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From Aspen with Love

by Beth on July 10th, 2019

I recently attended the Aspen Ideas Festival. It’s a weeklong event featuring discussions of politics and economics, the environment, technology, science, health, education, and the arts. I learned a lot about a lot of different things, but what struck me most was how often love was mentioned.

Musician and actor Common talked about his memoir, Let Love Have the Last Word. He believes “love is the most powerful force on the planet and the way you love determines who you are and how you experience life.” He sees love as the path to heal our society that has become fractured under issues of race and politics. He urged us all to love people who are different from us and who think differently.

Arthur Brooks also spoke about love. Brooks led the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, for the past decade. He has written many books, including Love Your Enemies. He explained how people have a tendency to view those they disagree with as stupid and evil. This prevents us from being open to hearing different points of view. Brooks challenged us to respond to contempt with love, saying it can change your heart and might change the other person’s heart, too. He went on to say love is not a feeling, but an act of will.

Other talks weren’t directly about love, but they did emphasize the importance of caring about others. David Brooks, the political and cultural commentator, spoke about his recent book, The Second Mountain. In it he argues that true joy comes from a life of commitment to others. Tara Westover, who wrote Educated, said she believes education is less about knowing more than someone and more about really knowing someone who is not like you. Rhiana Gunn-Wright, one of the authors of the Green New Deal, explained that the purpose of the proposal is to make sure certain groups don’t suffer as we move to new sources of energy.

In a country that is facing a loneliness epidemic and extreme levels of political divisiveness, perhaps it isn’t surprising to see some people turning to love as the answer. My hope is that more and more people choose to let love have the last word.

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