The True Face of Love (III)

Third Part
Desires for Plenitude
Tomás Melendo

 

Are you really still on track?

Careful!

There are many ways of reading or studying a text, just as there are also many ways of observing reality. Fairly often, we do not notice the properties of a person, animal, or thing because we are not involved.

Books also ask us to put ourselves in a state of exploration to find what they can show us. If this does not happen, it is likely that we will not even notice clear issues that are clearly presented, but that slide off us.

So, before you begin this section, I would like you to take a moment and try to answer these questions in writing, if necessary. You will probably get more out of them than from the following pages.

 

• Without a doubt, you —like me and almost everyone— will have heard that “love is blind.” Tell me, please, if this statement seems right or wrong to you, or a little of both. In any case, explain the reasons that lead you to think this way.

• Aristotle and quite a few other authors argue that love and friendship can only arise between good people who try to be better. Do you find this claim exaggerated? Is there any sense on which it can be supported? What do you think Aristotle meant to say?

• If truly loving someone means seeking and obtaining what is good for them, and this takes concrete form in helping them grow and become more perfect, should we stop loving a person when they pull a fast one on us, when we discover their defects or simply when we find that they have no intention of fighting to be better?

• Is it “natural” or “free” for a human being to develop as a person? Could you answer the question without denying either of the two extremes? Or, in other words, can some human activity be simultaneously free and natural? Try not to answer with a simple yes or no, but argue in both directions and support what you say (you have enough material to do so with what we have already studied).

• What effect does it have on a person to know whether he is loved or not? And what effect does it have on him to love others or not?

 

Aside from what you have figured out on your own, perhaps what I have written below may help you.

 

VII. The essential aspiration of love

 

1. Loving someone “always” means wanting them to improve

Along with the unconditional desire for the beloved to live, to be, love wants the beloved to be good, to live well, in the best of the senses that the classical Greeks used this expression, which has little to do with today’s living the good life.

In fact, the most sublime summary of all that we could aim for when we truly love someone is for them to reach the plenitude to which they are called. And this, in direct and simple terms, while yet deep and full of purpose, is said in few words: “Be good!”

Thus, more than once I have heard people of advanced age and recognized prestige say that the deepest piece of moral advice they have ever received throughout their life —in spite of their many years of studying anthropology and ethics, for example— consists in what their grandmothers told them over and over again, full of affection, when they were barely three or four years old: “My child, be good!”

Aristotle would be in full agreement with the feelings of those grandmothers. For him, and he repeats it many times, true love, true friendship, has to be accompanied by the effective desire for those we love to be better.

That is why the old Greek philosopher would reject as false and very dangerous a friendship between “bad men who unite in bad pursuits and become evil by becoming like each other.”

Then he adds, “the friendship of good men is good, being augmented by their companionship; and they are thought to become better too by their activities and by improving each other.”

And he reinforces the point: “Perfect friendship is that of good men who are equal in virtue, because they want what is authentically good for each other.”1

Here we could include many other comments, many to contrast with these ideas, taking into account the remarkably selfish way in which love is often conceived in today’s world.

For example, in keeping with Aristotle’s words, we would have to warn many mothers and fathers again (and likewise, mutatis mutandis, husbands and wives): the overall aim of your educational task is to discover and seek the true good of your children, of each one, not a merely apparent benefit, and much less, under the pretext of love for them, your own good: tranquility, freedom to move around, projected self-fulfillment, absence of worries, permissiveness…

And all, regardless of their age and condition, need to be reminded that we cannot speak of a friendship when our dealings with this person do not lead both to a real improvement: not only apparent nor merely in one or two aspects, but of the person as such.

As Alberoni explains once again, “For love to exist, our beloved must bring out hidden or repressed possibilities in our being.”2

We cannot speak of friendship when the dealings between the friends do not lead both to a real improvement.

2. Being, for man, means living and increasing in perfection

But let us return to the heart of our topic, showing that the search for the advancement and fulfillment of the beloved is in reality the natural prolongation of we pursued in the “previous” stage, with the ratification of being.3
First of all, because the act of being of a man is not something inert and static, but tends to expand and lead each and every one of the components of the person toward its perfect completion.

a) As modern biology shows, from the very instant of conception, the recently engendered creature takes the reins of its own life (and, up to a certain point, of the mother’s) and sets in motion its natural capacity for development, multiplying its cells, differentiating and organizing them in a way that not even the most advanced computers could do in millions of years.

b) After emerging from the mother’s womb, it continues growing, developing, and differentiating itself —without losing its overall unity!— both from the biological perspective and as regards the unfolding of its mental, motor, affective, intellectual, and volitive capacities.

c) And the rest of its life, although perhaps in a less visible way, consists or should consist in continuing this process of unfolding, until it reaches bounds that are sometimes difficult to predict; think of the giants of humanity throughout history: John Paul II, Teresa of Calcutta, or any of the great artists or scientists who have astonished the world with their discoveries.

This is what is natural for the human subject: to grow and develop, in the widest and noblest sense of these words.

Thus, we cannot properly love anyone, confirming them in their being, without simultaneously wanting the beloved to progress more and more, unfolding all the perfection that is virtually contained in him or her from the moment he or she was engendered.

In this sense, Maurice Nédoncelle says that love is a will to promote the beloved.

And he explains, summarizing a good part of what has been said until now:

The I who loves wants above all the existence of you: in other words, it wants the autonomous development of this you, and it wants that autonomous development to be, if possible, harmonious in relation to the value I have seen in him.4

And this leads to a new idea: the desire for development and improvement that I mentioned is not, as I said earlier, a whim: truly loving someone always entails wanting that person to grow in perfection, in proportion to the quality, intensity, and intelligence of the love given them, with the condition that the beloved does not frontally oppose it. Let us see how and why.

We cannot properly love someone, confirming them in their being, without simultaneously wanting the beloved to progress more and more.

 

VIII. Is love blind?

 

Don’t get careless on me!

 

• I’m back to tell you it is true that on quite a few occasions, the person who feels in love ends up being unable to see the defects of the person they love. Have you ever experienced this? How would you explain this situation?

• Do you think that the cold objectivity of the specialist, guaranteed if necessary by tests and other diagnostic instruments, is the most suitable attitude for knowing a person deeply? Explain the reasons for your answer.

• Have you ever experienced the sensation of seeing with tremendous clarity what a person you love greatly should do, while she could not see the right decision to make? What would you say is the cause?

• In relation to this point, do you think that those who truly love have to close their eyes to the defects of the beloved in order to be able to continue loving with all their heart?

 

I think we are going to be in agreement. But you might as well see for yourself.

 

1. Discovering the actual interior richness of the beloved

Very far from being blind, love makes us see with extreme clarity.

Of course, we all understand the saying and up to a certain point, we agree with it. But it is not the most accurate or profound thing that one can say about love. It would actually be much more precise to uphold the contrary:

Far from clouding the vision of the one who loves —and here I am speaking of a real, genuine love and not, for example, of a mere passion, whim, or more or less consciously disguised egocentrism— love makes it more penetrating and perspicacious, more subtle and comprehensive.

This is a universal truth, expressed succinctly by de la Tour-Chambly: “When one loves, nature ceases to be an enigma.”

But this is even truer as regards human beings. As Alberoni argues, anticipating extremes that we will analyze further on:

… love reveals the infinite complexity and infinite richness of another person. For we see in them everything they have been, might have been, are now, and what they may become in the future.5

In such circumstances, it is not just that the objectivity and distancing that are so often called for become counterproductive, but that, on the opposite extreme, only committed love allows us to see the authentic wonders and the fabulous dignity hidden inside each person, even those who least seem to have it.6

And for this reason, only those who are in love can appreciate the worth of the person they have chosen for life: others see them only from the outside, but spouses love each other with true madness, and that kind of frenzy, ecstasy, departure from themselves to enter into the other, makes the perspicacious and clearsighted.

As Alice von Hildebrand writes, “Only those who love see; and those who see most clearly, love most deeply”.7

It is the same thing that happens with mothers: they may see their child as their all, their love, their king, their heaven… while none of these descriptions seems to fit the neighbor’s son. It’s not that she is dreaming up attributes for her offspring that in no way exist in him: what happens is that love, which is lucid, keen, and sagacious, makes her discover —not invent— many real perfections that the person who does not love him fails to notice.

