Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

In Defense of Love

The following essay was written in 2001, and was reprinted with my permission under my maiden name at Cobwebs of the Mind on November 29th . It seems appropriate for the day devoted to the celebration of love.

In Defense of Love

Throughout history, love has been both praised and shunned by man, but at no other time has a worse injustice been wrought against love. Love – once reserved as a response to the highest values of Man – has been perverted by philosophers to mean a kind of selfless duty; as consequence, men have come to view the simple phrase, “I love you” as meaning: “You owe me.”

Equating love with duty demands that everyone love his fellow man without cause. Under this demand, Man is supposed to love with equal fervor his wife and a thief; his child and a killer; the productive and the bum on the corner begging for change. He is never to consider each person’s value or lack thereof. In loving everyone, Man loves nothing. It is only value that makes love possible. Where value is lacking, love cannot exist. No amount of duty will make that fact any different.

Although it is often used as such, the phrase “I love you” is not a whip with which to beat a similar proclamation from a loved one nor is the phrase a salve for easing pain. Love is too valuable to be used as such. If one says to his wife that he loves her in an attempt to avoid disappointing her, one is guilty of devaluing love. If one says to her husband, “I love you” in order to force him to profess his love, one is devaluing love. The child who has never met his Aunt Mildred should not be forced to pretend that he cares because of some perverted form of familial duty – this devalues love, too. Love is not a debt owed to anyone without cause. When someone says, “I love you,” one is not duty bound to repeat it back to them like a parrot – one is duty bound to oneself to say those words only to those who have earned it.

On the other hand, expressions of sincere love have been lost to milquetoast terms uttered by people afraid to express themselves for fear that the simple act of saying “I love you” will somehow indenture them to the person they love. ‘I love you’ is simply man’s way of telling another man that he is vitally important -- that the other person represents a mirror of his own values and that he enjoys having the other person’s presence in his life. Man’s ability to proclaim or accept true emotion where it exists has become atrophied and this is as a result of the dilution and misuse of the word Love by equating it with duty.

One cannot love an unknown panhandler or some starving child in another country; one can only love that which one values. Love is the deepest emotion one man can feel for another. Love is based on value and to love everyone or everything devalues everyone and everything. Only when Man refuses to either give or receive causeless love can ‘Love’ reclaim its place as the just response to the highest of his values.

No comments: