Love - 4.2 Love: An Act of the Centered Self If love is...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–7. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
Background image of page 7
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: 4.2 Love: An Act of the Centered Self If love is more than a feeling, it must include the other human faculties of intellect and will. Love must come from the center of the self, the core of one’s being, from that part of the self indivisible to any other and comprehensive of all other parts of one’s being; put differently, from the irreducible self which is present in all the faculties but is never captured in any one of them. What is true of love is, as Paul Tillich instructs us, also true of faith.1 While faith or love must involve all three faculties, it must transcend these faculties at the same time. Faith and love can never be reduced to only one faculty nor let mind, heart, or will so predominate the other two so as to render them powerless. For example, when the faith of a Christian community is based exclusively on feelings, it tends to evaporate as the feelings change. This results in a constant struggle on the part of both the community and the individual to keep these feelings alive and “hot.” Pentecostal churches and certain evangelical non~denominational Christian churches fall into this category of grounding faith in feeling and as T. S. Eliot says in another context, “undisciplined squads of emotion.” On the other hand, when faith relies so much on the intellect that will and emotion are considered less important and perhaps even a threat to faith if they were stronger, the individual becomes trapped in a lot of external beliefs which, upon careful reflection, often has little to do with a living and growing human experience. Many Roman Catholics, from the time of the Reformation in the 16th century up until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, often were raised to think that faith meant a kind of knowledge or intellectual assent, popularly experienced as knowing the right catechism answer. Finally, faith as something willed with one’s whole heart often makes faith a burden since one’s deepest feeling and one’s intelligence is left to one side. All that matters is the strength of one’s will to accept God, as God can be found in Scripture, regardless of how much or little sense the divine reality might make. Reformed Protestantism tended to put too much emphasis on the will, creating a faith that was sometimes dark and gloomy, leaving the believer with an image of God as One who demands a surrender of the will at all costs. (It is for this reason that suicide rates were always higher in the Protestant countries of Northern Europe than in the sunny environs of Southern and predominately Catholic Europe.) The same pattern is true with love. Genuine love, like authentic faith, is an act of the centered self, an action that flows from the core of one’s being. The deeper and the stronger the love, the more involved all three faculties will be present in the act of love, without succumbing to the temptation of reducing love to one or two of the faculties. Love cannot be reduced to a feeling or emotion, to an act of the will, or to an intellectual act, though each of these faculties are involved in their own way in the act of loving. Love that leads to the commitment of marriage must most certainly come from the core of the self, not from the mind or heart or will. When love is not a centered act of the person, it inevitably reduces love to one or the other human faculties. It often creates a relationship which becomes unbalanced or distorted—one built on sand—because the center of the self which proclaims love for another is not fully engaged in the act of loving. For example, love based on reason or will lacks passion and enthusiasm. In an age where reason and romance are more enemies than friends, many people believe that they must choose one or the other. Failing to succeed in romance, they will “will” to marry another and create the “reasons” to justify their actions. It is perfectly reasonable to marry a man or woman one has dated for a long time, especially with lots of support and encouragement from both of the families. The person just has to will to do iteven if his/her heart is not really, not fully, there. But the emotional dimension, the feelings he or she has in his/her deepest heart, can be covered over and remain unfulfilled for only a short time—only to emerge at another time, perhaps in a destructive way. Likewise, when love emerges from“ the intellect and not the whole person, feelings become secondary and the genuine intimacy that feelings bring to a relationship—those feelings of warmth and delight in the other—become servants to the logic of the love. This creates a kind of calculating love, a love that makes sense to the mind but not necessarily the heart. It is reasonable to want security in life and to be loved by another; when one experiences that security and that love in another person, regardless of how the person him/herself might feel, the intelligent thing to do is to love the other and enter into married life. Sometimes people reach a certain age when it is imperative to marry, when their mind tells them it is the right—read “necessary”—time to marry, and they may fall into the trap of “marrying marriage” because it is the only intelligent thing to do, regardless of the affective and emotional commitment they may have in the relationship. Life and love are thus reduced to a calculation or an abstraction, and the intimacy of the relationship is submerged or lost. ‘ Finally, love based on emotion usually means that the lovers are