Citizen Tom is talking about my favorite subject, love, in a post called, “Love: is it our chief idol or our most prized virtue?”
I of course, am fond of romantic love, sacrificial love, interpersonal relationship love, but I also enjoy looking at love in a philosophical, political, cultural context. What does it actually mean to love one another in a broader context?
Part of my comment to Tom was about how we must first toss out all cultural definitions of “love,” because we know those are going to be distortions, perversions. Today we “love” our lattes, kittens, Hallmark cards, romance, and glitter. Obviously we do not actually “love” these things. When I was a kid we used to say, “if you love that book so much, why don’t you just marry it?” It used to be a bit of a joke. Everyone understood we were using “love” in the wrong context. I’m not so sure we understand that anymore.
The second thing I’m aware of is some gender differences. Men and women often perceive love differently. That is part of what makes solving the love riddle so much fun. Sometimes I think of men as verbs, they can be such action words, so my husband once said to me, “of course I love you I go to work me everyday, don’t I?” Well of course, technically true, but that’s love devoid of feelings. That would be a bit like a mother providing food and nothing else, no conversation, no recognition of kids as actual human beings, no attempt to connect and relate to them. Kids need to be seen and heard for who they are, known. To simply provide for them with no emotional connection, would probably produce a dysfunctional human being.
Not just kids, but big people,too.
When you take love out into the political and cultural realm, things become even more complicated. Who exactly is our neighbor, the ones we are commanded to love? Are we loving them in a way that is beneficial to ourselves or beneficial to them? Whose needs are we actually meeting? Love can actually take on a selfish aspect, in which case is it really love? Are we providing people with what they really need or are we actually providing ourselves with what we think they need? Are we telling them what they want to hear or what they need to hear?
As you can see, love can be an incredibly complex issue. I always have a bit of a chuckle over the greatest commandment, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Many have been deceived by the simplicity of those words, words I have come to believe are about as simple as brain surgery or rocket science, words we are granted an entire lifetime to try to understand. God is indeed love, but love can be a very deep subject, filled with complexity and surprises.