Category Archives: love

Another inconvenient truth

Philosophers typically don’t talk much about Love.

And yet I feel it’s a topic we need a much more dedicated philosophical discourse about, because without it we are missing much of its power and potential.

Whether you think of Love as an emergent emotion, triggered by a particular set of physical/chemical/hormonal circumstances; or whether you consider Love to be the ground of all being, the commonest transcendent human value – it all bears some scrutiny and discussion.

It is clear that the overarching interpretation of Love in our culture is emotional. When we think of Love we are most likely thinking of EROS – romantic and sexual Love.

As a consequence, people talk about Love as only one part of our human experience. Some people pursue the notion that Love is an optional ingredient in a fulfilled life. Others cannot help but put Love right at the heart of every aspect of their experience, wanting to possess it and be validated by it and in it.  They might even become dependent upon it and addicted to it. Like a drug, it is viewed as an external temptation, an inconvenience, running counter to rational logic. It’s something that’s at best avoided, at worst sampled in moderation.

I have come to believe that having this limited, take-rather-than-give view of Love is driving us mad. And yet philosophy stays quiet on the subject. It doesn’t really help us out. And we need it to.

When we get emotional about Love, when we consider it as a personal condition or affliction, we also evoke other personal emotions that are akin to the fear of losing it or spoiling it. Jealousy, grief and anger rear their heads; closely followed by shame and guilt.

I intuitively feel that these are emotions generated by our egos, our personal thinking, that serves to keep us separate from danger and discomfort, but in actual fact over-actively menaces us with separation from our true selves.

Typically, the more we love, the more insecure we feel, as our egos plague us with all the scenarios where what we feel is wrong or might go wrong.

No wonder the philosophers don’t want to touch this state of mind with a barge pole. It is a muddled minefield of irrational passions.

So why can’t we admit that Love, as our ingenious language suggests, is something altogether more broad and less specific? Why do we resist the notion of Love as a value? Or at least as the most humane and human mode of treating ourselves and others?

The answer to these questions lie, I feel, in the fact that we’re too ready to let our egos run the show, and not well enough equipped to calm down our minds and allow ourselves to perceive our deeper truths. So to a logical mind it might seem sensible to allow a distressed baby to ‘cry it out’, whereas to the deep love of a mother this would be cruel and impossible: she could not stop herself from attempting to comfort the infant.

Our ego thinks it knows better. It tells us it knows better. It bombards us with Logic. But it doesn’t know Love. It holds itself separate from Love. It goads us with the dark side of Love, and tries to hold us separate from it too.

Meditative embodied practices help us to calm this part of our Mind. Journaling helps us bear witness to it, and provides us with the capacities to appreciate our underlying sense of Self.

The real inconvenient truth I suppose is that Love cannot be categorised. It is both an emotion and a deeper, broader truth and value.  And maybe this is the thing the philosophers struggle to wrap their ego around.

How do these manifestations of Love play out in your experience?

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Photo by Hope Blamire Artist

 

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October 25, 2018 · 12:50 pm

One Word

I’ve been thinking a lot about Love recently.

And I started to feel hard done by that we only have one word for it. Compared to the Greeks’ eight or nine this seems paltry.

I started thinking that we mustn’t take Love seriously in our culture and language to only have one word. The Inuits have dozens of words for snow. Surely if we cared more about Love we’d have a wider range of vocabulary?

Our English word Love is ancient. It pre-dates the Norman Conquest of England and finds its roots in the Old Germanic, then middle English, ‘lufu’.

So it survived Latin and French, and was unperturbed by amore or cherir. Far from not taking it seriously, it feels to me like we defended its unique meaning to the hilt.

But what is that meaning? Doubtless in medieval times people knew exactly what they meant when they spoke the word. These days I’m not so sure. It has so many meanings and so many contexts. Predominantly these days in common parlance it refers to romantic and erotic love rather than love for friends, family, off-spring, nation, self or God.

But it’s still just One Word. There are dozens of other words signifying states of mind  which might lead us to Love: like joy, or appreciation, or creativity, or truth or gratitude, or freedom, or even anger, but still that single, ancient, honourable word endures.

And now I’ve come to think of this as utter linguistic, cultural, spiritual and epistemological  genius. Because of its multi-layered, multi-faceted nature it is the ultimate “all things to all men” notion.

We can each choose individually how broad its scope is for us. We can confine our best love for our beloved, our family and at a pinch our closest friends; or we can surrender our egos to universal loving compassion in the style of Buddhist monks.

We can recognise the emotions of Love and we can also consider the values of it too. We can be human about it, or we can touch the Divine through it. It is basically the quickest and most effective vehicle to get us wherever we want to go.

So whatever definition of Love rings true for you, get curious. Are you defending it with all your might? Are you dismissing it? Taking it for granted? Are you living it fully and intentionally, to whatever level you choose? Or are you cheating yourself?

It’s One Word. But we make of it what we will.

 

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October 21, 2018 · 5:37 pm

What’s your brand of love?

I am often disappointed that we’ve only got one word for love in English. Or rather that that word is expected, in our language, to embrace all manner of  ways of loving.

The Greeks had seven or eight concepts of love – each given its own label. In the same way Inuits have dozens of words for snow. Strikes me that the more a people think about something, the more vocabulary they give it.

So what does our only having one word for love say about how we think about it? Does it affect the way we feel? How we talk about it?

Do we even talk about it?

Is it true that by limiting the language, we also limit the concept and its permissibility?

I certainly feel that in the society in which I live the concept of love is rather biased to the side of the romantic or the erotic. And if for whatever reason people don’t feel that way inclined, then love starts being treated either as something a bit pink and fluffy and light-weight;  or a bit shameful.

This doesn’t feel good to me at all.

Of course we love our families and our children and our friends. But how often do we tell them? Are we talking about love in the right places?

And what about in our public lives? Do we act with love in our businesses, with our acquaintances, our colleagues, in our everyday life?

How easy is it for you to love the white van man who’s cut you up on the roundabout? And how do you show love to the sick and the needy?

And the real million dollar question is how well we love ourselves. How well do you know what love feels like to you? What are the physical sensations that you experience? What activities are you engaged in when you feel them?

Personally I think that understanding our own brand of love is one of the most important priorities of our age. We need to be able to talk with greater eloquence about what love would do in a wider range of scenarios than simply the romantic.

Journal-writing is an act of self-love. Paying attention to our inner voice in our journals is an important step towards cultivating love for ourselves. After all we are the most important person in our life. The better the relationship we have with ourselves, the better our relationships with others will be.

So – is it time to expand your experience of love? Pick up your journal and reflect on some of the questions here. Slowly but surely you will begin to identify and recognise your own particular brand of love.

 

 

 

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