carried away by passion and emotion; they fall into “limerance” with one another and are swept along by those best-of-all human feelings which are part of love and the joy of love but not the essence of love. When emotion takes over, love may be reduced to mere sexual passion and the irrepressible longing to be with another. Our hearts and souls soar, our pulse beats faster, our palms grow moist, and the sexual parts of our body respond accordingly. This kind of love can lead to self-deception so that what one calls loves is nothing else but the fulfillment of sexual needs or the need to feel good about one’s self because one is alive in passion. Emotion in love is wonderful and joyous and love cannot be without it no matter how excited or mellow it may be. It is, as Tillich says, “the anticipation of the reunion which takes place in every love-relation.” But emotion in love cannot precede and embrace the ontological reality of love, the movement of one’s whole being to another; rather, the emotion of love, or better the complex emotions of love, are the expression, not the essence, of love’s ontological reality. Of course, no human love can be perfect since it must always find expression in the vagaries of the personality and of individual history. Theologically, love is also a victim of sin and human selfishness. There is also no perfect integration of the faculties of emotions, intellect, and will into the act of the centered self in love. More emotional persons might place more emphasis on the affective side of love—we often say of these individuals that they “wear their hearts on their sleeves” or they are always being carried away by every new desire, every new attraction. Others who prize the intellect or the will may place more emphasis on these faculties in the expression of love—we might think them a bit cold or unemotional about life. The sanity of a clear mind about the love for another and the loyalty of a committed will are noble and desirable gifts. Love that comes from the centered self will never find a perfectly balanced expression, but love that is reduced to one of our human faculties is always headed for disaster. 4.3 Love as a Triangle In addition to an ontological understanding of love grounded in the center of a person’s being and involving mind, heart and will, psychology also presents an interpretation of love and relationships based upon the triangular relationship of three components: intimacy, passion, and decision/ commitment.2 In this psychological theory of Robert Sternberg, love is used descriptively, not normatively. Psychology is concerned with what love is and how love appears, not what love ought to be. The first of these components is intimacy, the feelings of closeness and bondedness in a loving relationship. Intimacy includes the desire to promote the welfare of the other, an experienced happiness with the other, mutual sharing of possessions, support, and communication of the important matters of life with the other. Intimacy is much wider in this context than sexual intimacy, the usual distortion of the word in our culture. The second essential component is passion, those “drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and related phenomena in loving relations.” Passion involves the state of longing for physical closeness and union with another, and sexual desires, fantasies, and needs predominate in this dimension of love. Passion is “limerance,” the feelings of “falling in love”, as the culture generally understands these words. Finally, the decision/ commitment component involves the decision that one actually does love someone else—the decision itself—and. the extension of this love into a long-term relationship—the commitment. While obviously connected, these two aspects are not the same: a decision to love does not necessarily involve a commitment because it is immediate or short-term. Likewise, strange as it may seem, a commitment need not involve a conscious decision because some individuals are committed to another without admitting to being in love or making a conscious decision to love. In most cases, however, the decision is the beginning of commitment. As Sternberg says, “the institution of marriage represents a legalization of the commitment to a decision to love one another throughout one’s life.”3 These components are usually very closely connected in a relationship. Passion may produce a type of growing intimacy between two people; this can but need not necessarily happen, of course, and the relationship may only be one of sexual desire with nothing else to support it. Likewise, intimacy can produce passion. Two close friends may develop a sexual attraction for one another which was not present at the beginning of the relationship and which developed out of, and was a result of, their personal intimacy, their long conversations, their sharing of souls. Likewise, the decision/commitment component is also an important dimension in the enduring nature of the relationship. In pre-modern and non—Western arranged marriages, decision/ commitment—made primarily by the families and not the individuals—may come first, followed by passion and intimacy. In modern marriages, decision and commitment by the man and woman are essential but usually develop as a result of the experience of passion and growing intimacy. To underestimate the importance of decision and commitment is to miss a major element in the continuance of love; this component is essential for the survival of the relationship, especially in hard times. It is the decision/commitment component of love that binds isolated moments of passion together and gives them a deeper significance. Likewise, decision/commitment is essential