“Why can’t we all just get along?” This is a common question. One might as well ask, “Why can’t we all just pick up musical instruments and play beautiful music together?” The answer to the later question is clear: “Because not all of us have been properly trained and practiced in the art of musical performance.” So it is with people’s ability to love.
In the story “The Music Man,” con man Harold Hill sells musical instruments to people with the promise of creating a wonderful band. He provides no musical instruction beyond telling people to “think Beethoven’s Minuet in G.” When pressured to actually direct the musical piece, what results from his “band” is a horrible sound with only the slightest resemblance to the Minuet in G. There is certainly no display of excellence. Nor is there any ability to play other songs.
It is not enough to simply have a musical instrument and “think” about playing music. Musical excellence requires proper instruction and years of practice. Playing music with a group of musicians only works when everyone in the group understands the musical rules and has the proper musical skills. So it is with love in a marriage, a family, or an entire society.
Harold Hill’s “band” is similar to what results from telling people to “just love one another.” Saying “all you need is love” is like saying “all you need is a musical instrument and the passion to play it.” People need to be taught how to love. They need to learn and understand the “rules” of love and relationship. In other words, people need to learn and practice virtue.
Love is not a “feeling.” Love is an action. In order to perform an action with excellence, one requires skill and practice. Virtue is the skill of loving with excellence. Without virtue, all we have is feeling and emotion. One can “feel” very passionate about playing music. But, without the skill, one is not truly free to actually play the music. One can “feel” very passionate about love. But, without the skill to love (virtue), one is not actually free to love. In both cases, one becomes a slave to one’s passions. “Feelings” alone, as powerful as they may be, are not reliable guides to life and love.
An excellent musician is a “virtuoso.” The ability to love excellently is “virtue.” Love is not “all we need.” We must know how to love. Knowing how to love involves more than being led by emotions. Even the most passionate desire to love will lack excellence without virtue.