Shall We Love?
In some ways, the more we try to understand love the further away from experiencing it we may be. Similarly, the more loving we perceive ourselves to be, the less love we might be demonstrating to those around us. It is pride, not merely self-deception, that shields the eyes from truth, and it is false modesty that assures us of our virtue. Yet, false modesty is even worse than pride for at least pride is genuine whereas that which is false is never true.
Is it necessary to attribute goodness to ourselves that we do not actually possess in order to continue living? Or do we make a habit of doing so out of a frantic effort to love ourselves? If so, the result is that we love only a “false”‘ self and not the truth of who we are. And without loving our true selves, any love we give to someone else lacks the essence that gives love its transformative power.
When we are born, none of us knows what love is or what it is supposed to be. Our concept of love is shaped, formed, and molded by the words others speak and the deeds they perform in the name of love. But that which is done in the name of love does not define love any more than a rose is defined by its name. The flower exists separately from the word we label it with, and love exists separately from the words and actions done in its name. The Bible speaks of knowing a tree by its fruits. And Soren Kierkegaard uses this scriptural concept in Works of Love to set forth the idea that love is known by its fruits.
Kierkegaard writes, “By its fruits one recognizes the tree. ‘Are grapes gathered from thorns and figs from thistles?’ (Matthew 7: 16) If you expect to gather them there, you will not only pick in vain but the thorns will show you that you pick in vain. For every tree is recognized by its fruits.” What Kierkegaard says makes sense whether one shares his spiritual views or not.
Yet, does one not wonder about the fruit that appears to be different from what it really is? What of the rotten fruit that appears to be delicious and nourishing? If we taste of that fruit and give of that fruit to others, knowing it to be bad even though it appears good, have we then shown love? Kierkegaard believes that it is the spirit in which the fruit is given, and therefore the spirit in which a word is spoken or a deed is done, that determines whether it is the result of love or not.
Perhaps, to many people, the concept of acting and speaking from a place of love sounds as if it is beyond human capabilities. After all, Kierkegaard was not only a Christian but also a philosopher. To look at things from his perspective may sound good. But is it realistic? I will not venture to give a definitive answer to that question.
However, I do think it rather depends on how willing one is to make the effort to love in such a way. If a person is self-serving, then such a love as Kierkegaard speaks of would hold little appeal for him. But, if he at some point discovers that his self-serving actions are not bringing him that satisfaction he hoped for, then he may take the time to try to understand the concept of unconditional love.
The main challenge that we encounter when we try to change our views of a concept such as love is that we, prideful creatures that we are, would rather persist in error than to acknowledge that the ideas we have been subscribing to could be wrong. If, for example, a man or woman sees love as a feeling that passes over time, the very idea of love that could last a lifetime may merely provide him or her with something to scoff at.
For those who take love and make a mockery of it by doubting in its truth will desecrate even the most sacred of experiences. What is usually not remembered is that not believing in something in no way takes away from its existence— if, in fact, it exists. Rather, it merely prevents the person who refuses to believe in it from experiencing whatever it is—whether it be love, happiness, or something else–in his or her life.
After all, if we cease to believe in the sun, do we really imagine that it will fail to come up in the morning? And if we cease to think that we are mortal, are we then miraculously granted immortality? You and I both know that the answer to both questions is no.
That which is real is not the least bit dependent upon us for its existence. Thus, once we establish that not believing in love only brings about self-deprivation, we are once again turned back to the concept of self-love. If we love ourselves, why would we deprive ourselves of love? Is it not more logical to assume that in depriving ourselves of love by not believing in it, we are showing how little we love ourselves?
Of course, much debate exists, particularly in the context of religion, about whether or not self-love is something to strive for. This is because self-love is oftentimes confused with narcissism or egoism. It is wrongly assumed by many that in loving ourselves, we are being egotistical. But if we cannot give an emotion to someone else that we do not first possess within us, how is that possible? We must love ourselves first and foremost before we love anyone else. And at the moment we truly love ourselves, we will then understand our connection with everyone else for we will see that they are part of us and like us.
As for egoism and narcissism, it is actually not self-love but pride that is at their root. And since pride and love are not compatible, where pride is love does not live. For love in its true form must have humility at its core. The reason for this is that only by humbling ourselves are we able to love and accept ourselves and therefore other people in spite of both our flaws and theirs.
Of course, humility is not something that you can actively seek. So, no matter how much you may wish to awaken tomorrow feeling humble, that is not how humility becomes part of who we are. It is actually only through remembering all of our shortcomings and weaknesses that we attain a genuine sense of humility just as the easiest way to love others is to see them as being part of oneself.
But what of romantic love—the love shared between two lovers? It was surely this love that Boethius was speaking of when he said, “Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law.” Yes, that is the love that Boethius was speaking of. But I do not think that he was right.
I think that there is a law that should be given to all lovers. And this law is that they shall love. What does this mean? Well, it is a concept that presents love not as merely being rooted in one’s feelings or emotions but rather as being a product of one’s will.
As Kierkegaard says, this simple phrase, “thy shall love”, is not poetic or romantic. It will not make lovers swoon with midsummer madness. Yet, the simple truth behind it is this: love that is not a decision is not a genuine commitment, and love that is not a genuine commitment is capable of alteration.
Thus, the “law unto lovers” may be looked upon as the command to love each other. For without this, the love that holds two people together is no more stable than a house built upon sand. And such a house, having no solid foundation, might easily crumble into nothingness the first time it encounters a fierce and ruthless storm.
It must be understood that the command is one that we give ourselves. We make a decision through the force of our will to love. In this form, love ceases to be dependent on feelings or emotions. Rather, it remains steadfast for the vacillations of sentiment are not a portion of it.
But does this mean that if love becomes that which we will as opposed to that which we feel that it will lose its spontaneity? Well, it will lose the type of spontaneity that we may associate with romantic feelings that are present one moment and gone the next. However, the spontaneity that is part of the many ways that love is given and received will never be lost.
For like life, love is a stream, ever flowing outward and inward in its true, eternal form. It’s never passive but always a moving, acting force.
Love, Peace, & Joy
It would make me very happy if you would follow me at Twitter: http://twitter.com/saschanorris
Also, you may reach me by e-mail at: email@example.com
This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved