The Other I

February 14, 2015

Love is enough

Filed under: Just Stuff — theotheri @ 4:25 pm
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Happy Valentine PhotosWe celebrated Valentine’s Day when I was growing up.  Except we called it St. Valentine’s Day.  We were taught that the day began in the 3rd century with the martyrdom of St. Valentine by the Romans who tied him to a stake and shot him through with arrows.  Actually, that story is somewhat apocryphal.  The latest version is that Valentine was a priest who performed marriage ceremonies for soldiers serving in Emperor Claudius’ army who were forbidden to be married because Claudius believed marriage interfered with their being effective soldiers.   And Valentine was probably beheaded, not shot through with arrows.

But my understanding of the meaning of  Valentine’s Day was more deeply erroneous than these historical details.  I was taught that love was important to living the life of a true Christian.  I was even taught, as St. Paul wrote, that there is faith, hope, and love, and that the greatest of these is love.

But I was a mature adult before I discovered that “faith” is more accurately translated from the original Hebrew as “faithfulness” than as “belief.”  And so I grew up being taught that this God of Love sent people to eternal damnation not only for failures to love, but in some ways more critically, for a failure to believe.  Abandoning the beliefs of Catholicism was, in practice, far more damning than a failure to love.

Today, I celebrate Valentine’s Day with great joy.  It is the day, 42 years ago, that the man who is now my husband and I first moved in together in a 5th-floor walk-up apartment in Manhattan.

During these years I have come to the conclusion that love is not only the “greatest of these.”  In some ways, it is the only thing that matters.

Love is what makes us feel worthwhile.  It is what makes it possible to forgive others.  And to forgive ourselves sometimes.  It is what we appreciate and often remember most in others, what makes the biggest difference to our happiness.  Small acts of kindness are sometimes amazingly important.

Love is far more important than money or celebrity or good looks or creativity.  It’s more important than health or intelligence or living a long life or being recognized as a great leader.  I do not mean that doing a good job in many different ways is not important.  But if it is not done in the context of love, I do not trust its value to humanity.

As Chris Lawrence said many years ago in his blog thinking makes it so,

 “Love is hard enough.  But it is also enough.”

Enough said.

 

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12 Comments »

  1. I second the moyion

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    Comment by rayvoith — February 14, 2015 @ 11:05 pm | Reply

  2. And also the motion

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    Comment by rayvoith — February 14, 2015 @ 11:06 pm | Reply

    • I guess, though, that if a religious leader – like Pope Francis, for instance – were to say something like that, and suggest that one might disagree on matters of dogma, that he’d be accused of being a heretic. And indeed, what would happen to any specific religious identity if we all agreed that love is really the only great criterion? How could any of us argue that our religion is better than anybody else’s?

      It’s not going to happen, is it? We did it in the Middle Ages with fire and sword. Now it’s ISIS. But the principle seems to be the same, doesn’t it?

      Thank you for touching base. (It encourages me to keep rattling on.)

      On Sat, Feb 14, 2015 at 11:06 PM, The Other I wrote:

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — February 15, 2015 @ 4:21 pm | Reply

  3. Observation: It is more common to find in the west the good feeling (weaker form of love?) extending to far beyond the immediate family.

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    Comment by tskraghu — February 15, 2015 @ 8:28 am | Reply

    • What an interesting observation. But I’m not sure we’re really that different. Yes, Americans are more apparently friendly to strangers, but we are going through another anti-immigration spasm, as you no doubt know. And it’s happening throughout the EU. I suspect that we humans can stand only so much change at a time, and when new peoples bring new ways, we all tend to develop an “us and them” attitude and try to slam the door. And of course, let’s be honest: we humans have often gone into new territories and wrecked havoc.

      So yes, “good feeling” is a weaker form of love in some ways. But in other ways, a lot harder to achieve than love for those in our families or own social and cultural groups, don’t you think? Be interested to know if you disagree – your experience of the world comes from a rather different cultural perspective than mine.

      On Sun, Feb 15, 2015 at 8:28 AM, The Other I wrote:

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — February 15, 2015 @ 4:30 pm | Reply

      • Maybe it’s harder to love those close to you – with others, you can be nice for a short time then go home. With family you are together all the time with associated irritants, etc

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        Comment by rayvoith — February 15, 2015 @ 8:39 pm

      • We all have our private spaces allowing intrusion up to a point. As I see it, it’s more with the west than the rest.

        Probably as you say we were all similar at one time. Perhaps a history of continued insecurity has caused some of us to withdraw.

        For the same reason while here we talk a lot about advaidic philosophy of treating all living beings alike incl animals and plants, it is practised more widely in daily life in the west.

