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Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2010 (Minneapolis, MN) with: Jason Dean and Simon Free and Alison Huselid and Josh Adams and John Mason
Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2010 (Minneapolis, MN) with: Jason Dean ( @JasonPDean ) Simon Free ( @simonfree ) Alison Huselid Josh Adams ( @jladams97 ) John Mason ( @john_mason_ )

The School Of Practical Philosophy: Love - Week Four

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The fourth week of Love at the School of Practical Philosophy has been very busy and mentally trying for me. As such, I haven't had too much time to think. Or rather, I simply haven't made it a top priority. This is a shame as this week's practices happen to be ones for which I am a big proponent. This week, we had to practice gratitude - thinking about all the things for which we are grateful. We also had to practice reflection - thinking about all the points during the day in which the expression of our love was being blocked; and, what was blocking it.

It is said that, "Gratitude opens the heart." I believe this to be true when directed both internally and externally. As Martin E. P. Seligman pointed out in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, keeping a gratitude journal - a daily record of the things that have gone "right" in your day - is a profoundly powerful tool in the journey towards happiness. In fact, keeping such a journal can be, in some cases, as effective as taking anti-depression medication.

I am currently working on a simple, web-based application that will aide in the creation and upkeep of such a "Daily Rights" journal. I suspect that doing so will have a very positive effect on my life and my outlook.

On an unrelated, but still love-focused note, I wanted to share a TED talk that I found on the blog of Mary Kate McCormick, R.N.. This presentation by Abraham Verghese posits that the biggest innovation to come in medicine in the next 10 years is going to be the power of the human hand to touch, to comfort, to diagnose, and to bring about treatment.



This talk is deeply moving and, by the end, had me in tears. The few stories that he shares are beautiful and serve to remind us that "love is the natural in-between." When we first brought up this concept in Philosophy class, I had a lot of trouble wrapping my head around it; as I listened to Abraham Verghese, however, something about it clicked. Love is the natural way to experience the world around us; but, unfortunately, we have built up so many barriers and attachments that this interaction model has been all but removed.

As the weeks of this course have passed by, there is one phrase that I cannot get out of my head:

Become Love.

This is from a book (that I have yet to review on the blog) and has become somewhat of a mantra for me. It embodies so much of everything that I've been thinking about and learning over the last few years. I believe that many of the practices in class serve to fulfill this underlying desire. And, I hope that as my life progresses, this value will become ever more deeply embedded within my character.

Reader Comments


Your 'normal' posts educate me and solve important issues I may be tackling in my work life, but these are the posts that resonate with me the longest. Every day I try to remember to slow down and notice the small blessings that can get drowned out in the every day noise. Thanks for the reminder that maybe, I could try a little harder ;)


I read parts of the blog that you were so kind as to provide a link to, and I absolutely love her discourse on girl power there. :-) I also read the 'Who I Am' section, and I think a lot of women find themselves at that point. They reach that age where, by society's standards, they should be married, have a retirement set up, etc. Women get to that point through different paths, but they still get to that point, nevertheless. Thank you for the link...that was nice reading.

Touching releases oxytocin, along with some other super-cool biochemicals, which can really cause a very strong bond to the person you are touching. The bonding that occurs between mother and child when the mother nurses the child can also be explained by these same chemicals being released during nursing, and it creates an unbreakable bond.

With me, I can agree that once I get past that jumpy-ness when it comes to touching, I can really enjoy it. I think that a problem with me is that my motor in my head just goes into overdrive when a man I barely know starts touching me, and I start thinking, why is he doing this? Once I get comfortable with someone, and it becomes clear that he isn't touching me because he has ulterior motives, then I can enjoy it. I really love cuddling and snuggling with someone I have learned to trust. And one thing I absolutely love doing for someone and also having them do for me in return as well, once I get past that initial jumpy-ness over touching, is massage. If I can be sure the person doesn't have ulterior motives while providing massage, I absolutely love massage, and I love giving them as well.

@Ben, I am curious about something, and I have to ask. Do you have this talk with your girlfriend every evening that you wrote about here:

? Just curious. You always give your readers so much to think about, and I know that you have helped me, personally. I love all of your thought-provoking posts, both the professional ones and the personal ones about relationships. With everything that you contribute to others, you deserve all the happiness in the world, and I wish you that with your current relationship...hope you find all of the love in the world. I am so glad you have found someone special to share your world with. Best of luck!



Thanks Jess! Hopefully, the little web site I am working on will help with that. I know that, personally, I have so many plates up in the air, that things are getting lost in the mix CONSTANTLY. I need something to help me -- to remind me -- to take the time and concentrate on my victories and gratitude.


Ha ha, I was single for a LONG time, but actually recently started dating something. Definitely perfect timing for this class!


I too have a bit of hesitation for receiving massage. It makes me feel extremely vulnerable, which, is really an extension of anxieties that I have about my body.

But, I do love *giving* a massage. I actually own one of those portable massage chairs (like you see in the Malls where a group of women talk to you as you go by - "massage, 10 minutes, 10 dollars"). The way I see it (or the way I hope it), my hands are an avenue for pleasure. For appreciate. For the expression of Love.

As far as the "Business of Making Love" stuff, I actually have to say that I have not applied it to my current relationship. But, I really should. I will run this by her and discuss. I definitely believe in the things I was saying.



It's a robot. :-P He programmed it himself.


I am a more than willing recipient if I have a boyfriend who is a giver and I have become comfortable to him touching me. Of course, I'm not going to force him to do it, but if he wants to, I am happy to allow him that satisfcation. :-) My issues have mainly to do with ulterior motives, but once I get past that, I am ok. You have body anxieties? Nooooooo. I would never suspect that with the way you work out. I asked my friend if you were built like a muscle-bound monkey.

Back on the subject of giving and receiving, I wouldn't say that my ex had hesitation on receiving that other thing (O_S), but he loved giving it, and I was more than happy to receive. :-) He never did it with any expectation of getting anything in return, he just loved to give (and I loved to receive).



Did the class ever present a concise working definition of love?

Call me a stickler, but there tends to be a huge muddy factor when people try to teach about love without defining it that can easily be overcome with a concise definition.



I love the definition of love in this quote by Dr. Seuss:

We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.



What an amazing TED talk. Thanks for sharing. They should have all the doctors watch this. I'm yet to find a doctor for me who is really compassionate. So far only one I have met who is very old and he is one of my son's pediatricians.

The worst are the obgyn in my experience. When I was pregnant, I had weirdest fears, one of those is I'm short so is the baby going to be okay and I know that's a silly question to ask but that was my insecurity and the doctor commented back something like in your family your mother, sisters must be short and she didn't even finish her sentence. Yes my mother has had 4 children by natural birth and she is an inch or so taller than me. The point was it was my concern and all I wanted to hear from her was "No height should not be a concern since I have had patients who are of your height or shorter... she could have even lied..." I left this practice (there were few other things that made me nervous) and then went for another set of gynaecologists (and yes they work in sets). I also had a doula (birthing coach), who had prepared my birth plan (and was going to be in delivery room with me) and I was doing pre-natal yoga through out my pregnancy. So I was very active.. all I wanted was a natural birth. So when I presented the birth plan to the doctors towards the final weeks, they clearly didn't like and were very defensive. Anyway as it turned out my child was breech, but even at week 38 I and my husband were driving hour long to get to chiropractor, acupuncturist that some had recommended to try to find some way to get the baby to turn. Now on reflection it seems hilarious burning candles on my toes and me lying upside down on staircase to my mother's horror as part of my attempt to turn my baby... but as it turns out my son was as stubborn as me and he didn't budge... so I had to get a c-section. My whole experience made me so disappointed with doctor's treatment of patients and all they care is how to make money and not get into any lawsuit situation. So the statistics of c-section is rising at an alarming rate as physicians prefer to schedule the operation than have the baby take birth naturally at an inconvenient moment. There are cases where a c-section is necessary (may be mine was one of those cases) but there are so many cases where the natural birth could have been attempted. This is actually leading to less doctors being well versed with child birthing techniques.

Sorry for the long comment... but I feel very strongly about how doctors are meant to be healers just by being caring and compassionate. I miss Dr. House.. I wish he was real and I could go to him...:) I won't mind even if he yells at me...:)

BTW - congratulations on finally getting some time out of your busy work life to have a gf...:) say my hi to her... my best to you both.


@Smita, I love Dr. House, too (even if he is a fictional character). But when I watch it, even the nerd in me comes out then, because I take notes, and then afterward, I go to the internet and look up information on all the notes that I took. I am the ultimate nerd, in everything, not just programming. The book I have sitting beside my bed for "pleasure" to read before I go to sleep at night is "Encyclopedic Atlas of the Human Body". I am endlessly fascinated about the human body and how it works, and I probably need to date a doctor, so he can help me out with my medical terminology. :-) I have a best friend who is an R.N. (who is about the hottest woman on earth), so I guess that will just have to do for now.