Only committed love allows us to see the authentic wonders and the fabulous dignity that every person hides inside.

2. And glimpsing the future

Many have already left a written record of this quality of love, which anticipates the plenitude of the beloved. I choose, among them, Chesterton’s authorized testimony:

Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.8

“The more it is bound…” The determining reason for this fact is that, as the positive moorings that bind us to another person intensify, the more identification becomes essential so that knowledge will reach its height.

Knowing is in some way establishing an identity between the knower and the known; it means becoming up to a certain point the reality we apprehend: living his or her life, if the beloved is a real person or a fictional character (in such a sense, an identification with a movie hero or the protagonist of a novel would be highly revealing); and in the case of the one who loves, becoming one with the beloved, turning into him, without losing one’s own uniqueness.

So then, as we know and as it is suggested in the following paragraphs, the greatest possible identity between two people, and their greatest and fullest unity, is the unity fashioned by love.

As the positive ties that bind us to another person grow stronger, the more identification becomes essential for knowledge to reach its height.

2.1. Delving more deeply into the present

Thus, interpersonal love allows us to see in the present moment the sublime magnitude of the beloved subject, just as it anticipates the beloved’s ideal future, what he or she is called to be.

This is what I studied, on other occasions, in the writings of Max Scheler. But perhaps no one has expressed it with such tenderness and delicacy as Alice von Hildebrand in her book By Love Refined:

When you fell in love with Michael, you were given a great gift: your love took you from past appearances and granted you a perception of his true self, who he’s meant to be in the deepest sense of the word. You discovered his ‘secret name.’

Those who love have been granted the special privilege of seeing with incredible intensity the beauty of the one they love while others see primarily his exterior acts, and particularly his failings. At this moment, you see Michael more clearly than does any other living human being.9

And she adds:

Often people say that love is blind. How foolish! As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not love that’s blind, but hatred. Only love sees.10

To explain, she writes:

When you fell in love with Michael, you saw both his good points and his bad, and you rightly concluded, ‘The goodness I see is clearly his true self—the person he’s meant to be. I know that despite the faults that mar his personality, he’s fundamentally good.’ (Isn’t that just the judgment that’s implied in your last letter when you said, ‘When he gives in to his anger, he’s just not himself.’)

Notice that your judgment involves not merely a recognition of Michael’s virtues, but also a grasp of his weaknesses and flaws. Which is why I say that love isn’t blind; it actually sharpens our gaze. (God, who loves us infinitely, sees our goodness as well as every single dark spot that stains our souls.)”11

That is all from von Hildebrand. But the allusion to God turns out to be even more fruitful than what the text would seem to indicate.

In the first place, let us consider that same invocation in one of the most well-known poems by Jorge Luis Borges, entitled Otro poema de los dones:

I wish to thank the divine / labyrinth of effects and causes / […] for the love that lets us see others / as the divinity sees them.12

And next let us recall one of the sharpest aphorisms by Joubert:

“Seeing everything in God» to find everything beautiful. Because in order to see the beauty of beautiful objects, we have to see the sun behind and the light all around.13

And afterwards, thus prepared, let us ask: how, or rather, where does God see each one of us?

The metaphysical answer of Being is that he sees us in Himself or, if you prefer —since it is the same— from Himself, from the goodness that He himself has given us.

And so, although it is true that he also sees our faults and defects, unlike us, he does not know them at any time as if they were something; he clearly perceives them in their strict condition of privation, of non-being: like blindness or deafness, which have no positive reality, but which are only an absence, a lacking.

And, consequently, what it primarily captures is the good in which He has given us a share, and in which he is constantly maintaining us and helping us to grow, with the cooperation of our freedom. Evil, on the other hand, is a kind of add-on or, better said, a truncation of his work: and in the end, as with the proposed examples, it is not —with positive being— even though it exists. Thus, he can love us with infinite love.

