He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Love it to Death: The Truth in Love

There is real truth in the proverb, "Love is blind."  When we are in love with someone, it is easy to be blind to the fact that we do not share the same core values required for a relationship to work well.

When we are in love with someone, it is easy to be blind to the fact that attempting to have a relationship with them is not a smart risk to take, that it is likely to lead us to heartbreak.  I know very well what it feels like to be in love, spinning about on the hormone-filled roller coaster, blinded by the biochemical cocktail much beloved by evolution for its ability to prompt us to make our mating decisions quickly by ignoring the risks and weighting the rewards highly.

This blind love is the love of chemistry, the love of warm and fuzzy feelings which inevitably fade, the love of bad poetry which merely expels emotional waste.  This blind love involves thinking only of a person's best qualities and ignoring their faults.  This blind love leads us to be unfaithful to our beloved when we are attracted to someone new.  This blind love keeps us from seeing what is true because it fills our vision so completely with what we desire.

This blind love is thus a love which leads us to falsehood, a love which refuses to allow the truth of reality or morality get in its way as it barrels toward its goal of fulfilling a transient desire.  This blind love is amore, a love which is not enough to provide the meaning we need in our lives.  An incomplete love which on its own can only satisfy temporary appetites, that's amore.  An engine without a chassis, which produces heat and waste, but cannot carry you to a worthwhile destination, that's amore.

We need the chassis as well, something which can provide the meaning in our lives, something more substantial which can accomplish much more than satisfying temporary appetites.  We need a love which leads us to truth, a love that embraces the truth of reality and morality so as to fulfill our need for radical transformation, our need to make ourselves anew in light of the highest ideals so that we can live our lives to the fullest.

This love is the love of the will which transcends chemistry and orders our chemistry toward the good of our beloved.  This love is the love that keeps us committed to our beloved even in those moments when the warm fuzzy feelings have hardened into a cold rage.  This love is the love of great poetry, poetry in the deeper sense which moves us to participate in the sacred act of creation.

This love involves remembering our own faults when thinking of the faults of our beloved so that we do not become self-righteous while being intentionally grateful for their best qualities.  This love leads us to be faithful to our beloved no matter how many times we are attracted to someone new.  This love allows us to see what is most true because it empties our vision of the selfish desires which prevent us from seeing the real needs of others.

This true love is caritas, the highest virtue and the deepest love exemplified by Christ in his sacrifice on the cross.  It is the love that allows us to see another person as we see ourselves, understanding that their mistakes and weaknesses do not define them and that they are of immense intrinsic value just as we are.  It is the antidote to the blind love which leads us to be blind to the faults of others just as we are blind to our own faults.  Whereas amore is an application of our false view of ourselves onto how we view others, caritas is an application of a true view of ourselves onto how we view others.

In caritas, we see that our lives and our talents are a gift for which to be profoundly grateful, also seeing that this is true of all other persons, being grateful for the unique gift of their lives to all those who encounter them.  In caritas, we see that our fellow human being is an imago dei just as we are an imago dei, treating them with the love with which would wish to be treated because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  In caritas, we see others as God sees us; we see the person God created them to be in all their wondrous potential, compassionately helping them to realize that wondrous potential rather than dwelling on their faults which will fade away.

In caritas, the small promise of amore is fulfilled beyond the lover's wildest expectations, showing them in the powerful light of truth that their beloved is a gift far more valuable than they could ever see in the weak light of mere desire.  In caritas, we love to death the blindness which afflicts the lover who knows only amore, opening our eyes to what is good, true, and beautiful in all people.

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