in the creation of fidelity in the relationship because it controls and focuses our passions and structures and orders our potential for intimacy. Commitment also makes intimacy more than just an “emotional half-holiday,” that is, a temporary break from the burdens of the world and the isolation of the self, and gives intimacy richness and permanence. This triangle also allows us to understand different kinds of psychological love and their various level of fulfillment4 First, infatuated love is the rush of emotions towards another or “love at first sight.” This type of love is usually easy to spot—except for the two persons involved! Passion is very high but there is little or no intimacy and no decision/commitment. Second, empty love signifies that the parties have made a commitment to love each other but both the intimacy and passion components are missing. Empty love is always present at the beginning of an arranged marriage. In our own culture, we see empty love near the end of a relationship that has become stagnant over the months or years. Passion leaves the relationship first and intimacy slowly wanes, leaving only the commitment to love which may keep the two people bonded for a while. The renewal of passion and intimacy is, of course, essential for the loving relationship to survive. Third, romantic love involves both passion and intimacy; the lovers are drawn physically and bonded emotionally. Classical figures such as Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, typify this kind of love. (We were not sure about Michael and Lisa Marie.) What appears as romantic love sometimes can masquerade as infatuation in which there is passion but no real intimacy or personal and emotional bonding between the two individuals. Fourth, famous love involves two 4 of the three components of love, passion and decision/commitment. Intimacy has not yet developed or is not possible between the partners. This is the Hollywood type of relationship or the whirlwind romance and marriage where two people meet, fall madly in love (which means in passion) and decide to marry two or three weeks later. Passion can occur almost immediately (love and sex at first sight), but genuine intimacy takes some time and effort on the part of the individuals. Commitment is thus based on passion alone without the stabilizing element of intimacy, which is cultivated slowly in the course of the relationship. These kinds of relationships are threatened from the beginning; of course, intimacy can grow between the partners after the decision/commitment, but it is not very likely. Fifth, companionate love has the same structure as fatuous love with a different component missing. This kind of love is based on intimacy and decision/commitment, but the component of passion is not present. In some marriages, the passion dies but the intimacy and friendship along with the commitment allows the love and the marriage to survive. The two persons are each other’s best friend and companion; they are devoted to each other; but the element of excitement and desire has disappeared from the marriage. Sometimes persons give up on the possibility of passion in their lives and marry for companionship and mutual commitment. Finally, consummate love is complete love. It is the realization of all three components in one living and vibrant relationship. It is the goal and the highest achievement of all married love. Reaching consummate love in a relationship is one thing and maintaining it through the years is quite another, however. Certainly, consummate love should be present before a marriage begins. There must be passion—usually not the difficult component in young people who begin a relationship with sexual attraction; there must be intimacy, a sharing of minds and hearts; and finally, and perhaps most important in modern culture, there must be decision and commitment. 4.4 Four Types of Love Psychology, philosophy, and theology have identified and named four classical types of love since the time of the ancient Greeks. Each type is not distinct from another, as if expressions of love had nothing in common, but represents a dimension of love, a characteristic of love. The types of love are interrelated since each involves the same movement of one’s being, that is, a quest for reunion with the separated. The classical types of love (the use of Greek names helps each type to be clearly understood) are these: epithymia (libido, in Latin), eros, philia, and agape. Epithymia or libido is the sexual and procreative drive towards union with another. Libido is more than a drive to the pleasure of sex; the desire for sexual climax with another isn’t love at all but the release of physical tensions. The direction of epithymia is primarily toward physical union with the other, not the pleasure that accompanies this union. As Tillich says, “It is not the pleasure itself which is desired, but the union with that which fulfills the desire.” Epithymia is good in itself and comes from God because it is the drive to increase and multiply and fill the earth, as Genesis admonishes. Sexual attraction is the mode God has chosen for the race to survive and flourish. Because of humankind’s sinfulness, however, persons have “fallen under the tyranny of the pleasure principle.” Under the fallen human condition, some individuals enter in relationships with others not to seek reunion with the self, the other, and God, but as tools for gaining pleasure out of others.” While sexual desire is good and healthy and part of what it is to be human, it becomes distorted and corrupt when one person bypasses the center of the other person and is focused on only sexual love. Epithymia is not united with the two