The True Face of Love (I)

Introduction & First Part
Tomás Melendo

 

Introduction
Let’s Get Going!

Careful!

There are many ways to read or study a text, just as there are many ways to observe reality. Quite often, we may not notice something or we may let certain properties or characteristics of a person, animal, or thing pass by unnoticed simply because we are not looking for them.

Something similar happens with books. We have to put our mind in the state of exploration to discover everything they can teach us. If this does not happen, we may very easily miss clear issues that are clearly presented, but that do not tell us anything.
So, before you start this section I would like you to try to answer the following questions at your leisure. If necessary, you can do it in writing.

 

• Do you think love plays an important role in our lives? In particular, does it play a big role in yours?

• If your answer is yes, do you think it is important to get to know in depth what it means to love? If so, do you think it is something one learns with experience, which means at least being aware of how others live and of what is going on inside of you? Do you think that it is worthwhile to dedicate specific attention to learning to love in theory and in practice?

• Since you are still reading, it seems you have chosen “yes, it is worth it.” If that is the case, take some time before reading to think or write down five to ten definitions of love. If you do not feel able to define it in a clear and precise way, at least describe in different and approximate ways what it means to love, even if you have to use examples.

• Distinguish between the conceptions of love that are “in the air” or that “everyone thinks of,” but that seem wrong to you, versus those which you would more or less accept as correct or that you yourself live or try or would like to live.

• Among all of these, choose the one that you consider most satisfactory, even if it is not totally so.

• First express why you have ruled out all of the definitions or descriptions that seem false to you.

• List the reasons why your preferred definition is the best one. If you are still not totally convinced by it, try to figure out what it lacks in order to be perfect.

• When you were doing all of the above steps, what model or type of love came to mind: love between a man and a woman, the love of parents for children, or the love between siblings or friends? Did something else come to mind or nothing in particular?

• Do you think they are all the same, that there are common elements between all of them, or that conjugal love or the love between romantic partners (to give specific examples) has little or nothing to do with the love between friends or siblings?

 

Once you have reached this point, you have my permission to start to read.

If you have not read the above section, instead of me giving it to you, you can take it yourself.

1. Cheated of love

To defraud oneself of love is the most terrible, is an eternal loss, for which there is no compensation either in time or in eternity

In other words: it is the most terrible deprivation of all, and if it is not restored, it cannot be made up for in this life or in the future.

These words from Kierkegaard,1 written over a century and a half ago, have not lost any of their relevance; on the contrary, they are even more current, relevant, suggestive, and piercing now than when they were first written.

For in today’s world, there are so many falsehoods and failures in love, such as:

The inability to commit, infidelity, or lack of loyalty between spouses, couples, friends, colleagues, neighbors, professionals of widely varying types…

Emptiness, indifference, merely putting up with each other, divorces, separations, physical or psychological aggression, different types of violence…

Abandonment of the grandparents in places where “they will be taken care of better than in the family,” children leaving and neglecting their parents and vice versa, and of siblings and other members of the family neglecting each other…

Yet —and this is the clincher— in our times we also seem to have lost sight of the very meaning of love in its highest and deepest meaning.

2. Deceived about love

In short: we do not know what it means to love. The very term has been emptied out, prostituted. Today —and I am referring to the cases in which we are not speaking about a real perversion— what we mean by the word love is generally:

A kind of dumbed-down, vague, sappy sentimentalism incapable of fulfilling even a teenager’s noblest dreams: it is what one author called a liquid love that is almost without consistency.

Or pure biology, merely physical interaction, like the debased and disgraced phrase making love, which is so far from its original meaning of winning over a person or courting her nobly, growing and helping her to grow. It is also a far cry from the marvelous and deepest feeling of building the love of a lifetime together every day, as in marriage.

In our times, it seems that the very meaning of love has been lost in its highest meaning

3. Learning to love

Such a forgetfulness of what love entails is surely one of the most deeply underlying evils of our culture.

So, if we hope to build the civilization of love, which the most qualified authorities have been urging us to do for decades, and which arises within all of us as an irrepressible impulse, we have to start by raising up the human standard of society as a whole. As individuals and as a group, we have to learn what it means to love, both in theory and in practice.

To start, we have to be clear that true love is:

Not blurred and watered down into those sappy and sentimental outpourings I mentioned earlier.

Not just a purely physiological or even merely chemical function, which comes into play quite often in relationships between couples, as well as in friendships or relationships between siblings or others.

Not reduced to a mere stimulus for pleasure or self-centered fulfillment, in a kind of apparently shared tandem selfishness, as Kierkegaard and Soloviev warned us…

Far from all that, love is essentially, although not exclusively, constituted by a profound, high, daring, and stable act of the will that puts the whole person into a fruitful state of tension, enabling him to perceptively delve into, discover, choose, pursue, carry out, grow, refine, and give the good to his beloved.

The nucleus of love is a high and enduring act of the will that discovers, carries out, and gives the good to the beloved

Don’t worry.

Acquiring knowledge is a gradual process. We do not usually fully understand something when we read it the first time. What we halfway understood prepares us to study what comes next, and then we can clarify what we already learned. Often it is just a matter of going over it again, of reading the same thing more than once. But the end result will bring deep and considerable satisfaction.

Go for it.

 

Help for personal reflection

• Once you get into these first pages, though they are few, compare what they say with what you thought before studying them, especially if you wrote it down.

• For example, did any of your descriptions include the term “will” or any of its synonyms or related words?

• Did you refer directly and explicitly to the good of the beloved or at least to the good in general?

• Did you use the word “person” and, if so, did you use it with a clear and explicit intention? Did you realize why you were using that word and did you intend to use it?

• Was your understanding of love based more on the level of feelings and emotions or on the level of passion?

• If so, or although you did not mention them, do you think that these emotional states, which can be more or less forceful, but also changeable, have to do with love in its noblest sense? Do you think they make up love’s most specific element? Or, by contrast, do you think they do not belong to its essence and that it is not even appropriate to mix them with love? Please develop your answer as much as you consider necessary, without regard for whether it is correct or not. The idea is just for you to clarify for yourself what you think of love.

First Part
Willing the good for another

 

A basic description

To begin clarifying the familiar yet wondrous mystery of love, I will refer to the short description that Aristotle left in his Rhetoric. The Greek philosopher tells us that loving is “wishing the good for the other for his own sake”.2

Thus, three elements make up the reality we are looking for:

Wishing (or willing).

The good.

For the other (for his own sake).

A light commentary on each one of these components will set us on the right road to begin penetrating the nature of love.

 

I trust you still want to continue on and I remind you…

Careful!

As I suggested, there are many ways to read or study a text, and many ways to observe what surrounds us. Often, we do not notice the existence of something or we pass by without perceiving or appreciating some of its properties because we do not pay enough attention.

Something similar happens with books. It is necessary to awaken the mind, “put the neurons to work,” to find their lessons. If not, we will not even realize interesting issues —which may also arise— and we end up worse than when we started.

Thus, before jumping into the next section, I would like you to try calmly answering —or at least reflecting on— the following questions.

 

• What do you think of Aristotle’s position on love?

• Do you think it is something cold, old-fashioned, and obsolete that has little to do with what today’s man experiences, and therefore pretty much useless? Or, on the contrary, do you see it as very current, and as something that could be updated just by retouching and improving the vocabulary, brushing up certain terms or adding an element here or there that Aristotle may have left out?

• In any case, make an effort to understand what the Greek philosopher meant to say with each of the components of his description. Concretely: why does he speak of wishing? Why the good? And why, at least in this text, does he direct it toward the other and not toward self?

• Does it not seem that the insistence on wishing the good for the other for his own sake stands in opposition to today’s trendy conviction that someone who does not love himself cannot love others?

• After these reflections, what do you think of Aristotle’s proposal?

• Have you learned something with what you have read so far, and above all, have you thought of any question or issue that you had never thought of before? Try to relate it to what follows.

 

As usual, I will either give you permission to continue reading… or you will decide for yourself. As for me, I’ll never find out.

