A culture wise in love’s ways would understand a relationship’s demand for time. It would teach the difference between in love and loving; it would impart to its members the value of the mutuality on which their lives depend. A culture versed in the workings of emotional life would encourage and promote the activities that sustain health—togetherness with one’s partner and children; homes, families, and communities of connectedness. Such a society would guide its inhabitants to the joy that can be found in the heart of attachment—what Bertrand Russell called “in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined.”

The contrast between that culture and our own could not be more evident. Limbic pursuits sink slowly and steadily lower on America’s list of collective priorities. Top-ranking items remain the pursuit of wealth, physical beauty, youthful appearance, and the shifting, elusive markers of status. There are brief spasms of pleasure to be had at the end of those pursuits—the razor-thin delight of the latest purchase, the momentary glee of flaunting this promotion or that unnecessary purchase—pleasure here, but no contentment. Happiness is within range only for adroit people who will give the slip to America’s values. These rebels will necessarily forgo exalted titles, glamorous friends, exotic vacations, washboard abs, designer everything—and in exchange, they may just get a chance at a decent life.

Thomas Lewis et al., A General Theory of Love