other qualities of love, eros and philia, and it does not come under the ultimate criterion of all love, agape. Agape always allows us to see the other in his/her center—it lets us see the other as God sees him/her. Eras is a drive to wholeness and the absolute, a force within one’s being that is personal in its nature and directed to an infinite horizon of truth, beauty, and meaning. In the biological realm, it is a “drive for union and reproduction.” Eros can never be reduced or confined to a particular finite form or expression but can never be experienced except through a particular form. The ancient Greeks knew that eros was a god or daimon, not “in the sense of being above man, but the power that binds all men together, the power informing all things,” as Rollo May says. Eros is the “original creative force.” It “binds diversity together.” Eros is “the power in us yearning for wholeness, the drive to give meaning and pattern to our variegation, form to our otherwise impoverishing formlessness, integration to encounter our otherwise disintegrative trends.”5 Unfortunately, the word “eros” has lost its deep and comprehensive meaning in contemporary culture, and the adjective “erotic” is often a synonym for the sexual and the pornographic. This is a complete distortion of the traditional meaning of eros in Western culture. Philia is the love of friendship; it is personal and individual and always seeks a communion with another as an equal. While eras is transpersonal, a drive to the horizon of the infinite, philia is personal, a desire for friendship with another. Neither of them is possible without the other. There is an eras quality in philia and a philia quality in eras because the personal and transpersonal pole are intimately connected in all relationships.y,Most people know philia from the city of Philadelphia, the “city of brotherly love.” In ancient Egypt in the third century BC, the greatest of the Ptolemies who ruled the country was Ptolemy Philadelpus who was on the throne with his wife, Philadelphia (of course), from 290—245 BC in the great world city of the time, Alexandria. . . Agape is absolute and unconditional love, the love that is God’s love. Agape is not another type of love besides epithymia, eras, and philia but the quality of the unconditional in every type and expression of love. Agape is “love cutting into love”...“the depth of love or love in relation to the ground of life.” Agape is God’s love, the perfection of love in all of its forms. Agape both judges the inadequacies of all human love and heals and transforms love in its frailty and incompleteness. In the Gospels, Jesus preaches agape, not as love, which excludes epithymia, eros, and philia but includes them. For this reason, Jesus went to the wedding feast of Cana to celebrate (with abundant wine one must note) the marriage of two people, shared close friendships with his disciples Peter, James, and John, and passionately preached and embodied the Kingdom of God. Epithymia without eras, philia, agape becomes lust, a drive to individual pleasure and the release of physical tension, not the sexual union of persons. Epithymia is not lust in and of itself, but is reduced to‘ lust only when it is isolated from the other types of love, when epithymia is sex for sex sake. According to Rollo May, sex is “the building up of bodily tensions and their release. Eros, in contrast, is the experience of the personal intentions and meaning of the act.” The goal of sex is to be released from tension—or sexual climax; the goal of eros, on the other hand, is the prolongation and increase of the tension.6 When sex is cut off from the erotic drive to wholeness in and through union with another, passion is lost and replaced by the pure sensation of sexual pleasure and sexual release. Of course, sex has always been used for reasons other than an expression of a deeply committed erotic relationship: in pre-modem times, for procreation; in, modernity, for pleasure and recreation. But sex can also be used for another purpose too—one with far-reaching consequences for the individual: not for sensation and instant gratification but as an escape from the demands that eros places upon us, from the implicit anxiety which is part of an erotic relationship. Where does this anxiety come from? Eros demands participation in the life of the other, a sharing of fantasies and dreams, a willingness to open oneself and reveal oneself to another. Sexual activity for its own sake can be used as a clever escape from the anxiety that accompanies the involvement and commitment to the life of another. It can also serve in the 6 search for personal identity and gaining security. Both men and women are guilty of this self- deception: “If I sleep with him, I know he will love me and my life will have value.” “If I have a woman in my bed, I will be a real man. I can tell my friends about her.” As Mays puts it: “It is a strange thing in our society that what goes into a building a relationship—the sharing of tastes, fantasies, dreams, hopes for the future, and fears from the past—seem to make people more shy and vulnerable than going to bed with each other. They are more wary of the tenderness that goes with psychological and spiritual nakedness than they are of the physical nakedness in sexual intimacy.”7 \ The separation of sex from eros in modern culture is, to repeat, one of the ways modern people avoid the anxiety of eros. They “relinquish their passion in favor of mere sensation.” First, they seek sensation to avoid the anxiety in the commitment of eros; second, they use the act of sex and its concomitant pleasure in their quest for security and identity. People flee first from eros into sex, then