 

I. Willing
1. The will… and more

When Aristotle describes love as wishing or willing, he probably wants to make it clear that the backbone of love is in the will.

Those of us with the good fortune of having been in love for many years know that there is more to love than that. We know that in the strong, deep, and full sense, we love with all our being.

We know that in order to love truly, we have to bring everything into play:

There are the most transcendent acts, such as prayer and sacrifice for the loved one. There is also the joint and ongoing design of what will be the conjugal and family life plan. And in the end, there is the mutual and irreversible self-giving of one to the other with that objective in mind.

Love involves our feelings, affections, and emotions, which echo, expand, complete, and exteriorize our affection.

And love includes the most commonplace and seemingly irrelevant actions by which we seek the good for the beloved in a concrete way. For example:

The effort to look elegant and attractive: him for her, her for him (that is: him too).

The effort of a generous smile, a reproach or sarcastic remark withheld, a delicate caress or a look or gesture of approval and affection even when we feel tired, on edge, or discouraged… even when we don’t feel like facing anything or anyone.

Or the small details that make it more delightful and enjoyable to come home and rest, gestures that illuminate daily life with flashes of devotion, that give form and life to the intimate and hidden dedication of parents to each child or between siblings, friends, and colleagues… when all of that seems like “second nature” and also when it is hard and very hard!

We love with all that we are, know, and feel, with all that we do and can do, with all that we have, lack, and desire. Yes, we also love with our lackings and our ideals, in the measure that we share them, or at least reveal them.

We love with absolutely everything.

In a similar fashion…

Loving consists in pouring out our entire being to support, lift up, or help the beloved subject

 

1.1. But… the will!

In any case, the breadth of love is so impossible to encompass. It is the understanding word or silence; constant and dedicated work or generous availability to the children, friends, or colleagues when we are very short on time; the finishing touches on one’s own appearance or on the house with minute details that are often almost imperceptible, but always indispensable…

While what I just wrote is true, something else is no less true: the almost infinite repertoire of actions or activities is only transformed into an upright, sincere, and time-tested love when directed and encompassed or immersed in an operation of the will —wanting— which, as we will study at length, seeks the good of the beloved in a noble, frank, determined, and efficacious way.

A noble activity becomes love only insofar as it wills and seeks the good of the beloved

1.2. An authentic balance

Due to all of the above points, and in particular, the current circumstances, I think it is of utmost importance to maintain a harmonious balance between two positions. When these two positions are absolutized and set against each other, they would give rise to dangerous theoretical errors and behavioral deviations that can sometimes be irreparable:
a) On the one hand, as we often experience, it is the integral person who is fully, intimately, and intensely involved in any act of true love, whose recipient will always be another person. Love is an interpersonal reality in the widest and strongest sense of this expression.

On this point, Guardini notes:

…the person exists in the form of the dialogue, related to another person. The person is destined by his very nature to become the ‘I’ of a ‘Thou.’ The fundamentally solitary person does not exist.3

Frankl explains it similarly, following Heidegger’s lead. He assures that, due to man’s spiritual condition, he is not meant merely to be, but to be-with, and that this indispensable requirement only begins to be met when he encounters his fellow men and women. And he concludes:

But this is only possible in that state of being wholly “given one to another,” which we call love.4

Nédoncelle suggests something similar in his essay on love: in the strict and full sense, love is always an interpersonal reality.5

b) On the one hand, as we have seen, loving involves the entire But precisely for that reason, as I will show, the motor, root, and foundation of authentic love is always an act of the will directed to the most noble thing that exists —another person. Love intends to give the other person a good that perfects him or her, that helps the beloved to be a better person who is more coherent and upright.

John Paul II affirmed this idea, uniting both perspectives. In human work, he said, the different spiritual faculties tend to come together, and this would be the first aspect. But he added, in this coming together, the will serves as a guide.

Love is an interpersonal reality in the widest and strongest sense of this expression

2. Willing: the foundation and nucleus of all love

Loving, willing. We are looking at key words and realities. Why?

Because love is not identified with expressions such as “I like her” or “He attracts me” or “She’s appealing” or “He interests me” or “It excites me” that are more or less particular to each place, and by which so many of our contemporaries, both young and not so young, try to justify their behavior. In the end, if isolated and absolutized, all of these actions end up being more proper to animals than to man.

This is not an exaggerated outburst nor is it an expression of contempt or dismissal —not at all. It is an effort to faithfully describe a reality.

a) And it is that animals move on the basis of attraction-repulsion, by instincts: they seek the good for their own sakes: their good, narrowly and exclusively, in a quasi-automatic way, which is reflected in a liking or rejection of something that may be beneficial or detrimental to their survival, good for them, or good for their species.

Magis aguntur quam agunt, old St. Thomas Aquinas said, in the Aristotelian tradition: rather than moving themselves, they are moved; rather than doing, they are made to do, as we will see later.

b) Not man. Man transcends mere biological needs. He is capable of actions that are absolutely inexplicable when considered from the point of view of self-preservation. And thus he shows his superiority to the animals better than ever.

Man can, so to speak, bracket his own instincts (or rather, his tendencies) and can will and carry out an intrinsically good act, even if it does not attract him, appeal to him, or interest him —and even if it displeases him and causes repugnance or a certain physical or psychological damage.

Or, by contrast, he is capable of not carrying it out even if he is “dying” to do it —which is not the same as “willing it”— if he realizes that such an action will not help others.

In more technical words: he is moved by the good-as-good, not by the good-for-self. As a result, when the case arises and he deems it appropriate, he acts in pursuit of the-good-of-the-other-as-other, which he is able to put above his own good.

Man shows his superiority to the animals when he transcends his mere biological needs; that is, when he carries out actions that cannot be explained from the point of view of mere self-preservation of the individual or the species.

3. Far above the animals

As I just pointed out, one of the facts that best demonstrates man’s superiority over animals —an infinitely infinite distance, as Pascal put it— is precisely that man, if circumstances demand it:

a) Can leave aside his own likes and preferences.

b) And say “I will” in the first person (willing something that is intrinsically good).

c) Or, if the case arises, he can choose not to will (something intrinsically evil) with a “no” that is sometimes charged with much greater anthropological and ethical weight than the corresponding “yes.”

Opposing the most common way of conceiving of love these days, Marías says in a text I often quote:

When I say that love is not a feeling [a kind of inevitable reaction], which seems like a serious mistake to me, and perhaps the most widespread, I am not denying the enormous importance of feelings, even amorous feelings, which accompany love and are something like the retinue of love’s very reality, which happens on deeper levels [those of the will].6

St. Josemaría Escrivá has also explained it at length with nuances that I should not get into right now. I will limit myself to citing one of his most meaningful texts.

In it, he first clarifies that in its nucleus, love “is not to be confused with a sentimental position.”

Next, he asks directly what human love consists in. And he answers:

Sacred Scripture uses the Latin word dilectio, to make us understand clearly that it does not simply mean the feeling of affection. It signifies, rather, a firm determination on the part of the will. Dilectio comes from election, choice. I would add that, for Christians, loving means ‘wanting to love’…7

Man can conjugate “willing” and “not willing” in the first person

4. Willing-to-will

Briefly commenting on the preceding paragraphs, we could speak of a three-step staggering which, from this particular perspective, delimits the purest substance of love.

a) The first step to deny that it is just a passion or sentiment, an affection of the senses or a more or less rich and complex cluster or swarm of them —although in no case should they be excluded. Quite the opposite: human love is never complete or fully human when an act of the will is not accompanied, enriched, and marked by the relevant feelings.

Thus, further on I will give particular attention to the role of affectivity in the birth and maturation of love —and sometimes, in its decline— as well as in the lives of men and women overall.