Kind of on that note...the last doctor I it totally wrong that when I saw him I thought he was totally hot?

Ok...I digress. Back on point. Obgyns! YUCK! I have had two women obgyns, one who was terrible, and one who was wonderful. The one who was terrible did my very first exam. I was still a virgin, and it was so painful, I was gripping the table so hard that my knuckles were turning white, and I think I was bucking my back as well, because she had to keep telling me to put my butt back on the table. lol. My other female doctor who performed those types of tests was great, gentle, and everything, but quite honestly, she was a little too enthusiastic about doing my exams, and would always hop on me and want to do them every time I went to the doctors office, enthusiastically and very excited to be doing them. I don't really mind that, I guess, since she was gentle, but it seemed to go to a certain extreme to where she really wanted to do them. I should just stick with her, though, because I hate those things, and I clinch up so bad, I have literally had doctors tell me they were going to stop the exam if I didn't relax. But you'd think, as doctors, they'd have more compassion than that and be able to do the exam more gently. It's obviously possible, because the one that I had that was very good was able to do it, so it's obviously possible to do it in a way that is gentle.

On the birth story...thank you for sharing that. I agree that less doctors know about birthing, and that a lot of times, c-sections are done when natural birthing could have been attempted. You should be commended, though, for trying and wanting to give birth naturally. My sister had an "emergency c-section"...probably three weeks or so before she was due. I am thinking it was right around the 25th week mark. I honestly think that was planned, and that she was mainly thinking of herself. She is also a very little person. She and I are both very short (this is my biological sister), so in a way I could see her desire to not want to feel that pain, but at the same time, I think it is actually better for the baby if you don't have it earlier just to ensure your own comfort. There is so much development that still needs to be done. When my sister went in for the emergency c-section, the surgeon looked at the nurse and said, "since when do we do emergency c-sections this much before the due date and under these circumstances". Probably a couple of months before the birth of my sister's little girl, she claimed she was having labor contractions, went to the hospital, and got steriod shots to get the baby's lungs to develop quicker in case she gave birth sooner.

But I still love my little neice and she is awesome. She's been pretty cool, and has developed at an ok rate for the most part. She wasn't holding her head up until three months after she was born, but since I don't really have much of a point of reference for that, I don't really know, but she was walking 5 - 7 steps a year after she was born, which, from what I hear is pretty good. And she's been talking for awhile now, a few words, which I also understand to be pretty good, so I guess no long-term damage was done. But I still think that not scheduling an emergency c-section three weeks before you are due is probably better.

Anyway. Off that soapbox. It is very normal to have fears like that when you are pregnant. Your hormones are crazy, you have all of these chemicals in your body you aren't used to....from what I hear, it is very normal for crazy things to go through the minds of pregnant women. One of my best friends from college just had a shower last weekend, and when I went, they read this email, and there were about 5 or 6 pregnant women there (many pregnant women), and one of them started balling. So during pregnancy, you are often very emotional, and have a lot of really crazy fears, ideas, and thoughts going through your head. And they may not even be weird or crazy thoughts, but other people may think they are. They may actually be pretty normal. And the way that doctor handled your question was just horrible! She should definitely be reprimanded for that! Some doctors just don't have any sensitivity at all when it comes to some things.

Ok, talking about long posts, I have made a long enough comment here, but if you want to read more about natural birthing and also about some fears during pregnancy which were normal, but still sound crazy to other people, I decided to blog about it here:

MEN...DO NOT visit this link or read me, this is a part of womanhood you don't want to hear anything about. If you don't, you will be glad you didn't and that I warned you. If you do, you will be wishing you had heeded my warning. :-)

And @Smita, just a little heads up, it is pretty long, so you may have to read it some time after work. :-) It may be worth the read, though, and you may find some affinity with it. :-)



"human" is such a limiting term :)


I think the class, as a whole, constantly struggles to grasp the difference between romantic love and "pure" love. We all have preconceived notions about what love *should* feel like; and this feeling is probably based more on romantic love than anything else. This makes it harder to accept and embrace the kind of love for people that is not romantic.

So, we don't have a word-based definition of love, per say, but we do constantly try to widen our understanding of what love it.

For now, we tend to refer to Love as the "natural in-between" - that love is the natural state between people; and, that we have to figure out what blocks this love (if it is being blocked).

... and, of course, realizing that loving people doesn't mean that we don't hold them accountable.

... it's a beast of a topic!


Ha ha ha, I like that definition :)


I think the fact that you would be ok if the doctor "lied" to you is a great point -- there are things that are necessary for medical reasons; and there are things that are necessary for emotional reasons. As we have become so scientific, we have forgotten so much of what makes us human.

Even in my own experience, my doctor hardly touches me. When I was younger, it was a much more thorough (almost embarrassing) exam. Now, it feels very much superficial. Maybe it's *medically* as good? I don't know. But, since I'm *not* a doctor, to me, I need the emotional, superficial aspects in order to feel like I'm really being tended to.

And House is one of my favorite shows :D


@Smita & @Ben,

I think women are almost "forced" (or at least highly encouraged) to have physical medical exams at a much younger age than men that are way, way, way more physical...highly physical, and in very sensitive areas. I didn't have my first exam of the type we were previously discussing until I was 23 years old, and I know that is very old for that type of exam -- I know women are usually encouraged to get that type of exam MUCH younger, and a lot of women actually start that kind of exam when they are 16 years old. Had I done it that young, I am sure I would've been traumatized. I was almost traumatized at 23 years old. I really didn't think it was necessary to do that type of exam since I wasn't sexually active at the time. And even now, since I am not, I kind of don't really see the point. I have had many people tell me that I should get it done very year, whether I am active in that way or not, but it just kind of seems a little bit stressful to be doing that when I am not doing the other thing.

I think it is necessary sometimes lying and being lied to, for different reasons. Although I hate lying unless I have to, there are times when I agree that it really is necessary. Sometimes, it is necessary for security reasons and to be safe.

On the topic of House :-) I was actually going to start a blog at one point from the notes I took while I watch House, but I found when researching that there is book called "The Medical Science of House, MD". Oh boy! It looks like that's another book to go on my list of books to get. :-) I can't wait to get it.


Lol.. all these mentions of "lie" now has the song "Strong Enough" by Sheryl Crow stuck in my head...:) It has a line "Lie to me. I promise I'll believe" ~ love that song.


About touch, I remembered how I miss my first yoga teacher and haven't found someone like her who has that magic touch. It's magical when a very slight/faint touch can fix the yoga pose and make you feel perfect and pain free....:) At the end of the session when we all would go for the saba asana (lying down as though you are dead) she would come by and just touch our forehead and move her fingers through hair gently for just a fraction of a minute. It just makes you feel as a brand new person after each session.

I also remembered an anecdote that my mother tells which she has heard from her mother is about a blind woman who was so good at delivering babies, people from far off places used to pick her up just to help with the deliveries, during those days when the delivery was mostly at home. She used to just touch and feel and knew exactly how to get the baby out even in the most complicated cases.



It's amazing when someone loses one of their primary senses...sight being the strongest much they gain in some, if not all of the other senses. I used to have a very strong desire to date a blind man, because I felt like that for once, I wouldn't have to worry about it being for looks. I felt that it would be a very welcome break from the guys women usually date. When in college, I once helped a blind student move from one residence to another. I can't tell you how nice it was to be around someone and it not be about looks for once.

In the book "Pardon Me, You're Stepping On My Eyeball", which I read while in high school, they do this exercise where you have a partner, and each partner closes his or her eyes. And then, they use their hands to feel the other feel his or her face, etc. At first, of course, there is a lot of uncomfortable feeling about it, and about what they are doing. But eventually, as they get into the exercise, they begin to "see" the person in a completely different way and to learn so much about the other person. For couples, once they get comfortable with each other and with touch, I think this is a good exercise. To close your eyes and use your hands to "see" the other person.

I just read an article today on new guidelines concering the exams that were discussed earlier. The new guidelines don't advise women getting them until after 21, and not every year...every 3-5 years, up to age 65. That's a huge relief. Just think if you only got them every 5 years, started at age 21 and ended at age 65, you would realy only have to do 9 total in your lifetime. (except for the increased amount of them you would have to do while pregnant). That's a significant decrease in the amount of ones that have been done in the past when women are going every year.

According to the article, "We should not be screening teenagers. It's not helping, and it's creating way too many harms for them".

The article also says that we shouldn't have to start doing mammograms until age 50. So I guess until then, BSE's are sufficient. Hey, that reminds hot doctor was supposed to do a Breast Exam on me last time I was at the office. I guess he forgot. I'll have to be sure he does that next time. :-)

Anyway, this is good news. I thought I would share it with you, because hopefully, you won't have to stress as much only having to do those things every 3-5 years instead of every year.


Great story..very deep and educative. I think we all could learn something from this and could write a book! :D Congrats!


@Ben, I like the idea of becoming love, I am just not sure if it is possible for me.

Since I talked about it before, I will mention it again, though, I really like the ideas expressed here:

When you first suggested it, I didn't really think it would work for me, but I could see where it could really enhance and help a relationship where one or both of the people didn't communicate well. I think I probably communicate too much, and it would be good sometimes if I wouldn't communicate, if I would just sit and be silent. :-) Since the first time I read it, I was in a relationship with someone who wanted to point out all of my faults, but if I suggested he wasn't perfect, it was too "stressful" or created too much "pressure" or "tension" for him. When you are in a relationship, I think you should be able to constructively talk about things the other person is doing that is aggravating you or making you feel less than good. I think you should be able to talk about anything. And certainly, the conversation should never be one-sided, where one of the people in it is allowed to insult and criticize the other, but the other isn't even able to say anything about the one that they think would help the relationship. I was never being critical or making fun of him or insulting him, but he was always insulting me. The type of communication you suggested would've probably helped that. I think I will attempt to implement this with a guy I am going out with now. It kind of reminds me of the daily SCRUM meetings we were forced to do at one of the companies I worked at. I think it could work well.


Hmmm.. interesting read.

For me, love has a couple of levels; pure love and relational love.

Pure love (some call it agape love for ease of definition) is in the spiritual realm. I think this is why people find it so hard to describe it as a 'thing' as they see it in the mental or physical realm.

I see this pure love as non-emotional and is personal and received for my personal benefit. It is what when accessed (for lack of a better word) gives you inner contentment, and feeds your soul just by itself, and it influences you to live your calling (things you are wired to do that give you joy when doing them). Pure love dwells deep inside, and permiates you at your core being. When it shines on your soul, it releases freedom from the crap in your life and releases wisdom to make good choices in life; your everday.

This pure love then permiates us then we translate this to expressions of love to others through Eros (erotic love through a commited relationship), Philos (the enjoyment of friendship) and Storge (a natural affection for family members)

I have found when you allow love to enter your spirit, then you naturally also find happiness, joy & peace and other treats into your life. You find that the fears that hold you back are removed and you are free to be who you truely should be.

I only discovered this around five years ago, and it's absolutely amazing how it has transformed my life, allowing me to separate myself from all controlling influences and to be able to release the weight of my anxieties and pressures, to be immune to rejection and so now I can relax and enjoy life; and I do!

Love really allows me to work from my unique biologically (aka being a bloke or chick), my unique spiritually (my calling - how you're wired to serve others) and gives me a solid basis in which to define my life philosophy without confusion.

That's my take on it! (don't mind feedback either!)


btw, I did not mean to imply that my best friend was only my best friend because she is an R.N. and I am using her for her medical terminology/knowledge, it just gives us something else in common and something else to talk about over the dinner table. She and I were best friends long before she became an R.N., and if she ever decided to quit being an nurse, though I doubt she would because she loves it, I would not stop being friends or best friends with her at that point, just because she was no longer a nurse. She used to be in studies to be a paralegal.

Dawesi...I find your discussion very interesting. I really love how you talked about how it freed you. I feel freed, and actually felt freed, only after I quit dating. When I was dating, the beginnings would always be good and look good, but then I would get caught up in the muck of an unsatisfying relationship, and all of the drawbacks that come with a relationship would bring me down, and I felt so trapped and not free at all. When I quit dating and started really focusing my life, I found myself very happy and free, liberated. I think it is the idea of having to love yourself first...when I felt free to pursue love of self, and was able to pursue my life the way I wanted it to be, without outside influences holding me down, including boyfriends who were holding me down, once I quit dating and found I could lead a so much more satisfying life. Now, I am currently involved with someone, but I hate the idea of dating someone seriously again. I hate the idea of getting trapped once again under someone else's thumb, and them thinking they have a right to tell me the best way to live my life, etc. And also committing me to certain things and taking up my time, time I could be using to pursue those things that make me really happy...


Your post made me think about gratitude. I am working on a scription that deals about the issue that there isn't a perfect treatment for depression. On my blog I also investigate several issues on this matter. Gratitude and love are sometimes one. We live in this kind of demanding society in which we forget to be grateful for the beautiful things of life. Love and kindness is surely one of them.

Thank uou for sharing your thoughts.
Tasha Smith

I believe in love. I believe in compassion. I believe in human rights. I believe that we can afford to give more of these gifts to the world around us because it costs us nothing to be decent and kind and understanding. And, I want you to know that when you land on this site, you are accepted for who you are, no matter how you identify, what truths you live, or whatever kind of goofy shit makes you feel alive! Rock on with your bad self!
Ben Nadel