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Humberto Maturana: 6 Love
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Biosphere, Homosphere, and Robosphere: what has that to do with Business?
Humberto Maturana Romesin and Pille Bunnell

Besides language, there is another peculiarity about human beings, namely that we are loving animals. Now I know that we kill each other and do all those horrible things, but if you look at the story of the transformation of Shell Oil, or other similar transformations, you will see that it is a story of love. The problems of Shell Oil were solved through love, not through competition, not through fighting, not through authority. They were solved through something very, very different. They were solved through the only emotion that expands intelligent behavior. They were solved through the only emotion that expands creativity as in this emotion there is freedom for creativity. The emotion is love. Love expands intelligence, and enables creativity. Love returns autonomy, and as it returns autonomy, it returns responsibility and freedom in us.

Once in a lecture I said that we are loving animals, and a question arose... "Are we animals?" I answered, "Yes we are animals, but we are loving animals." Most animals are loving animals to some extent, what is peculiar about us is that we have expanded this emotion in our manner of living. What happens if you take a dog to live with you in your home? I'm sure you have some experiences like this, with dogs or cats, or parrots, or lizards. What happens with this dog? It becomes childish and playful - you come home and it jumps on you, licks your face, and you say "Ah, ah! you love me too much!" The dog becomes playful like a child, it becomes as we are when we are not under the stress of duty, or the demand of authority, or the negation of ambition and competition.

Humans are those animals that have expanded living in love. We have become dependent on love in the sense that we become ill of body and soul if love is interfered with. Sometimes conditions arise in our culture so that some bad ideas persist in spite of their badness. I think competition is one of those bad ideas that is destructive, and yet it persists.

If you think about what happens in your daily life (remember, this is biology, not philosophy) you will notice that we normally use the word emotion to connote domains of relational behaviours. Emotions specify kinds of relational behaviours. If you say somebody is angry, you know immediately what kinds of relational behaviours this person can participate in, and what kinds he or she is incapable of while angry. If you say someone is ambitious, you know immediately what kinds of relational behaviours he or she can and cannot participate in. We know this; it is very simple.

We can characterize emotions by the particular body dynamics that specify what you can do and what you cannot do. That does not mean that the emotions are body dynamics, or that they take place in the body. Emotions take place in the domain in which they occur, and where they occur is in the relation.

Emotions take place in a relationship as kinds of relational behaviours, and this is what you distinguish when you distinguish an emotion.

When you distinguish a particular behaviour, you distinguish the emotion. If you want to know the emotion, you look at the behaviour. If you want to know what kind of behaviour it is, you look at the emotion. Behaviour and emotion are both ways at pointing at relational dynamics; they entail different looks, different ways of grasping these dynamics. As we speak of this dynamic we do what language enables us to do, that is we make an object of either the emotion or the behaviour, and having done so we can look at it. But you do not have to think about this, you already practice it in daily life - you know when your friends are angry, when they are joyful, sad, or indifferent. And you know immediately either by looking at the behaviour, or looking at the person. We are expert at seeing emotions. It is because it comes so easily to us that we do not see that this is the case - there is usually nothing that triggers us to reflect on the relational dynamics of emotioning.

Now I am going to tell you what love is, not as a definition, but as an abstraction of the coherences of our living - and I pretend that this is all that one needs to know.
Love is the domain of those relational behaviours through which another (a person, being, or thing) arises as a legitimate other in coexistence with oneself.
You could use the word respect instead of love, they are two forms that refer to this dynamic in different circumstances. But remember, as I said about living in language: words are never trivial. When you use 'respect' you are creating a distance, an aloofness, and that leads to a different path .. so I prefer 'love'.

The dynamics I have abstracted is how we act, whether or not we reflect on it. Suppose that you are walking in the countryside, and you encounter a spider. What if you exclaim "A spider!" and immediately stomp on it, making sure it is thoroughly squashed. What would your companion comment? Something like "You don't love spiders" or "You don't love animals" or "You hate spiders, don't you!" And all those expressions belong to the negation of love, the spider does not arise as a legitimate other in coexistence with you.
Aggression is that domain of relational behaviours in which another is negated as a legitimate other in coexistence with oneself.
But if you say in wonder "A spider! look at it! Let's be careful not to step on this beautiful spider" your companion might comment "You sure love animals! even spiders!" You don't have to take it into bed with you, to transform it into a princess or something, to love it. The fact that you let the spider be a spider where spiders live shows that you love it. You let the other arise as a legitimate other through your behaviour. It is your behaviour that makes it so you move around the spider so it can co-exist with you.

We talk about love as if it were special because it is rare - but it is a really ordinary thing. But it is special in a different way. When the emotion of love is there, then vision expands. Many, many, many years ago I was walking with one of my sons, Alehandro, who was about seven then. We were going through a field of thistles and I was opening a space with my stick by batting the thistles aside. Suddenly my son asked "Father, why don't you love thistles?" and there I was, stopped, suddenly seeing what I was doing. And when I stopped being aggressive towards the thistles, I saw them, beautiful violet flowers! I could see a path between them without destroying them. But the point is, that at seven, Alehandro knew exactly the nature of love as a relational behavior. So we learn this as children - we don't need philosophy or science, or anything.

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