Monday, October 17, 2016

Misconceptions About Love

I have heard it said that love is the most confusing concept that mortals deal with. I seek to correct some misconceptions on this issue.

A former friend of mine, who is a brilliant writer and thinker, wrote that “love is beautiful and hatred is ugly, and never the twain shall meet.” In fact there are many situations in which the twain do meet. There are many people who both love and hate their partners. There are many people who love their country and hate their neighbors. There are many people who love God and hate Satan. In all of these situations, the twain do meet.

Then there are people who see some kind of incompatibility between love and anger. This is also very wrong. If you love your child, you would be angry at someone who hurts your child. Expecting anything else is not enlightenment. It is foolishness.

I have also heard it said that love is the most powerful force in the universe. In fact love is quite fragile. I have known of many situations – and had one in my life – in which someone would deeply love someone else, only to have some Iago tell them a pack of lies and poison them against their partner. In all of those situations, love gets destroyed. This would not happen if love was the most powerful force in the universe.

I said that love is fragile. I did not say that it is worthless. Its value is its beauty, not its power. Flowers are fragile as well. That does not make them any less beautiful. The solution is to value the beauty and to use whatever power one has to protect it, and in so doing preserve its value. Do not expect things to be powerful that aren't. Value them for what they are and use whatever power you do have to defend them.

I have also heard it said that love is something that one should generalize on the whole of humanity, even on all sentient beings. The correct response to that is, What do you mean by love? I cannot be expected to love every person the way I love Michelle or Julia. Nor can I be expected to love every child the way I love my daughter. It could be valid to expect me to extend to others goodwill and compassion; it is not valid to expect me to extend to them passion or partiality.

An input upon this subject comes from W. H. Auden. He stated that “the error made in bone of every women and every man... not universal love, but to be loved alone.” I do not see how that is error at all. If you are married to someone, it is rightful to expect that they love you alone. I would not expect anyone else to act in any other way.

Another claim I have heard is that romantic love creates attachments, and that attachments are always painful. That may very well be the case; but maybe avoiding pain is not what it's all about. I would rather have beauty in my life even if it is painful than not have beauty in my life at all.

Then of course there is the claim that there is some kind of incompatibility between love and ego, or between “flesh” and spirituality. That is also totally wrong. Romantic love is both physical and spiritual. There is the meeting of spirits, and often there is also physical attraction. There is no incompatibility between such things; they work together.

Even if there is some kind of a self-interested component in love, that does not damn it either. The current political and economic system is based on self-interest and protection of people's rights. If you think it selfish to want to be loved, you will have to also see the same in your living in comfort until age 70 in a democracy instead of tilling a two-acre plot of land, living till age of 30, and having your sons drafted into the military and your daughters into domestic servitude.

With psychological explanations, most are dead wrong. Freud mistook the memories of childhood sexual abuse for erotic fantasy and, as a result of this wrong core analysis, came to a number of completely wrong conclusions, including his most grievous error – that love is transference from a parent. Nor is it anything like “narcissism”; it worked very well for the World War II generation that has never been accused of any such thing. It has nothing to do with “self-esteem” or any other such thing; it happens regardless of how you see yourself. All of these explanations are absolutely wrong.

Then there is the claim that it is about “external validation.” It is not about any kind of validation at all. It is not about what you feel about yourself; it is about what you feel about the other person. I can validate myself all day long. That does not reduce the love that I have for Michelle or Julia.

Nor is it, as some in feminism claim, a “patriarchial racket” or any kind of a racket. Playing women is a racket; love is not. I am not a player. I love whom I love genuinely. I seek their well-being even if it is not the same as my own, and I've proven that when my former wife left me to be with another man.

A useful idea on this matter comes from a very unlikely source – Ayn Rand. She said that love is passionate approval of the other person with your whole being. This is certainly a better explanation than any of the preceding; but it's not only about approval. There is a lot more to it. You also seek their well-being even if it is not in your own immediate personal interest – a concept of course which is alien to Ayn Rand.

Then there is the claim that the concept of love was invented by Greeks, who used it to have sexual relations with boys. The people who make such a claim have obviously not read the works that were formative to the Greek civilization. There are many epics and plays, preceding Plato, that feature love between men and women. Plato used the concept of love for wrongdoing. That does not damn love; it damns Plato.

Even in the Indian civilization, in which marriages are arranged, love came to be through the works of a woman poet named Murabai. Here is a society that has done its darnedest to get rid of love, and even there it came to exist. Murabai was not a man pulling a racket. Murabai was a strong and courageous woman. She has far more the right to the title than any Third Wave feminist.

These are the main misconceptions that I have encountered, though I am sure there are many others. In “A Beautiful Mind,” the mathematician John Nash stated that he had found the greatest truth in “equations of love.” This is a person who was not irrational in any manner; he was better at reasoning than just about anyone. There is no incompatibility between love and reason. Nor is there incompatibility between love and spirituality, or between soul and flesh. Love is not the most powerful force in the universe; its value is not its power but its beauty. See things for their actual value and avoid misconceptions that anyone else may create.


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