Regardless of whether or not the foregoing statements are accepted, these are truths that lead to and rest in these other words by Joubert:14

«As I see it, our good qualities are more «us» than our defects. Every time N is not good, it is because he is not being himself.»

2.2. And glimpsing the future

Loving presupposes, therefore, knowing deeply who the beloved is in the present and then what they are called to be, their ideal future. And that ideal will become more precise and detailed depending on the intelligent depth of love.

What Ortega said about art and the sensible image turns out to be completely applicable to any other act of love and to other eminently spiritual acts.

The Spanish philosopher writes:

Each physiognomy stirs up its own unique, exclusive ideal, as if surrounded by a glowing mystique. When Raphael says that he paints not what he sees, but “una certa idea che mi viene in mente,” he does not mean the platonic idea that excludes the inexhaustible and varied diversity of the real. No; each person is born with his or her own ideal. How often do we catch ourselves wishing our neighbor would do this or that because we see in a strangely evident way that it would complete his personality!15

These ideas are not just some evocative, attractive, utopian, disparate theories, but fruitful truths charged with countless practical, real-life repercussions.

I will point to just one of them, applicable to all those who, in one sense or another, have the task of educating, including friends: when we are not able to find the ways to straighten out the people in our care, or when their defects get ahead of their qualities, overcome them, and hinder us from recognizing the lovable reality of those qualities, the diagnosis and the therapy are both fairly simple. What is usually hidden at bottom is a lack of good love, and the right treatment consists in an effective increase of our affection.

No doubt on some occasions in particular we will have to understand some basic principles of pedagogy or psychology or turn to experts in these disciplines.

But what matters most is to step up our love, making it deeper, more detached and impeccable: and then, the intensification of the scope and penetration of our knowledge will allow us to see what we need to educate our friend and will impel them to make progress in their improvement.

Each physiognomy stirs up its own unique, exclusive ideal, as if surrounded by a glowing mystique (Ortega)

 

IX. The kind demands of love

 

Take heart, the worst is over!

 

• There is a very well known book in Spanish about childrearing whose title is Love Is Not Enough. What do you think about that title?

• If you are in agreement, don’t you think the opposite could also be said: that without love we will never help the other person to improve?

• In your opinion, is true love more demanding than understanding, or the opposite? Don’t limit yourself to giving a short answer; instead, try to express how our love, our desire for the other person to be good, our way of supporting them in this task, and the effort not to become hurtful or too insistent all fit together and enter into play.

• A French author said that the key to educating another is always to want the person being educated to be a bit better than they are. What do you think of this principle? Concretely, to want them to be a bit better, is it enough to increase our love or is it also necessary to apply the means to know the person better? Is this a matter of actions that are mutually exclusive, alternatives to each other, merely juxtaposed, or rather, is one a consequence of the other? Which would be the cause and which the effect?

As in other cases, the question has a bit of a “trick” to it. Thus, don’t feel limited by the way it is asked, but try to grasp the underlying problem and give it the most appropriate solution.

 

Whether you think you have found it or not, here is my answer.

 

1. Getting the improvement process started

As I said before, love not only discovers the future perfection of the one we esteem, but in the strict sense, it demands it, calls for it: while always respecting the other’s freedom, love gently “obliges” the beloved to grow in perfection.

Thus, when the person’s progress in formation seems to stop, a dash of love not only helps us appreciate the ways the beloved has progressed, but also impels him or her to take the necessary steps in that direction. It is enough to love better, in a more selfless and generous way, with much more clear-cut self-abandonment, with greater self-giving: those are really the only means necessary. The good love —of two normal spouses, for example— manages to get the other to improve just by the power of affection, hardly without need for words. It is love’s own strength that pushes the beloved to progress.

For what reasons?

a) First, because when people see that they are loved and are able to correct themselves, they also start to feel less unworthy of the love that is freely dedicated to them.

b) Also, and above all, because our predilection for them is quietly placing their own ideal before their eyes. As I mentioned, when we truly love someone, we love not so much what the person is, but that degree of final plenitude —the future perfective project, as Scheler put it— which we discovered in them by the power of the love that gives strength to our intellect.