And I will try to clarify that the subjection of feelings to the intellect and will does not mean stamping them out, postponing them, or impeding them far from it. Rather, on many occasions and based on the different temperaments or moods, it may mean fostering them, making them increase or grow, rooting them more strongly, improving them with new nuances, discoveries, and harmonies…

Thus, moderating one’s feelings does not mean diminishing them, much less repressing them; it means giving them their proper measure, place, and order. Often, depending on temperaments and characters, as I just hinted, it is achieved by arousing, rooting, enriching, appraising, and enlarging such emotions.8

Thus Wadell expresses it in relation to St. Thomas Aquinas:

As its name suggests, temperance “tempers” our emotions either up or down. If our emotions are too strong —they may make us violent— they need to be tempered down or subdued. If they are too weak —we are depressed or lethargic— they need to be tempered up or aroused. Temperance does not silence our emotions, it channels them to the service of virtue. This virtue seeks the right balance of emotion in our actions because too little emotion hampers us by making us apathetic, but too much emotion hurts us by making us impetuous.9

b) The second step would consist in highlighting the eminently active character of love, describing it as a firm determination of the will and even, as I will show, as an unmovable self-determination of the will, with the ensuing self-dominion.

Lukas expresses it wonderfully, taking us further and higher than what has been explained up to now. Before all, he shows the affirmative and positive nature of love.

… love is not a pure feeling. It is not even a feeling of dependence or blind servitude coming from the fields of the sick soul. True love does not know the supposed weakness of self-esteem or the corresponding desire to support oneself on someone firm; it is likewise a stranger to the use or abuse of the other person for selfish ends. True love does not look for the protecting or stimulating companion. It does not want children to show off for its own benefit, nor does it yearn for praises or tenderness to please itself. Love requires absolutely nothing. It is sovereign, because the “matter” of which it is made is the modest and unconditional yes to the beloved, like a fleeting star that comes shooting out of the fireworks of Creation. Love is, as a German operetta says, “a celestial power.”10

Immediately, what stands out is the near “omnipotence” derived from love. The final sentence alludes to this omnipotence when referring to a “celestial power”:

For all that, it is capable of doing whatever is necessary: leaving the other be, letting him go, not holding him back, with tears in the eyes if necessary, but with sincere affection. Time passes and love remains; feelings fade and love remains; death undoes commitments and love remains. How can an unconditional yes become a no when conditions change, when the other person takes a different path, becomes sick, or dies? That fundamental part of the mutual relationship that was love “survives” even the end of the relationship.11

c) Finally, the most authentic love unleashes that active tendency through what I sometimes call man’s greatest operative prerogative: the reflexivity of the will, the willing-to-will, which is capable of releasing practically infinite volitional energies.

Human love is not essentially a feeling or an emotion, although it usually needs feelings and emotions to reach its plenitude.

4.1. The reflexivity of the higher faculties

A brief comment that sums up what I have expressed on other occasions can help us get to the bottom of the meaning and scope of that willing-to-will.

In philosophical language and in this concrete context, the term “reflexivity” refers to certain faculties’ capacity to revert, to reflect or, turn back upon themselves, on the act and operation that they themselves are executing.

This is not possible for any of the senses. The eye, to give a clear and visible example, possesses the ability to see, but it cannot turn back upon its own action with the intention of looking at it and seeing that it is seeing. Of course, we know whether we are seeing or not, but not through our vision, which is directed exclusively to colors outside itself. The eye is incapable of seeing the act by which it is seeing —because the act of seeing is not a color, among other reasons.

It is a different story with the intellect, precisely because it is a faculty with a much greater range, situated in the realm of the spirit, without any immediate organic support of its own (and suited to knowing all that is, including its own act as well).12 When human beings perceive something through our intelligence, we not only understand it, bu t—thanks to our intellect— we simultaneously know that we understand it. Or we know that we are starting to figure it out, that we are catching a glimpse, that we are not sure if it is this way or another way, or —in the opposite extreme— that we are not understanding it at all (that “we are not getting it”).

The reflexivity of the intellect, whose proper act is to know, could be described as knowing that one knows. The proper act of the will is analogous: it is similar and different at the same time, because knowing and willing are similar and different. It does not consist in knowing that I will something, since that is the intellect’s job, but precisely in willing-to-will. This takes place especially when I am consciously willing something, not only when I do not succeed in willing something and I strive to achieve it, although sometimes my activity turns out to be more evident in these cases.

The reflexivity of the will consists in willing-to-will

4.2. Willing-to-will again

But willing is an operation with very peculiar characteristics, just like the faculty from which willing arises, usually known as the will.

a) Among all of the powers of the human being, the will is the only one capable of moving a large part of the others and especially of moving itself.

That is why we began by speaking of self-determination, of an almost absolute beginning, which some do not understand and deny, even though it is a practically immediate experience. We have all experienced the efficacy of seriously deciding to do something or stop doing something, acquiring a new habit or leaving aside an ingrained habit, although it may have taken time and effort. Furthermore, we are aware that the firm determination of the will has greater influence on the correction of our behavior than the supposed or real external supports, precisely because on occasions those “add-ons” supplement or eliminate the will’s decision.13

b) Following upon all of the above, the will can also turn back on its own action when it is not sufficient for the intended goal: loving one’s own spouse in a certain time of crisis or, above all, increasing that affection in times of greater ebullience.

And, upon turning back on itself, by willing-to-will, the person reinforces and increases his capacity to love. This increase normally happens by putting other resources into play as well—the recreation of magical moments spent together in the past; attention to the more delightful aspects of the person whom we were once madly in love with, yet now only in a relative or diminished way; the forging of new, shared projects… These other resources help us to achieve the proposed objective, increasing the strength and quality of love in an endless crescendo.

The will feels inclined to redouble its love —to will-to-will— especially when it exercises and experiences the greatest and most rewarding loves, which, nevertheless, still appeal to us even when paltry and stunted.

4.3. Raised to the infinite

But all does not end there. There is more than one way to recover one’s original will: there is also the possibility of willing-to-will-to-will, and willing-to-will-to-will-to-will… and so on until we reach the desired goal.

We could thus speak of a production of almost unending strength. As I will indicate further on, this has nothing to do with voluntarism, with the pejorative connotation of something cold, unpleasant, and almost unnatural that normally accompanies this term.

Hence the reflexivity of the will, whose meaning I hope I have clarified a bit, may be conceived of as the furthest-reaching weapon, the human person’s great privilege in the operative area.

The reflexivity of the will is probably the main weapon that human beings possess.

4.4. In Christian terms

In Josemaría Escrivá’s text, which I limited myself almost to transcribing, we cannot skip over the idea that willing-to-will is described as the Christian way of loving.

Among the many interpretations, and with clear awareness that I am falling short, I propose two that are absolutely incompatible with each other:

On other occasions, the author spoke of that willing-to-will with more figurative and less precise language, referring to “desires to have desires.” In this text, he shows man’s absolute incapacity to love as he should, especially after original sin. And so man calls the all-powerful God to his aid.

At the same time, in relation to the natural level, the elevation to the order of grace increases the will’s strength and ability to work easily. But it does so precisely in the manner most proper to it; that is, by expanding or putting into play its reflex capacity: the willing-to-will.

An important clarification must be added, although it may be a bit elevated and not totally intelligible quite yet.

That willing-to-will, like willing itself as a primary act of the will (love!), does not necessarily have to be accompanied by a titanic effort. Nor, as I just suggested, does it have anything to do with voluntarism or with Kantian duty for duty’s sake.

The essential in loving-willing is precisely the freedom with which the election or choice is made, the eminently active and free nature of that operation. Furthermore, on so many occasions, that choice supports and follows, in the realms of freedom, the will’s natural tendency toward the good presented to it by the intellect.14

When I love my wife, my children, or God, I usually do not need to fight or strive to do so at all; quite the opposite: perhaps after a period of passionate fervor and another of training with more or less struggle, it is what comes naturally. And when I want to love them even more—and more and more—that does not usually imply a special tension: the love I already have for them, and the joys that arise from it and that I have learned to enjoy and savor and grow and recreate, encourage me to love them still more. And to do that, I can turn to that wonderful means, which in this case takes no effort at all: willing-to-will.

