Correspondences: On love

Dear M.,

I appreciated the argument …very much—present perhaps not explicitly but as an undertone—that the realization of love drives human evolution as its telos or final cause. I think it was Novalis who wrote that “Love is the ‘Amen’ of the universe.” The question of an evolution of consciousness or an evolution of inwardness is a very important element of my work.

“Love” is at the same time the simplest and the most difficult term to grasp. We can take the approach of vatic silence and say only “you know it when you encounter it,” but at the same time we must concede that it is not a “brute fact” but a “moral fact,” in Anscombe’s terminology. This means that the dimensions of our own souls and the depths of our love are cut by the same measure. It is also difficult because, to paraphrase Aristotle and C. S. Lewis together, “love is said in many ways.” Storge, eros, philia, and agape are the Greek words that Lewis famously appeals to to aid in limning nuances that a single word might tend to gloss over. Charis probably deserves mention as well.

I have also thought of love as gradients of willingness that strives at once in two directions: towards union with the other and which simultaneously stands guard over her uniqueness and therefore individual difference. The greater the love, the more fully this integration of union and individuality is achieved. “Communion” is a very expressive phrase in this respect. Differences alone provide for no relation and are thus not love, and identity alone also provides for no relation and is thus not love either. Abolition of differences to the point of similarity but without respect for individuality as such almost inevitably turns to evil because it initiates the impulse of mimetic desire that Girard so lucidly exposed as the origin of all collective violence. Indeed, Girard defines violence as “the annihilation of difference.” In some mysterious manner, love manages to wed these apparent contrarieties and sublimate the annihilation of difference into a spiritual communion. As I said, I believe that this conjugation is accomplished because love exalts the differences just as it might seem to nullify them through union. I believe this characterizes our relation to the great authors of the past: we become at once united in spirit with them while also keenly aware of their difference from us and the distinctness of their vision from our own.

I have also thought of love as a force of willingness to change on behalf of the beloved. We will not allow ourselves to be transformed for that which we do not love. Aristotle famously observed that “There is a mover which, not being moved, moves, being eternal and reality and actuality. The desirable and the intelligible move without being moved. The primaries of these are the same … It moves as loved.” For all of his perspicacity, the noble Stagirite was not provided the revelation of the Trinity, and thus he failed to grasp that Christ was this mover. Love, therefore, is not merely a feeling but a principle, which is the basis for this eventual feeling. Put another way, we could not feel love subjectively if we did not first love objectively.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Charles says:

    Good writing. You wrote

    e—that the realization of love drives human evolution as its telos or final cause. I think it was Novalis who wrote that “Love is the ‘Amen’ of the universe.” The question of an evolution of consciousness or an evolution of inwardness is a very important element of my work.

    I am with you in this.

    Books fill the library here about these ideas. The reasons behind violence and hatred, and prejudice. The root is a wound and a weakness.

    Like

  2. Hesiod says:

    Another wonderful short writing Max.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This reads like a response to someone you may have encountered elsewhere on the Internet. Regardless…nice, but if people are still “arguing” over the meaning of “love,” we may as well hang it up as a species. Love is not a mental construct. That’s why we call it’s truest form “unconditional.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Max Leyf says:

      It is sometimes much easier to write as though to someone than into outer space.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting term, “outer space.” Wonder what we mean by that?

        Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s