what I am, and that is a human being. I really like being human. And that means for-getting; it means bumping into walls; it means going into the wrong rooms; it means getting out at the wrong stop in the elevator. The door opens, and I walk out and discover I am on the sixth floor instead of the third, and I say, “Oh!” And then I think, “You sweet old thing, you did it again!” It is just great to be human. Last night I went to a very elegant cocktail party, and someone handed me a glass of gorgeous ruby red wine. I am a wine freak, and I took it tenderly in my hand. Then someone dashed up and shouted, “Leo!” and grabbed me, and the wine flew into the air! Everyone within miles screeched although the wine landed only on me. And I exclaimed what the Italians say when you spill wine—”Allegria!,” which means joy, but nobody thought so. No one saw that it added color to my evening.
Those of you who really care and who are truly teachers are always learning from kids. You are wide open to children. You are not the kind to stand in front of a classroom and snarl, “We are waiting for Sally.” It is no wonder Sally says, “Wait, you old . . . “ Imagine what a triumphant feeling it is to have a whole class waiting for you! Maybe the teacher should wonder what it is that Sally finds so essential to say—and should listen. It is amazing to me how adults always talk “at” children. Listen to what you say. Ninety percent of what you say is talking at them, never with them. You don’t have conversations with children. You constantly feed all things into them.
On one of my visits with the Sioux Indians in South Dakota, I was picked up at the airport, and we traveled across the Badlands in a great big truck with all of the Indian family. In the front were little David and Mama and Papa and I. As Mama and Papa and I were talking about all of the significant things we do, I suddenly realized that we were talking right through little David. I turned to him immediately (inspiration!) and I asked, “David, what can you do?” And he replied, “Lots of things!” I said, “Like what?” And he said, “I can spit.” Top that! Many of you who have worked with exceptional children all of your lives, as I have, know that when the orbicularis oris isn’t working, it can take many years to teach someone to pucker his lips for the miracle of being able to spit voluntarily. Yet we take it for granted. “What else can you do, David?” “I can put my finger in my nose.” You bet you can! Isn’t it some sort of miracle that you can raise your hand when you decide you want to put your finger in your nose, and it gets there? Celebrate your wonder!
IT ALL STARTS WITH YOU, and the great bridge that leads to everybody is your bridge. That’s the important one. If I grow and grow, I can give you a lot more of me. I learn so that I can teach you more. I strive for wisdom so that I can encourage your truth. I become more aware and sensitive so that I can better accept your sensitivity and awareness. And I struggle to understand my humanness so that I can better understand you when you reveal to me that you are only human, too. And I live in continual wonder of life so that I can allow you, too, to celebrate your life. What I do for me, I do for you. And what you do for you, you do for me, so it is never selfish. Everything you have ever learned, you have learned for everyone in your environment.
Get out of “you”—get into “us.” It is the most beautiful way to see yourself and help others to see themselves. Power comes from that . So, first, bridges to yourself, but don’t stop there. The next great span is bridges to others.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
THE LOVING PERSON IS NOT SATISFIED ONLY TO BE UNIQUE, to develop his uniqueness, and to fight to maintain his uniqueness. He wants to be the greatest, because he realizes that this is something he can give away . I don’t even know how many of you know R.D. Laing’s writing. The Politics of Experience is one of the most beautiful gifts I could give you. It’s a little paperback, and is unbelievable. In this book he talks of human potential and the development of human potential. He makes a statement, which I think is one of the most beautiful I have ever read. And it isn’t italicized or underlined. It’s just part of the way he writes. He says,
We think much less than what we know. We know much
less than what we love. We love much less than what there
is. And to this precise extent, we are much less than what
How do you like that?
Exciting things are happening all over the country. There are institutes for the development of the human person. Herbert Otto, Fitzgerald, and Carl Rogers are all doing it and receiving no pay. They are setting up institutes and are living off royalties of their own books to find ways to help people develop their potential again because otherwise we’re going to be lost.
