Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Real Love

“Because love is just a lazy generalisation
that we use for 100 different feelings” – Darren Hanlon
Well put, Hanlon. But if this is the case, then let me unpack what this means for us in daily life. Exactly what is this lazy generalisation? Look at how someone might say, "I love ice-cream." What is the feeling that they express here. It's not love, it is pleasure. "Ice-cream gives me great pleasure," would be more accurate, but a lot harder to say because it has more syllables and sounds pretentious.

The direction of the emotion gives away a clue as to the folly of using "love" as a lazy generalisation. The "I" relates to the "ice-cream" in only one direction, towards the "I" alone. There is nothing directed towards the ice-cream, the object that brings the pleasure. So, if the person says "I love ice-cream" they really are saying that they only value the ice-cream for the effect it has on the "I".

Is this really love? For many, this is the centre of their love for each other; yes, even for other humans. "I love you," means "I value you only for the effect that you have on how I feel." It creates a correlation between value and feelings within the self. Ascribing such value is a reactionary approach. It waits for the other to first engender particular feelings within the self so that the self can make a decision about the other. Is this love?

Suppose that we take a more serious approach to love. I put it that love does not relate to feelings in any way. Love, instead, is a choice. It is an adjectival verb that describes the nature of an action. Therefore to say, "I love you" really means "I choose to do things for your benefit, no matter how you make me feel." In this way, it is possible to stop loving someone by simply choosing to stop.

But it also means that we can no longer simply wait for the feelings to be right in order to love someone. Love is not the result of feelings, it is the choice that goes beyond the hurt that necessarily comes with human relationships. A spouse can make a mistake but can still be loved through the hurt because of the choice of their spouse to love them over against the pain.

Herein lies the divinity of love. No matter the situation, love acts first. No matter how the subject feels, love acts first. It is more precious and more valuable than so-called "love" that is little more than self-satisfying pleasure in disguise. It is worth living for.

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