I've started reading Open Heart, Clear mind by Ven. Thubten Chodron. I'm slowly wading through the text and considering much of what she says.
In reading the third part of section two, titled Love vs. Attachment: Distinguishing genuine care from unrealistic projecions, she talks in depth about human relationships. If I understand her correctly, most human relationships are superficial and based on superficial criteria such as race, gender, class, intelligence, etc. As such, we form relationships with particular people, treasure and protect those relationships, and overestimate the value of those relationships to the detriment of everybody else. For example, if somebody threatens my wife, I'd threaten that person in return or worse - avenging suffering with more suffering. Another example is to cling strongly to my wife, bragging about her achievements, telling anecdotes about how happy we were on our last vacation, or worrying when she's diagnosed with cancer - never facing the reality that my wife is an ever-changing being like myself, not static, and definitely not eternal; as a result, I suffer when she fails, or when we don't have fun on a vacation, or when she passes away. Instead of this form of self-defining attachment, Ven. Thubten Chodron advises a love that embraces all people universally regardless of race, gender, class, intelligence, etc. simply because that person exists - understanding that not only is that person like myself desiring happiness, contentment and well-being, but also recognizing that persons shares my fate of aging and death.
I don't have any problem with the second part. I can appreciate this universal definition of love. My problem is with the first part. For one, Western science has demonstrated that the attachment between mother and child is pre-natal, and only grows stronger through infancy. Mother and child spend so much time together, that the child literally begins to infect the mother's brain with its presence. The self-definition of "mother" and "child" are, therefore, biologically ingrained and far from superficial. Animals demonstrate this mother-child attachment, as well. Mother regarding child or child regarding mother with the sort of universal understanding love that Ven. Thubten Chodron advises isn't impossible, but abandoning attachment is not possible since it's in their very genetics.
Ven. Chodron's recommendation to abandon attachment leaves little room for romantic love between partners given that she criticizes the bases upon which these relationships are formed and sustained. Furthermore, though many cultures have long practiced the custom of arranged marriages with some success, arranged marriages allowing for greater opportunity of practicing Chodron's universal love without discrimination, even these marriages are arranged superficially, considering race, age, class, intelligence, etc. Again, Western science has proven that romantic love is biological: it is the result of a series of hormones, neurological realignments, and chemical flooding of the entire body. Even in the worst of arranged marriages, a husband will protect his wife for no other reason than to protect the mother of his children.
In sum, I find Ven. Chodron's words cold and distant. She writes as if she's never experienced the pleasurable pains of being a mother or falling in love with someone, enduring the joys and pains of marriage, and remembering that person with great energy and love when they're gone. She writes like a self-imposed grad student or like a monk. And that's my problem with Buddhism: you're required to walk, talk and think like a monk at all times. Watch out for those attachments, monk, you might actually die having been glad to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.
I recall a man whose wife passed away. At the wake, the priest asked the man, "How long had you and your wife been married?" The man replied, "70 years, but it was too short." I'd rather be that man than a monk.