This is what Fuller is screaming. “Let’s go back to us.” We. have potential to see, and to feel, and to touch, and to smell, that we’ve never dreamed of. But we’ve forgotten how to do it. These are the things we want to be doing, if we care about ourselves and if we love ourselves.
I had a very unique experience about seven years ago. I sold everything. I did something that everyone said was absolute madness. I sold everything that our culture says has value, the hi-fi set, the records, the books, the insurance policy, the car, and I collected a little bit of money and I spent two years going around the world. I spent most of that time in Asia because I knew less about Asia than any other place in the world. Two thirds of the world is not the Western World. These people think differently, and feel differently, and understand differently, and you learn a lot about yourself and about the human condition when you get out of our Western environment and find out that there are people and areas where even Jesus is unknown. There are places that have no idea what our Western culture is thinking about, doing, feeling; and yet these are the people that we’re meeting head on in conflict. Their words are not our words. Their feelings are not our feelings. But nevertheless, I learned a lot by traveling these countries.
I learned something really unique when I was in Cambodia. I was in Angkor Wat looking at the wonderful Buddhist ruins. They’re fantastic—great tremendous Buddha heads being devoured by Banyan trees, and monkeys swinging in the air, everything wild and open and beautiful, ruins such as you never dreamed of—a completely new world for us . There I met a French woman who stayed on after the French had left Cambodia. She said, “You know, Leo, if you really want to experience Cambodia, don’t sit here in the ruins. This is all well and good, but get out and see the people. Find out what they’re doing. And you’ve come just at a good time because the Monsoons are coming and the way of life changes.” And she said, “Go down to the Tonle Sap,” (If you remember in your geography, it’s a great lake that makes up most of Cambodia) “because the people are now involved in a very interesting thing. When the Monsoons come, the great rains wash away all their houses and take away everything they have. Then these people get on communal rafts, several families together. The rains come, the rafts rise, and they go right on living, but now communally.” I thought, wouldn’t that be beautiful, if six months out of every year some of us could live together? I can see you thinking— Who the hell wants to live with my neighbor? But maybe, just maybe, it would be a beautiful thing to live with a neighbor and to find out what it is again to be dependent upon people and how beautiful it is to be able to say to someone, “I need you.” We think to be a grownup we must be independent and not need anyone And that’s why we’re all dying of loneliness. How wonderful to be needed! And how great to need and to be able to say to someone, “I need.” I have no hangup about saying I need all of you, every single one of you. The bummer is that our Jives only pass occasionally. But the greatest experiences in my life are when lives intersect and two human beings are able to communicate.
But the Cambodians learn this early, and nature teaches it to them. Nature is a great teacher. All we have to do is to read Walden again. Thoreau’s marvelous line, “Oh God , to reach the point of death only to find that you have never lived at all.” Think about that . Anyway, I went down there on a bicycle, and there they were. And I thought I’d like to help these people move in order to become a part of their community. The French woman that I was talking to laughed and said, “Yes, help them move.” What do they have to move? Nature has taught them that the only thing they have is from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet ......... themselves. Not things . They can’t collect things because every year the Monsoon comes and there is no place to bring these things. And I couldn’t help think-ing to myself, “What would you do, Buscaglia, if a Monsoon were to come to Los Angeles next week? What would you take? Your color TV set? Your automobile? The spittoon that Aunt Matilda left you?” The only thing you’ve got to take is you. In Los Angeles we have earthquakes of which you’ve undoubtedly heard. It’s a very unique sensation, I guarantee you, to find that you have no control over where you’re going to go or where the house is going to go. (Or stop.)
Just recently, we had a severe earthquake in Los Angeles and it very much affected my home. The ceiling in the living room fell in and the fireplace collapsed on itself. We didn’t have water, and so on. Suddenly it taught us the value of things; it showed us again that things were stupid, that all we had was us. I walked out of the old house with everything falling around me. It was just dawn and there was a streak of light coming over the sky. I have a great big flowering peach in the back yard. Well there it was, flowering its head off. And all of a sudden, in a split second it occurred to me, “You know, the beautiful world is going to go on, with or without you, man.” And for me, it was worth the price of the earthquake to be reminded again.
