A spirited analysis of the concept of love and romantic relationships.
In his debut nonfiction work, Hakim tackles the very nature of love and its “four great enemies”: violence, pettiness, vanity, and what he calls a mindless, automatic “reproductive agenda.” He’s quick to stress that these enemies come from within each one of us: “Out of fear, confusion, or habit, we have convinced ourselves that a small or large dose of them is necessary for our survival,” he writes. “Without them, we feel naked, unbearably vulnerable.” His literate, straightforward narrative proposes to counter them with four cardinal virtues, reinforced by the Shambhala Buddhist tradition in which the author grew up: gentleness, grace, charm, and mystery, along with their parallels: meekness, perkiness, outrageousness, and inscrutability. Hakim takes his readers through a highly detailed, levelheaded exploration of these concepts, fleshing them out with references to a wide array of sources and inspirations, from the Hawaiian forgiveness ritual of Ho’oponopono to the writings of the Tao Te Ching to the wisdom of the Star Wars franchise’s Yoda. In many ways, the cry of medieval troubadour Bernard de Ventadour, quoted here, provides the raison d’être of the book: “Ah God! If one could distinguish sincere lovers from fakes, and if flatterers and cheats wore horns on the forehead!” Similarly, Hakim’s work aims to help readers make their way through a confusing thicket. One of its hallmarks is its engagingly direct focus on relationship essentials, such as earnestly listening to one’s lover, looking at him or her directly in the eye, and resolving disputes with affection and understanding. This genuinely helpful relationship book reads smoothly and quickly, propelled by often graceful prose: “Having overcome violence, we possess great gentleness,” the author writes in a typical passage. “Having overcome pettiness, we have grace. As a further extension of the drive toward greater humanity, we come powerful, charming.”
Powerful, persuasive encouragement toward better and wiser loving.