The convictions of Juan Cardona Pescador, an eminent psychiatrist with many years of professional practice, confirm this idea. Although the quote goes far beyond what I intend to show, it is a magnificent summary of the main idea of the entire text. For the particular extreme that I am dealing with now, the words I put in italics are particularly revealing.

Let us consider the passage as a whole. After setting the context (within marriage), Cardona defines the essence of love:

Married life is founded on love. Love is the unitive element that deepens and ultimately identifies one person with another, insofar as the lover becomes one with the beloved [without losing his own individuality—quite the contrary]. Love makes the beloved an alter ego. It makes me another you, and makes me live your life. Love involves the lover’s conformity with the beloved. Love moves the lover to act according to the beloved’s demands and thus, everything he does or suffers for the beloved causes delight [the opposite of laborious effort!].15

He immediately draws the most relevant consequence for practice: as the love, so the marriage.

We thus understand that the quality of married life depends on love. According to how the love is, the marriage will be fulfilled in its existential plenitude or denatured: the split, the crisis, depends on the quality and intensity of the couple’s love. The crisis becomes a rupture if the essence of the love is denatured, if they do not love each other, if they do not want to love, if their capacity to love is compressed upon itself, or if the willful falling out of love produces an existential emptiness, as I have defined loneliness, and which is psychologically experienced as emptiness, uselessness, powerlessness, meaninglessness, desolation: the desolation of a wandering self, a self without any reference, an insubstantial self, which can give rise to different psycho-pathological states.16

The essential factor in love is precisely the freedom with which I make the election, the eminently active and free character of that operation.

5. Once again, higher than the animals

Loving: willing, willing-to-will, willing-to-will-to-will… and so on. And it is that, as I mentioned before, man infinitely surpasses animals precisely through his ability to will, by which he arranges, overcomes, and goes beyond mere desires, passions, and affections by stirring them up and strengthening them, or opposing and calming them, as the case may be.

Viktor Frankl appealed to this when he spoke of the “obstinacy of the power of the will (or of the spirit),” which, from the operative point of view (or that of action), marks the abysmal difference between man and the animal. It is this power, concretely, that allows any man or woman, even when his or her intellectual powers are diminished, to adopt a properly human position.17 But he also insists that that “psychonoetic antagonism,” as it is also sometimes called, does not always have to be used, not even in the majority of cases, against the psychosomatic tendencies, fighting against them.18

Although he does not appeal to this “mechanism,” Nédoncelle repeats that, by its own nature, love pursues the infinite, although it does not always attain it.19

Carlos Llano summarizes it in a truly outstanding text, which I would like to divide into three sections. In the first, he affirms that the will is free insofar as it is ultimately the sole cause of its own acts:

Sensible stimuli and the intellect’s reasons are conditional occasions but they are not the causes of the voluntary act. The efficient, effective cause of the voluntary act is the will itself. Even the reasons of the intellect are only necessary occasional conditions for the voluntary act, but they are not its proper cause as such. Intelligent reason and sensible stimulation do not produce any decisive effect on the will unless the will adopts them as its own, assumes them, accepts them, or consents to them. This means, in the final analysis, that all voluntary acts are in some way self-induced, self-motivated, self-caused by the will itself, which stands as its own cause, according to the laconic Aristotelian expression.20

Llano immediately refers to the need to educate and strengthen this prodigious power:

Once again, therefore, the reflexive human act appears, now in relation to the formation of the will, as the ambit in which the possibilities for this formation are equally concentrated. In the case of the formation of the intellect, we should, we said, attend to the reflexive operation of thinking about what we are doing, or knowing our own knowledge. Here, in the case of the will, we have to teach the ability to maintain an express reflexivity, by which we will to will.21

And he warns, as we have been saying, that it is a prodigious and practically unlimited power which we must control:

In this willing-to-will, we have an indication of the omnipotence of the human will. Man cannot think whatever he wants, or do whatever he wants, or have whatever he wants. Yet he can will whatever he wants in a limitless reflexivity that sums up the powerful potential of man. Since we have the explosive and unlimited virtuality of willing what we want, we must form, channel, or guide that internal big bang so that this explosion expands the human being and does not destroy him.22

This reflexive moment is so important for the formation of the will that it will be covered again with special emphasis further on.

Man infinitely surpasses the animals precisely through his ability to will, by which he surpasses and transcends mere desires, passions, and affections.

6. The most human and personal act
6.1. Human or superhuman?

Willing is, then, an exquisitely human act, perhaps the most human act that he can carry out and the most natural for man.

It is a free act and, by the same token, intelligent: extremely wise; decisive, groundbreaking, and vibrant, a source of creative initiatives and thus liberating and surprising and at times overwhelming; often effortful and always detached, generous, altruistic, liberal: a true madness or eccentricity for those who cannot see beyond two dimensions and find themselves hopelessly tied to the ground with their wings clipped by the absence of goals or ideals worthy of the greatness of their personal condition.

Love, as a supreme act most proper to the will, raises up the human being above himself, multiplies his capacities, makes him almost “divine.” On this respect, Alberoni comments:

The person in love is in an extraordinary situation, living on a high, in a state of ecstasy. Plato considered falling in love a delirium inspired by the gods, a divine madness, like artistic inspiration and the gift of prophecy. A person in love sees everything transfigured —nature, air, rivers, lights, colors are all brighter and more intense. Lovers feel drawn by a cosmic force that brings them to their goal and destiny, and the contradictions of daily life lose meaning. They feel like slaves and prisoners, yet, happy and free at the same time. They suffer and are afflicted, but would never want to stop loving.23

Thus, he continues, the greatest and deepest possibility for collaboration between human beings is opened up:

Falling in love acts on psyches like heat on metals. It makes them fluid and incandescent so they can mix and flow into each other and take on new shapes, which then solidify. Love makes people malleable; it molds them, modifies them, and welds them together. In this way, it produces strong bonds that can withstand trauma, conflicts, and disappointments.24

6.2. Intimately unitive

Upon reading these lines, one cannot but recall what Tomas Aquinas wrote in one of his most delicate texts on love. I bring it in here for two reasons: a) first, because it does an excellent job of summing up a large part of what we have said until now, adding nuances and clarifications that can in no way be left aside; b) and second, because perhaps it can help to uproot the false image of Thomas Aquinas as a cold and abstract thinker —an intellectualist, as some call him— who had little or no interest in the existential problems of flesh-and-blood man. I hope the translation does not destroy the simple beauty of the original Latin!

In the first place, St. Thomas states, “in love there is a union of lover and beloved.” And he adds, “by the fact that love transforms the lover into the beloved, it makes the lover enter into the interior of the beloved and vice versa so that nothing of the beloved remains not united to the lover” and vice versa.

Afterwards comes the technical, philosophical explanation: the relationship between the lover and the beloved is similar to the relationship between material realities and the forms that constitute and penetrate them to the innermost recesses of their being.

Thus, the lover in a way penetrates into the beloved, and so love is called “piercing”; for to come into the innermost recesses of a thing by dividing it is characteristic of something piercing. In the same way does the beloved penetrate the lover, reaching to his innermost recesses, and that is why it is said that love “wounds,” and that it “transfixes the innards.”

St. Thomas continues:

But because nothing can be transformed into another without withdrawing, in a way, from its own form, since of a single thing there is a single form, therefore preceding this division of penetration there is another division by which the lover, in tending toward the beloved, is separated from himself.

It is this separation from self that I referred to more than once and according to which, Thomas Aquinas continues, “love is said to bring about ecstasy and to burn, since that which burns rises beyond itself and vanishes into smoke.” Likewise, the lover is undone, is beside himself, comes out of himself, in effusions of love for his beloved.

Further still, because nothing withdraws from itself unless it is unbound from what was containing it within itself, as a natural thing does not lose its form unless the dispositions retaining this form in the matter are unbound, it is therefore necessary that the boundedness by which the lover was contained within his own bounds be taken away from him. And that is why love is said to “melt the heart,” for a liquid is not contained by its own limits, while the contrary disposition is called “hardness of heart.”25

6.3. The primal and most proper act of the will

Finally, I want to make it clear that the act I am referring to, the act par excellence of the human will, is not just about striving or persevering in the task undertaken or showing oneself capable of enduring any hardship… nor many other things that are mentioned when we talk about educating the will.