flee from the pleasure of sex into the deeper needs of the self. This demands of sex as sex what it can never give—a meaning and significance to their lives. The result is usually a profound disillusionment with sex, leading to affectlessness, a lack of genuine and deep feeling for another, and sometimes sexual impotence. A relationship between two people that is primarily sexual in nature reaches a point of crisis where one or both of the parties ask: is sex enough? Is s/he touching my deepest self? Am I sharing all with him/her? Does he really know who I am? As one woman puts it: “We wanted to feel good, but we forgot why somewhere along the line. As May says, ‘The emphasis beyond a certain point on technique in sex makes for a mechanistic attitude toward love-making, and goes along with alienation, feelings of loneliness, and depersonalization.”’ One student characterizes our modern culture and the issue of sex in relationships this way: Out of my friends, I would say that ninety—percent of them are in relationships today because of sexual intimacy and convenience. Because of the media, television, and music, sex has become a way of life in our society and the goal of most adolescents in relationships. For example, let’s take my friend, Nick. He has been going out with his girl friend, Nicole, for three and a half years now and next year they are moving in together. Although he says, “I love you” to her all the time, you should hear the way he talks about her around his friends. Every time he has to go visit her in the City, he is disappointed because he says it is so boring hanging out with her. I always ask him why he is in this kind of relationship if he does not like spending time with her, and he always tell me that it is convenient and that their sex life is good. Their relationship is an It relationship based completely upon their own egos. I feel bad because I know that they are going to get married and that their feelings for one another will eventually run out. And when they do their relationship will become a burden for both of them, and it will end. This is an example of so many couples in today’s society. The renewal of moral principles in sexual conduct in our culture in the last decade may be more a flight into other idols we construct to make sense of our lives when even sex has failed us rather than an authentic rediscovery of the inherited moral principles of the West. It is also a response to the terrible fear of sexually transmitted diseases. Yet when freedom is there and sex is possible, sex will usually take place—yet not without a struggle with the moral tradition. Indeed, many seek a new moral sense of themselves they can live with in the quiet of their own conscience. As one young woman has expressed it: Because of this freedom, the satisfaction in the area of sex has been more common. As an individual living in the modern world, I feel I need to break free and recapture some of my ideas on morality that have been lost. Although I no longer have my morals and my moral actions predetermined for me, I realize that this dees not mean that I am to live without morals. The myth of falling in love and romantic love is often merely falling into “limerance,” as one author has coined it. “Limerance” is an intense infatuation for another which is heavily spiced with epithymia or sexual love; without integration of epithymia with eros, without the presence of the polar opposite of eros, philia, as well as the purification of all the types of love by agape, sexual love is destined to fail because it cannot sustain a relationship. Put differently, coming down from cloud nine or “falling out of love,” as M. Scott Peck suggests, is necessary in order to love another person. This means that both individuals have to transcend sexual desire by integrating it into the totality of the relationship. Likewise, eros without agape turns in upon itself and reaches for the form or shell of the absolute in beauty and truth, not the inner substance and reality; this leads to the faults of aestheticism, perfectionism, et al. The passion and judgment of the absolute is surrendered to the beauty of the cultural form. As May says, “The wings of eros becomes wings of escape.” To conclude this section on the types of love: in marriage, the three qualities of love must be alive and effective in creating and nurturing the relationship. Husband and wife must know the passion of epithymia, must share the delight of eros, and must be intimate friends by sharing philia. Agape as unconditional love is both the fulfillment and completion of each of the other qualities of love in the marriage relationship as well as a judgment on all distorted and incomplete human expressions of love. 1 See Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith (New York: Harper, 1957), chapter 2. Here Tillich speaks of the three distortions of faith: the intellectualistic, the volitional, and the affective. 2 This idea is based’entirely on the research of Robert Sternberg, Yale Professor of Philosophy, in his article “A Triangular Theory of Love,” Psychological Review 93, 2 (1986): 119—135. ‘ 3 Ibid., 123. 4 Ibid., 1.23-1.24. I am using five of Sternberg’s seven kinds of love and follow his definitions. The inferences and conclusions are mine. 5 Rollo May, Love and Will (New York: W. W. Norton 1969), 6 Ibid., : 7 Ibid., ...
View Full Document

This note was uploaded on 04/20/2008 for the course TESP 124 taught by Professor Reitessj,james during the Spring '08 term at Santa Clara.

Page1 / 7

Love - 4.2 Love: An Act of the Centered Self If love is...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 7. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online