Philosophers and psychologists have told us this for years. “You are all you have. Therefore, make yourself the most beautiful, tender, wonderful, fantastic person in the world. And then you will always survive.” Remember Medea in the Greek tragedy? Remember the line of that beautiful play, when everything is gone and the oracle comes to her and says, “Medea, what is left? Everything is destroyed, every-thing is gone.” She says, “What is left? There is me.” There’s a woman for you! “What do you mean what is left? Everything is left. I am left!” When we recognize this importance of you again returning to a respect for you, a love for you, and realizing that all things come from you, then you can give to others. Then you have arrived at a very important place because if you don’t like you, you can always learn again to like you. You can create a new you. You can do it If you don’t like the set you’re involved with, strike it and put up a new one. If you don’t like the cast of characters you’re involved with, get rid of them and start a new bunch. But you’ve got to do it. And it’s all yours. Okay, so that’s number one. And if we’ve got nothing else said but that, I would believe with all my heart that I’d left something with you anyway. A return to you.
Saint-Exupéry, the French philosopher, makes a magnificent statement in one of his books, and he’s written some lovely ones. He said, “Perhaps love,” (and you can substitute education if you want to,) “is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself.” I have no definition of love, but that comes the closest to being the healthiest one I’ve heard. “Perhaps love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself.” Not to whom I want you to be, but to who you are.
I don’t know how many of you know the City Lights Book Store in San Francisco but it’s an incredible place, and if you ever visit there, you must go. It’s three floors of paperbacks. You’ve never imagined there were so many paperbacks in the whole world but it has one section that’s uniquely its own. It’s a section that publishes manuscripts from people like you and me, who are frustrated poets and frustrated writers. In one section they offer poetry. All you have to do is mimeograph it on a piece of paper and staple it together, put it on the shelf, and you can put in one corner “five cents please” to cover the cost of paper. And then people buy them and really read them.
I was wandering by and I saw a book, the title of which really threw me. There were only five hundred copies of it printed, and I’ll explain how it happened later. But the name of the book was, I Am Neither A Sacrilege Or A Privilege. I May Not Be Competent or Excellent, But I Am Present. That just came right off the shelf and smacked me across the face. And I thought—well good for you! I opened up the book and I found out that it was written by a young lady who signed her name only as Michelle. She did the drawings and she did the poems, and I slipped through it in my usual way, skipping the preface and everything and diving right into the heart of it. And I found a poem that attracted my eye and I read it! This is what it said:
My happiness is me, not you.
Not only because you may be temporary,
But also because you want me to be what I am not.
Think of this in terms of the educator.
I cannot be happy when I change
Merely to satisfy your selfishness.
Nor can I feel content when you criticize
me for not thinking your thoughts,
Or for seeing like you do.
You call me a rebel.
And yet each time I have rejected your beliefs
You have rebelled against mine.
I do not try to mold your mind.
I know you are trying hard enough to be just you.
And I cannot allow you to tell me what to be—
for I am concentrating on being me.
And then listen to this line:
You said that I was transparent
And easily forgotten.
But why then did you try to use my lifetime,
To prove to yourself who you are?
Think about that as teachers. Think about that as lovers. Think about that as citizens. Think about that as fathers and mothers . Applicable to all. “You said that I was transparent and easily forgotten. But why then did you try to use my lifetime to prove to yourself who you are.”
Then I went back to find out, who is Michelle? And I found this line in the introduction. It says: Michelle! You were with us for such a short time before choosing that fog-swept beach to continue on your way. It was July 1967, and you were only 20. She left us twenty five poems.. She found it too hard to be “just me.”..We hope these poems are presented as you wish, Michelle. You are present, we love you, and we need you,.and we promise we will remember, until we meet again
San Francisco, July 1969.
Return to the words of wisdom, Pot Luck index..
Church of the Science of God
La Jolla, California 92038-3131
© Church of the Science of GOD, 1993