The main act of the will, from which all the others are derived, is precisely what we are considering in these first steps: loving, wanting the good for the other, confirming the other in his being. And if we must add others to this primal act, such as those mentioned above, it is not so much because they are proper to the will as such, but because the human will is limited. As a result, even when we love with uncommon strength and vigor, it is not always enough to achieve the good intended for the beloved.

Once again, Alberoni expresses it with the strong lightness of poetry:

When we love, we are as though embraced by the great sweeping breath of the universe. As part of its movement and harmony, caught up in its transcendent power, we feel vibrant, like single notes in a great symphony. Yet we have no sensation of being prisoners —on the contrary we feel free and are supremely happy with this freedom of ours. Going towards our beloved, we respond to the call of being, and fulfill both our will and our destiny at one and the same time. To be free is to wish for the greatest good, to wish for one’s destiny. No one is a “slave” to love, because it is our truth, our call, and our destiny.26

And in more complex terms, Pieper explains that love is the original and most authentic content of all willing, of any free and voluntary act.

In the great tradition of European thinking about man it has always been held that just as the immediate certainties of seeing are the foundation and pre­requisite of all intellectual activity, so also love is the primal act of willing that permeates all willing-to-do from its very source. It is asserted that all volitional decision has its origin in this fundamental act, that loving is the underlying prin­ciple of willing and comes first both in temporal succession and order of rank. Not only, it is held, is love by its nature the earliest act of will, and not only is every impulse of the will derived from love, but love also inspires, as the principium, that is, as the immanent source, all specific decisions and keeps them in motion.27

Willing is an exquisitely human act, perhaps the most human that can be carried out.

II. Willing the good

 

Please stay on track!

 

Careful!

We already know that we often do not notice certain aspects of reality because we are not trying to find them.

When it comes to the content of a book, we might not get anything out of it if we do not set our mind on fire with the desire to learn from it. And we might end up with the message going in one ear and out the other.

So before you keep reading, I would like you to try answering these questions, either mentally or in writing.

 

• I imagine that from the start, it will seem obvious that when we love, we aim to secure or at least pursue the good for the beloved. But have you tried to understand what this good consists in? Has it never occurred to you that you may have caused an evil or a true disaster for a beloved person when you thought you were acting out of love? Or has anyone ever done something similar to you, causing a real mess for your own good?

• If you think that now you know what it means to love, put it in writing. If not, try to figure it out before reading further. And in both circumstances, reflect on what you thought or just discovered and try to go deeper into it.

• Perhaps in this task it would help you to distinguish between what merely appears to be a good for the person and what really is: that is, what improves their personal quality either directly or indirectly.

• And perhaps it may also help you to find a question that can allow you to discern the difference between true goods and others that appear good but in the end cause damage to the supposedly beloved person.

• A hint: does it not seem to you that truly loving other people consists fundamentally in helping them to love and teaching them to love better? Have you ever thought of it that way? Does it seem overly complex or convoluted, as something “too philosophical”?

 

Well, go ahead, now you can get into the text.

 

1. Teaching to love

Describing love as “willing the good” for another would give the impression that this second step is the most obvious and that it raises fewer theoretical and practical problems. In principle, no one would doubt that a normal parents wants the best for their children. However, in the concrete, when such parents try to determine what is best for that boy or girl in particular circumstances, the solution becomes more complicated. What is really the best in this case?

Soon we will study the question at length. For now, I will briefly note two linked requirements in seeking and offering the authentic good.

First, it must really be a good thing for the person to whom it is being offered: and not, through a self-deception more or less conscious and quite widespread today, for the father or mother. In some cases, what they actually want is for the child to leave them in peace, to avoid a confrontation or a fight, to be spared unpleasantness, to project their own life on the child and have him or her “achieve what they did not achieve” and prevent him or her from “going through what they had to go through” or similar presumed benefits.

Secondly, and almost as a corollary and concrete consequence of the foregoing, what is required when we love someone is that we offer them a real, objective good: that is, something that improves the person, makes the beloved more complete, faithful, fulfilled and whole; something that draws them in some way to their final destiny of loving others and God.

(This is the distinction I am making between the good in itself or as such, also called the worthy or honest good, and the merely apparent good. Without truly being good in the deepest sense, the merely apparent good offers a usefulness or pleasure, but always accompanied by a diminution or breakage of the person as such.)

Therefore, in the ultimate and final analysis, our interventions and gifts for the beloved —which mainly involve the use of our own intellect to know the person in depth and discover what is best for them— should lead him or her to learn to love in a more sincere, firm, deep, intense, committed, and effective way.

In this way, a kind of virtuous cycle is established by which, when someone truly loves another person, he or she tries by all possible means to get the other person to love more and better: the beloved learns to love with deeds.

In the ultimate and final analysis, what we should try to do for the beloved is to help him or her learn to love in a more sincere, firm, deep, intense, effective, and committed way.

2. Facilitating love

At first it could seem strange or even contradictory, but oddly enough, in the end, love means teaching the beloved to love —and, I might add, facilitating love.

Thus, the best way of loving one’s own spouse is by being very lovable in the most accurate and penetrating sense of this Word. In other words, it means making oneself lovable and letting oneself be loved, eliminating anything that is an obstacle to the other spouse’s love. It means making things simple and pleasant for those who love me, letting them help, encourage, and console me, receiving their affection without complication. It means not putting up barriers that prevent their self-giving or their definitive desires of being united to me from reaching their goal.

For example, at the time of reconciliation after a small quarrel, it means not withdrawing into one’s own position, but coming out openly to meet the other, being accessible and ready to receive the other’s affection, and responding with the same delicacy; or better yet, taking the first step in asking forgiveness.28

And it means doing the same in the most normal conditions of daily dealings with the spouse and the other members of the family, friends, and acquaintances.

Love means facilitating love, being very lovable —that is, easy to love.

2.1. How?

In all these circumstances, we facilitate love when we are frank, open, and close. In positive terms, this usually means being attentive to the other person. Or, to put it another way, not being sullen, elusive, distant, or even hurtful because we are locked in our own problems and occupations or ensconced in our own presumed and prideful rights, in “what’s mine is mine.” To put it in ordinary terms, so as not to stay with a poor and impractical theory, it is the attitude of “I don’t have time.”

In a rather negative way, and with the dramatism and bit of vulgarity into which he sometimes falls, Bécquer writes:

A tear appeared in her eyes, / and an expression of forgiveness on my lips. / Pride spoke and her tears dried / and the phrase died away on my lips. // I am journeying down one road; she, down another; / but when I think about the love we shared/ I still say: “Why did I keep silent that day?” / And she must be saying: “Why didn’t I weep?”29

(How many times the reader, just like the author who writes these lines, must have felt sorry for keeping quiet when we saw clearly that the right thing to do was to offer a word of encouragement or ask for forgiveness… or even more, how much it hurts us to have said what “we never would have wanted to say”!)

And in a more encouraging way, with words that at first seem a bit complicated, but very evocative when read slowly, Jean Guitton writes:

The wonderful thing about love is that the good we do to ourselves when we love, we also do to the other by loving him or her; what is more, we do it a second time by letting ourselves be loved [a “letting oneself be loved” that can be translated, according to the expression used before, as: being very lovable].30

We facilitate love when we are frank, open, and close; when we are attentive to others; when we make time for them.

2.2. Without deserving it

I would like to add, because I think it is of uncommon relevance and almost never mentioned, that the human being —at least this human being that is me and quite a few others that I know— has a very hard time letting himself be loved freely, which is in fact how one is loved when the love is true.

