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?