        While on the subject, my thoughts go to the 26 year old girl (of course there are many others too) recently killed in the middle east.; What made her leave home and hearth to spend her youth among the the disadvantaged thousands of miles away disregarding the risks to personal safety? What is it? Is it religious upbringing? Did they teach universal brotherhood in a class room when she was young? Was she inspired by a role model? To me it is an extraordinary act in life. Is there a psy-theory to explain? To me, her life is more than all religions put together.

        If ‘good feeling’ is hard to achieve, here I see the intense commitment going along with ‘good feeling’.

        Sorry if I have rambled.

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        Comment by tskraghu — February 16, 2015 @ 2:21 am

      • Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. When I was young, I dated a sociologist from Gujurat who was working in New York. He told me once that I didn’t understand Indian culture. The older I get, the more I recognize how true that is. But it’s not just Indian culture. Even within the United States and here within England, there are critical cultural differences in different parts of the country. I can’t imagine that is not at least just as true in India.

        But perhaps even more interesting is your question: what drove that young woman to go to Syria to help others? and, as you say, others like her. I look at them with quiet admiration and even awe. No single explanation seems adequate – family, religion, role models, socio-economic factors.

        I guess we can ask the same question about individuals who just as inexplicably seem to become driven to harm others rather than help them. If only we knew.

        On Mon, Feb 16, 2015 at 2:21 AM, The Other I wrote:

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        Comment by Terry Sissons — February 16, 2015 @ 1:50 pm

  4. Love is “always a dynamic becoming, a growing, a welling up of things in the direction of their archetype, which resides in God. Thus, every phase in this inner growth of the value of things, a growth which love produces, is always an intermediate station on the way of the world toward God, however distant it may still be from its goal. Every love is love for God, still incomplete, often slumbering or self-infatuated, often stopping, as it were, on its way.”

    –Max Scheler 

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    Comment by demian217 — February 23, 2015 @ 6:20 pm | Reply

  5. “All ancient philosophers, poets, and moralists agree that love is a striving, an aspiration of the “lower” toward the “higher,” the “unformed” toward the “formed,”. . .“appearance” towards “essence,” “ignorance” towards “knowledge,” a “mean between fullness and privation,” as Plato says in the Symposium. . .The universe is a great chain of dynamic spiritual entities, of forms of being ranging from the “prima materia” up to man—a chain in which the lower always strives for and is attracted by the higher, which never turns back but aspires upward in its turn. This process continues up to the deity, which itself does not love, but represents the eternally unmoving and unifying goal of all these aspirations of love. Too little attention has been given to the peculiar relation between this idea of love and the principle of the “agon,” the ambitious contest for the goal, which dominated Greek life in all its aspects—from the Gymnasium and the games to dialectics and the political life of the Greek city states. Even the objects try to surpass each other in a race for victory, in a cosmic “agon” for the deity. Here the prize that will crown the victor is extreme: it is a participation in the essence, knowledge, and abundance of “being.” Love is only the dynamic principle, immanent in the universe, which sets in motion this great “agon” of all things for the deity.
    Let us compare this with the Christian conception. In that conception there takes place what might be called a reversal in the movement of love. The Christian view boldly denies the Greek axiom that love is an aspiration of the lower towards the higher. On the contrary, now the criterion of love is that the nobler stoops to the vulgar, the healthy to the sick, the rich to the poor, the handsome to the ugly, the good and saintly to the bad and common, the Messiah to the sinners and publicans. The Christian is not afraid, like the ancient, that he might lose something by doing so, that he might impair his own nobility. He acts in the peculiarly pious conviction that through this “condescension,” through this self-abasement and “self-renunciation” he gains the highest good and becomes equal to God. . .There is no longer any “highest good” independent of and beyond the act and movement of love! Love itself is the highest of all goods! The summum bonum is no longer the value of a thing, but of an act, the value of love itself as love—not for its results and achievements. . .Thus the picture has shifted immensely. This is no longer a band of men and things that surpass each other in striving up to the deity. It is a band in which every member looks back toward those who are further removed from God and comes to resemble the deity by helping and serving them.

    –Max Scheler, Ressentiment, L. Coser, trans. (1961), pp. 85-88

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    Comment by demian217 — February 23, 2015 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

    • Roberto – Thank you for this. I’ve never read anything by Scheler. But although he says it so much more eloquently and profoundly, you have understood what I was trying to stumble toward saying. Thank you again. Terry

      On Monday, February 23, 2015, The Other I wrote:

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — February 25, 2015 @ 9:44 pm | Reply

      • You’re welcome dear friend. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I am currently putting a poetry blog together — hopefully this will give us a chance to interact more. It has been a long time and I have always enjoyed our thoughtful dialogues. I hope you’re well my friend!

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        Comment by Giovanni — March 10, 2015 @ 8:31 am


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