In almost all of us, there is a tendency to focus on the merits for which others —or some person in particular, such as our spouse— have to love us. And when we are not up to the level we demand of ourselves or that we think we could give, we tend to reject the love they offer us or even radically refuse to accept it, although we are not conscious of it and although it causes us a sadness and uneasiness that we may not see clearly and find it difficult to bear.

Thus, as I mentioned, being very lovable is the best way of loving. And experience shows that many marriages fall apart precisely because one or both of the spouses do not accept the love that the other is freely giving and also refuse to love the other in the same way: for being who he or she is and not for what he or she does or has.

That is the beginning of the end.

Alberoni also explains it with reference to jealousy:

Many psychologists criticize jealousy and say that we are being absurd if we expect love to be exclusive. What is indeed exclusive about us? None of us imagine we are the tops for looks or intelligence. None of our virtues, measured by world standards, make us preferable anyone else. Measured up against any criterion of worldly worth we always come out poor and paltry. Yet we love and esteem ourselves because we feel that, deep down, in us there is a value, an irreplaceable uniqueness. When we fall in love, this uniqueness, this exclusiveness is acknowledged, approved, and confirmed. In loving us, our beloved gives our individuality a reason for existing, a dignity and a value.31

Many marriages break up because one or both of the spouses does not accept the love the other is freely giving.

3. The compass of all educational endeavors

Facilitating love as a sublime and supreme way of loving: here is a revealing conclusion.

And another must be added, one of no less importance: without danger or fear of being called naïve, we affirm that the purpose of all education consists in:

a) Teaching the person how to love.

b) Or, approaching it from another angle, it is about making the other person someone who is more energetically and decisively interested in the good of others than in his or her own good, even though many today would dismiss this attitude as naïve, dimwitted, silly, irresponsible, or even as necessarily and inevitably headed for failure and for being “taken advantage of” or “being taken for a fool.”

Thus, in every educational or formative circumstance, when making or suggesting a more or less complicated decision, the educator should always wonder, “Regarding what I am suggesting or prohibiting, and the way I do it, the degree of freedom I am giving them to oppose my opinion or at least manifest their own… will it help them to love others more and better? Or, on the contrary, will it lead them to close up more on themselves, on their narrow and selfish interests?

The answer to these questions —which will never be found without the perspicacious and committed effort to apply all the resources of our theoretical and experiential knowledge— will indicate in almost all cases what the tone of our interventions should be.

4. As an example… without pretensions

Some parents, to give an example, may be entertaining serious doubts about whether or not it is a good idea to send their teenage daughter to Ireland, England, or the United States to perfect her knowledge of English. What motivates them above all is the urgent need these days to know this language. But they fear the significant dangers of loneliness, maladaptation, and disorientation which time spent away from home could cause, and even more at her age.

In any case, although time away could also cause very positive effects of maturation, the decisive question is a different one:

a) On the one hand, once we get past certain tics and prejudices that are more or less surreptitiously imposed in our times, we must have it clear that almost any foreign language can be learned in one’s own country these days, without having to move to any of the countries that speak that language. And the fact of visiting the native country, especially at certain ages and in certain environments, hardly assures such learning, for in many cases the boy or girl ends up surrounded with friends… from his or her own country and language.

b) On the other hand and more to the point —applicable also in other circumstances— we have to ask the key question: given the state of mind and maturity of my daughter or son, would a stay abroad help him or her to mature and grow in his or her capacity to love? Or, on the contrary, could it introduce a false note that could slow down his or her personal growth and development for many years?

This is the million-dollar question (as we sometimes say in Spain). Parents must use all their intelectual resources, increased by affection, and ask advice from those they know to be wise and expert on the matter before making a decision or giving their opinion.

(I have chosen this issue precisely because the answer is in no way established in advance and opinions are most likely divided, each one defending his point of view with fire and conviction. Or rather, they will lean almost massively toward the opinion opposed to the one I seem to have chosen in the paragraphs above. I am glad, because this makes it clearer that in these types of situations, the determining factor is not so much what one does, but the underlying reason that pushes one to act in one way or another and the repercussions that it may entail. Personally, going back over our example of the effectiveness of going abroad “to learn the language, I think there can be other reasons in favor of the trip, reasons that may even make it urgent, as well as some that ought to make us reflect before making a decision. Once again, I insist that it is a prudential question that should be answered by carefully examining the circumstances of each case, without forgetting the primary criteria —the foreseeable increase of the person’s capacity to love— which is the only one which, with these circumstances, I wanted to make clear.)

The only really important question is whether the situation of our child —or any other person— and the activities he or she is doing make him or her more or less capable of loving.

III. Willing the good for another…
insofar as he is other
Let’s get on track again!

 

Careful!

Once again: as in any other book, you will find more or fewer answers in the pages that follow depending on the questions you posed beforehand.

So then…

 

• Does the phrase “insofar as he is other” that appears in the title and that I have already mentioned sound excessively philosophical to you? Does it sound like something complicated, boring, unintelligible, and impractical?

• If so, I advise you to continue reading in spite of everything. It is possible that you may discover that even philosophy can be enriching.

• One gets the impression that loving another insofar as he is other presupposes forgetting oneself or learning to put oneself in brackets. Do you think that Aristotle’s insofar as he is other refers to something like this?

• If so, do you think it is possible to truly love another person without seeking one’s own benefit deep down? Would not such “altruism” be something utopian, naïve, negative, or even hypocritical, as Freud said?

 

Regardless of what you answered or thought, I am going to try to make you see that in fact, man is truly capable of loving unselfishly. However, in spite of what we ordinarily assume, this does not at all mean “rejecting” the reciprocation or the joy derived from mutual love, without which love does not reach its fullness.

 

1. Insofar as he is other

I will begin by warning you that this repeated phrase insofar as he is other holds the key to genuine love.

What am I trying to affirm with this statement?

That love, in its most true and enlightened meaning, is seeking the good of the other not for my sake, but for his.

2. Not for me, but for him

That is:

a) Not for the material, psychological, or spiritual benefit that the friendship can give me: getting rid of my own loneliness, successfully closing a business deal, climbing up the promotional ladder, getting into a social circle that gives me greater peace of mind or progress or the opportunity if getting a good job for my child or a friend, the interior tranquility of doing what I should, etc.

b) Nor for the satisfaction and the delightful harmony —so rarely experienced today— that comes from being with true friends.

c) Nor even because thus and only thus, increasing and purifying the quality of my loves, do I become a better person, raising my own level as a human being and drawing closer to perfection and bliss. Not even for that reason! Such an outcome should not be rejected, since that would be inhuman. But neither should it be proposed as an express and primary purpose, as certain adolescents full of good will sometimes do —“I am going to treat my friends better so that I will be a better person”— and also some adults with a fairly mistaken notion of their own perfection and even of holiness.

d) But only for him, for the one I love, and for one very clear reason:

—Because he is a person, and for this reason alone, worthy of love.

—Or, if you prefer (because it is the same), because God has destined that person to live in a dialogue of passionate love with Him for all eternity, giving him the greatest Good of all through reciprocal and intelligent love: Himself.

—And who am I to tell God what to do?

Loving in a serious and effective way means seeking the other’s good not for myself, but for him.

 

Don’t worry.

Acquiring knowledge is a gradual process. We do not usually fully understand something when we read it the first time. What we halfway understood prepares us to study what comes next, and then we can clarify what we already learned. Often it is just a matter of going back over it again —forward and backwards— of reading the same thing more than once. But the end result will bring deep and considerable satisfaction: the denser and more permanent, sometimes, the greater the efforts put into play.

Have confidence in your abilities!

 

Help for personal reflection

 

• In this first chapter, we spoke a lot about willing and the will.

• But what role does the intellect play in love, if you think it plays any role? And in willing-to-will?

• If the root and foundation of authentic love is always an act of the will, do you think it is correct to say that it is the will that loves?

Justify your answer, whether affirmative or negative.

• These pages contain an abundance of terms such as feelings, affections, and emotions. Have you understood sufficiently what they are? Could you explain in your own words how they are different from each other? And can you give an example showing that difference?

Do not worry if you did not answer some questions or if your responses were incomplete; it is something we will go back over later. Nevertheless, it is a good idea for you to start getting comfortable with these ideas.

• Have I been able to explain to myself what the reflexivity of the will consists in? In the text, some forms of willing-to-will are cited. Could you give other examples and show where the reflexivity is found in each case?

• As we have studied, three elements make up the nature of love. After reading these pages and watching out especially for the way to distinguish true love from merely apparent love in practice, which of these three components would you emphasize? Or, in other words, which of these components makes the crucial difference between love and other desires, tendencies, and affections? Why?

 

More help for personal reflection

 

If you want to reflect at your own leisure and you feel strong enough to do it, I will copy a few paragraphs for you from a contemporary German philosopher named Robert Spaemann. The text is difficult but right on the mark. Give it the time you think you need and do not worry in the least if you decide to skip over it.

Only persons reflect explicitly on the gulf between ‘how it appears to me’ (für mich) and ‘how it really is’ (an sich). To think of ‘how it appears to me’ means that they have crossed the gulf and planted their feet on what is really there. They can, it is true, pull back deliberately. They can opt for appearance, for self-deception, for the pleasure of feeling good in place of joy, i.e. joy at something or other. But no one can do this consistently without surrendering humanity. Epicurus, who named pleasure as the highest and only good, showed this in an exemplary way. Without good friends, he writes, there can be no pleasure in life; but to have good friends one must be a good friend, and to be a good friend one must be ready to sacrifice one’s life for friends if need arise. That is the dialectic of hedonism. But someone who is not perverse wants real friends, is not content with the impression of having them. None of us would want to spend the whole of life in bed, maintained in a state of artificial euphoria.

The anti-human Utopia of a complete ‘virtual reality’ comes threateningly closer, it is true, supported by an anti-philosophy that preys upon real philosophy. But in fact it will not be so easy to achieve the abolition of man. If someone on his deathbed is told that his children have just been rescued from shipwreck, he wants to know if it is true. How something seems to me can only be how it seems to me for as long as I can think that that is how it really is. To want to be deceived is always a mark of despair, expressing the sense that one isn’t up to coping with reality. This is most obvious when someone accepts a transparent pretence of love. Real enjoyment of friendship begins when we know, or are persuaded, that the warmth shown to us conveys real feeling, and is not put on, even if it makes no difference to us in the end whether it is put on or not.

And the same applies in the case of one’s own love. Amor extasim facit. Love cannot have an object whose ontological status is in doubt; it is directed to ‘the other’ —not an object of intention ‘given’ in the world, but a ‘self’ that is more than is given. Objects of intention are defined by their attributes, qualitatively. The object of love, on the other hand, is identified indexically; there is no indeterminacy in love’s reference. Suppose the place of someone we love were taken by a double— a perfect double, equipped with all necessary information about the memories we had in common. The deception might escape our notice, but as soon as we were told, as soon as we realized that this other person’s past was not the one we shared with someone else, we would feel betrayed. The substitute would not be the person we loved. We might possibly come to love this person, too, but that would be a different love.32

 

Tomás Melendo
tmelendo@uma.es
www.edufamilia.com
Traducción: Trish Bailey Arceo

1 “At bedrage sig selv for Kjerlighed er det forfærdeligste, er et evigt Tab, for hvilket der ingen Erstatning er hverken i Tid eller i Evighed.” Kierkegaard, Søren: Kjerlighedens Gjerninger. Samlede Værker. Udgivet af A. B. Drachmann, J. L. Heiberg og H. O. Lange. Bind 12. København: Gyldendal, 1963, S. 11. “To defraud oneself of love is the most terrible, is an eternal loss, for which there is no compensation either in time or in eternity”. Kierkegaard, Søren: Kierkegaard’s Writings, XVI: Works of Love, by Søren Kierkegaard. Edited and Translated with Introduction and Notes by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton – New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995, pp. 5-6.

2 This is the summary that is often made, and that the medieval classical writers use. The literal expression would be: “ἒστω δὴ τò φιλεῖν δὴ βούλεσθαί τινι ᾃ oἲεται ἀγαθά, ἐκείου ἕνεκα ἀλλα μὴ αὑτοῦ, καὶ τὸ κατὰ δύναμιν πρακτικὸν εἶναι τοὺων.” In English: “We may describe friendly feeling towards anyone as wishing for him what you believe to be good things, not for you own sake but for his, and being inclined, so far as you can, to bring these things about.” Aristotle: Rhetoric, Book II, Chapter 4, 1380b 35-36; in The Complete Works of Aristotle. The revised Oxford Translation. Edited by Jonathan Barnes. Princeton (New Jersey): Princeton University Press, 2nd ed., 1985 [1st ed. 1984], Volume Two, p. 2200.

3 Guardini, Romano: Welt und Person: Versuche zur christlichen Lehre von Menschen. Würzburg: Werkbund-Verlag, 5. Aufl., 1962 [1. Aufl., 1952], S. 143; The Word and the Person, translated by Stella Lange. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1965, pp. 137-138. The original text reads: «Für unsere Frage besagen sie jedenfalls soviel, daß die Person in der Form des Dialogs, auf die andere Person hingeordnet besteht. Sie ist von Wesen bestimmt, Ich eines Du zu werden. Die grundsätzlich einsame Person gibt es nicht».

4 «Geistig Seiendes vermag nicht nur „bei” anderem Seienden schlechthin zu „sein”, sondern es ist ihm auch möglich, im besonderen „bei” ebenbürtig Seiendem zu „sein” —nämlich bei seinerseits geistigem, also ebensolchem Seienden. Dieses Bei-Sein von geistig Seiendem bei anderem geistig Seienden, dieses Bei-Sein zwischen je einem geistig Seienden, nennen wir nun Bei-einander-Sein. Und nun ergibt sich, daß erst und nur in solchem Bei-einander-Sein volles Bei-Sein möglich wird —also nur unter ebenbürtig Seiendem

Nun ist aber auch dies nur möglich in jenem restlosen An-einander-hingegeben-Sein, das wir Liebe nennen». Frankl, Viktor E.: „Grundriß der Existenzanalyse und Logotherapie“; Handbuch der Neurosenlehre und Psychotherapie. Hrsg. von Prof. Dr. med. Dr. phil. Viktor E. Frankl, Prof. Dr. phil. Dr. med. Victor E. von Gebsattel und Prof. Dr. med. J. H. Schultz. Band III. (Urban & Schwarzenberg) München/Berlin 1959, S. 663-736; in Logotherapie und Existenzanalyse. Texte aus sechs Jahrzehnten. Weinheim und Basel: Beltz Verlag, 2002, S. 75. My italics.

5 «Car l’une des idées directrices de cette étude est que l’amour procède des personnes et se dirige vers elles. Quand il prend d’autres formes, il n’est pas complet et se cherche encore». Nédoncelle, Maurice : Vers une philosophie de l’amour et de la personne. Paris : Aubier Éditions Montaigne, 1957, p. 7. In English: “For one of the main ideas of this study is that love comes from persons and is directed to them. When it takes other forms, it is not complete and continues to be sought.”

6 Marías, Julián: La educación sentimental, Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1992, p. 26.

7 Escrivá de Balaguer, Josemaría: Friends of God. London: Scepter, Ltd: 1981, no. 231.

8 In this respect, Lewis argued: “For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heat is no infallible protection against a soft head.” Lewis, Clave Staple: The Abolition of Man. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001 (1st ed., 1944), pp. 13-14.

9 Wadell, Paul J.: The Primacy of Love: An Introduction to the Ethics of Thomas Aquinas. Eugene (Oregon): Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1992, p. 133.

10 Lukas, Elisabeth: In der Trauer lebt die Liebe weiter. München: Kösel, 6. Auflage, 2009 (1. Auflage, 1999), S. 18.

11 Lukas, Elisabeth: In der Trauer…, cit., S. 21.

12 In other words, the intellect has no organ. The brain is not what thinks in us, although it is an essential condition for us to be able to think; thus, although a deep cerebral lesion can prevent the exercise of the intellect, it remains intact as a spiritual faculty.

