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Leo Buscaglia on Expectations

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: May 20, 2000
Latest update: July 17, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site Leo Buscaglia
Living, Loving, and Learning

  • Love 1A: Non-Violent Responses to Structural Violence

    A good place to start reading for the Love 1A course would be to read Leo Buscaglia's Living, Loving, and Learning, or any other of his books, for that matter. My notes are keyed to Living, Loving, and Learning, but his basic themes of non-violent response are repeated throughout his books.

  • A Couple of Buscaglia's basic themes:

    • Expectations

      "People are not here to meet your expectations." (Living, Loving and Learning, p. 109) People are each unique; each worth knowing in their own right. To have expectations is to shape the world by your own perspective, to try to fit others into where you have categorized them as belonging. That is structurally violent, for it causes you to set up categories into which you try to make people fit, and it makes it harder for you to categoize and interpret their communication because your own categorization preoccupies you and places structural limits on the categories you consider.

      I share an expectation here with Leo Buscaglia. I knew him when he taught Love 1A. Who he was and how he loved influenced my teaching enormously, so I was not surprised to read these paragraphs on p.116:

      I have a lot of things in my classes that I call 'voluntarily mandatory.' One of the things that is voluntarily mandatory is that every student come to see me in my office at lest once. I cannot teach bodies. I can only relate to people. And so I say, 'Come in, and we will sit across from one another. I don't want to talk about the texts or the class. We can do that another time. I just want to know the last time you saw a unicorn and do you still believe in primeval forests. And when you come, I am going to touch you---and if that bothers you, take your tranquilizer.' It is amazing how many are intimidated by someone who says, 'I want to touch you.' I was raised in a large Italian family, as most of you know, and everybody hugs everybody all the time. On holidays everyone gets together, and it takes forty-five minutes just to say hello and forty-five minutes to say goodbye. Babies, parents, dogs---everyody's got to be loved! And so I have never suffered that existential feeling of not being. If someone can hug you and not go theorugh you, you are. Try it sometime.

      About two years ago a young lady came into my office, and I knew immediately something was wrong. Here eyes were kind of glazed, and here head was nodding, and I asked, 'What's the matter"' She replied, 'Oh, Dr. Buscaglia, in order to get enough courage to come to see you, I had to drink a whole bottle of Ripple! And I think I am going to be sick!' Imaginiing [sic] having to drink a bottle of Ripple to summon up the courage to come to see me. All I do is put my hands out and say, 'Hi.' I cover their hands with mine and lead them into my office, and I can see a look of panic on their faces, 'What's he going to do to me?' I am not going to do anything to you! I just want you to know that I cry, too, and I feel, too, and I care, too, and I don't know everything, too, and therefore, we can start with a common frame of reference---human being to human being. If anybody tries to play the game of 'follow the guru' with me, they will be lost, for they will learn that I am just as confused as they are. The difference may be that I know it. 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!"

    • Wonder, not Knowing

      Buscaglia reflects always the joy of learning, the wonder of how much we can do. That is important in dealing with children who are challenged, but we all deal with challenges every day. We forget to "wonder" at how much we have, and how much we can give to others. Buscaglia is sensitive to the special needs of special education. But he is equally sensitive to the special needs of all education, to set wonder once again before us.

      Buscaglia quotes from Brynner's translation of Lao Tzu's The Way: "And whether a man dispassionately sees to the core of life or passionately sees the surface, the core and the surface are the same, words making them seem different only to express appearance. If a name be needed, let the name be wonder, and then from wonder to wonder, existence opens." Buscaglia adds that all we need to do as teachers, even of those with special education needs, "is make it possible for them to recognize [their potential] in their way and be there to help when they need help, support, encouragement. 'And if the name be wonder,' they are all going to succeed." (Living, Loving and Learning, p. 110)

    • Re-Thinking the Structural Violence of Our Institutions

      We'll be taking a normative ordering approach to understanding how people relate to institutions in their lives, and how the institutional structure has violent repercussions on those for whom its underlying unstated assumptions do not apply. Here we want to draw on Susan Silbey's work to illustrate Marlene's story of how we disseminate word of new theoretical work: Just leave the computer turned on at Dear Habermas. Analysis of how that's local, and how we can move to cosmopolitan.

      Start by reading our work on structural violence.



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