13 Of course, it remains absolutely true that external help is often essential. But even the strongest support is useless if the person’s will is not disposed.

14 There is no contradiction in what I just stated. As I will repeat more than once, the natural and the free do not have to be at odds in human beings. Quite the opposite: what is most in keeping with human nature—and as a result, what is most natural—is to act intelligently and freely, as the result of a learning process.

15 Cardona Pescador, Juan: Los miedos del hombre [Man’s Fears]. Madrid: Rialp, 1998, p. 99.

16 Cardona Pescador, Juan: Los miedos…, cit., pp. 99-100.

17 “Alles Menschliche ist bedingt. Eigentlich Menschliches ist es C aber nur, sofern und soweit es sich über seine eigene Bedingtheit auch erhebt —indem es sie übersteigt, indem es also ‘transzendiert.’ So ist der Mensch überhaupt nur Mensch, sofern und soweit er —als geistiges Wesen —über sein leibliches und seelisches Sein hinaus ist.

Zu dem, worin ich existiere, worüber hinaus ich aber auch gleichzeitig existiere, gehören nun alle äußeren Umstände ebenso wie alle inneren Zustände meines Daseins, gehört demnach insbesondere auch jede psychische Zuständlichkeit: auch aus ihr kann ich mich grundsätzlich heraushalten, und zwar vermöge jenes noopsychischen Antagonismus, den wir dem psychophysischen Parallelismus heuristisch gegenübergestellt haben, bzw. kraft jener Trotzmacht des Geistes, die den Menschen instand setzt, leiblich-seelischen Zuständen und gesellschaftlichen Umständen zum Trotz in seiner Menschlichkeit sich zu behaupten.” Frankl, Viktor E.: „Grundriß der Existenzanalyse und Logotherapie“; in Idem: Logotherapie und Existenzanalyse: Texte aus sechs Jahrzehnten. Weinheim und Basel: Beltz Verlag, 2002 (1. Auflage 1998), S. 93.

18 “Daß diese Trotzmacht nicht immer nötig ist, gehört auf ein anderes Blatt; auf Seite 63 sagen wir ausdrücklich, zum Glück müsse der Mensch von dieser Trotzmacht keineswegs immer Gebrauch machen; denn mindestens ebensooft wie trotz seiner Triebe, trotz seines Erbes und trotz seiner Umwelt behaupte sich der Mensch auch kraft seiner Triebe, dank seinem Erbe und dank seiner Umwelt.” Frankl, Viktor E.: ‘Grundriß der Existenzanalyse und Logotherapie’, cit., S. 93-94.

19 Rather, as I explain later on, human beings never achieve what love asks of them. But now we are interested in the affirmative aspect pointed out in the text, the tension toward the infinite: “La logique intime de l’amour le pousse à se développer jusqu’à l’accomplissement total de ses virtualités. Il n’est pas fatal qu’il aille ainsi au bout de lui-même, car tout être humain est libre jusqu’à un certain point de le contrecarrer ou de le respecter ou, plus exactement, de s’abaisser et de s’élever dans le courant d’amour qui l’emporte. Mais chaque fois que nous coïncidons avec l’exigence essentielle de cet élan, nous nous apercevons que nous voulons implicitement l’infini de la perfection pour l’aimé et, indirectement, pour l’amant que nous sommes. Nous nous engageons à les rendre entièrement aimables et aimants.“ Nédoncelle, Maurice : Vers une philosophie de l’amour et de la personne, cit., p. 73-74.

20 Llano Cifuentes, Carlos: Formación de la inteligencia, la voluntad y el carácter. México: Trillas, 1999, p. 82.

21 Llano Cifuentes, Carlos: Formación de la inteligencia…, cit., pp. 82-83.

22 Llano Cifuentes, Carlos: Formación de la inteligencia…, cit., p. 83.

23 Alberoni, Francesco: Ti amo. Milano: R.C.S. Libri & Grandi Opere S.p.A., 1996, p. 19.

24 Alberoni, Francesco: Ti amo, cit., p. 19

25 St. Thomas Aquinas: In III Sent., d. 27, q. 1, a. 1 ad 4. The original text states: “Ad quartum dicendum, quod in amore est unio amantis ad amatum, sed est ibi triplex divisio. Ex hoc enim quod amor transformat amantem in amatum, facit amantem intrare ad interiora amati, et e contra; ut nihil amati amanti remaneat non unitum; sicut forma pervenit ad intima formati, et e converso; et ideo amans quodammodo penetrat in amatum, et secundum hoc amor dicitur acutus: acuti enim est dividendo ad intima rei devenire; et similiter amatum penetrat amantem, ad interiora ejus perveniens; et propter hoc dicitur quod amor vulnerat, et quod transfigit jecur. Sed quia nihil potest in alterum transformari nisi secundum quod a sua forma quodammodo recedit, quia unius una est forma, ideo hanc divisionem penetrationis praecedit alia divisio, qua amans a seipso separatur in amatum tendens; et secundum hoc dicitur amor extasim facere, et fervere, quia quod fervet extra se bullit, et exhalat. Quia vero nihil a se recedit nisi soluto eo quod intra seipsum continebatur, sicut res naturalis non amittit formam nisi solutis dispositionibus quibus forma in materia retinebatur, ideo oportet quod ab amante terminatio illa, qua infra terminos suos tantum continebatur, amoveatur; et propter hoc amor dicitur liquefacere cor, quia liquidum suis terminis non continetur; et contraria dispositio dicitur cordis duritia.”

Notice how, as on many other occasions, what the text sets forth from a fundamentally ontological perspective, that of being, is reflected very clearly in the psychological fields, and explains many of the attitudes and behaviors of people in love.

26 Alberoni, Francesco: Ti amo, cit., p. 85.

27 Pieper, Josef: Werke in acht Bänden: Band 4: Schriften zur Philosophischen Anthropologie und Ethik: Das Menschenbild der Tugendlehre. Herausgegeben von Berthold Wald. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 2. unveränderte Auflage, 2006, S. 516-517. Faith. Hope. Love. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997, p. 166. Due to its special relevance, I include the quote in its original language: «Vielmehr ist in der großen Tradition des europäischen Denkens über den Menschen immer behauptet worden, daß, wie die unmittelbaren Gewißheiten des Schauen das Fundament und die Voraussetzung aller denkerischen Aktivität seien, so auch die Liebe der Ur-Akt des Wollens überhaupt, tief alles Tun-Wollen vom Grunde her durchströmt; alle Willensentscheidung sonst habe in diesem Grund-Akt ihren Ursprung und I ihr Prinzip, und das sowohl im Sinne der zeitlichen wie auch der Rangfolge. Nicht nur, so wird gesagt, ist die Liebe ihrer Natur nach der früheste Akt des Willens, und nicht nur leitet sich jede Willensregung sonst aus der Liebe her; sondern die Liebe befeuert auch, als principium, das heißt als innebleibender Ursprung, alle konkreten Entscheidungen und hält sie in Gang».

28 I have written extensively on forgiveness, which I dare describe as a reinsurance of marriage—an insurance on an insurance—in Melendo, Tomás: ¡Prevenir! Un seguro de vida para el matrimonio. Prevention! A life insurance for marriage. Madrid: Ediciones internacionales universitarias, 2008.

29 Bécquer, Gustavo Adolfo: Rhymes and Legends (Selection) / Rimas y Leyendas (Selección). A Dual-Language Book. Edited and translated by Stanley Appelbaum. Mineloa, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2006, Rhyme XXX, p. 37.

30 Guitton, Jean: L’amour humain, suivi de deux essais sur Las relations de famille et sur Le démon de midi. Paris : Aubier. 1948, p. 82.

31 Alberoni, Francesco: Ti amo, cit., p. 140.

32 Spaemann, Robert: Persons: The Difference between ‘Someone’ and ‘Something.’ New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 75-76.


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