We love our friends, spouse, children, without impatience or mistaken pedagogical methods —counting on time, the greatness of the beloved, and their good will— in the full apotheosis that the portentous unfolding of their own being is called to achieve. And, as Goethe would say, by desiring them to be better than they currently are, we encourage them to make progress in their own improvement.

In this way, thanks to the love that we give, the one we want to perfect will achieve what he or she would rarely be able to do alone.

Guitton, a philosopher who died a few years ago, expressed it in this way. Before all else, the principle:

Thus, what the moral ideal obliges us to carry out, namely, that “second being” superior to ourselves which is our model, love allows us to reach to a good degree, to a very good degree.16

And a little later on, he gives the deep and illustrative explanation:

It is so difficult to match oneself, by oneself, with an I that is above self, just as it is easy to liken oneself to that model of self when it is projected on us by someone who loves us. In both cases, there is a kind of illusion, since the image of something that does not yet exist is being proposed. But when that image comes from the other’s love, it has a creative power. Thus, each one of us acts, does, and even exists in proportion to what those who love us think we are capable of. What am I, then, if not what those who love me believe me to be? When our consciousness is closed on itself, it dries up and is in torment, but when it opens to love, it is set free of its interior chains. But the conscience only opens itself when it receives love; thus, in the circuit of love, the answer contains more than the question and the gift received is greater than the gift given.17

c) In short, the loving reaction to the love we give someone is unavoidably the increase of their own being, if their freedom does not prevent it.

By loving them, by wanting them to be good and complete, we activate the unfolding of their personal perfection, enlivened by the immeasurable energy that our love gives them.

With magnificent feminine intuition, Philine, the lover of Amiel, expressed it in a letter with which she was responding to a likely scolding (also by letter) from him:

My rough edges will disappear when I am at your side forever. With you I will improve, I will grow in perfection without limits; for by your side, satiety and disunity will be inconceivable. You will not know everything I am worth until I can be, together with you, everything I am.18

“Together with you,” thanks to you, to the very fruitful energy your love will give me!

2. With very concrete manifestations

The consequences of what we have been seeing in these last pages are also quite abundant. I will point out a few of them.

a) The first is that of feeling unworthy of the love that another offers, for example, in married life.

I gladly recognize that one of the facts that has most moved me throughout my experience as a husband and in my extended dealings with other married couples is that so many times, and not only in the beginning of a shared life, one of the spouses says to the other:

— I love you madly, unconditionally, and I don’t understand when I look inside myself how you can love me.

And the spouse’s answer consists in turning the sentence around:

— No, I’m the one who is dazzled by you and, knowing myself, I find it impossible to believe that you have chosen me as husband or wife.

Some will consider this cheap romanticism. A few years ago, after I gave a talk on the topic, a man spoke up and said:

— I know very well what qualities I have and which ones made my wife fall in love with me!

I admit that his comments —in which he accused me of sentimentalism and of being even more cloying than Bécquer himself— pained me very much. I had to count to twenty because my heart and tongue wanted to fire right back at him and call him a “loser.” And this, not in a tone of recrimination or in an offensive way —not even a defensive way— but because he was losing out on what is most gratifying about love, which is precisely the sure sensation that we do not deserve it.

So, as Étienne Rey said in his Peau Neuve, when it comes to fully enjoying happiness, there is nothing like feeling unworthy of it.

And Marta Brancatisano exemplifies it, giving life to the idea:

Being loved when we are the heroes or the first in class does not even cause much satisfaction; but being loved when we are and behave like worms… ah, now that is really something that moves the heart of the world, something that causes a sense of astonishment capable of giving new life to anyone who receives a love like that19 [unjustified, free].

When it comes to fully enjoying happiness, there is nothing like feeling unworthy of it.

And in spousal love, everything is gratuitous. Of course, every person deserves to be loved by the mere fact of being a person, which is also gratuitous, the result of God’s creative liberality. But for someone to make us the exclusive object of their love, and for them to obligate themselves by an irrevocable promise to give themselves to us for life and to fight day by day to fulfill it, in the ups and the downs… no one can demand that, since it is the result of a completely free decision that calls for our entire gratitude and reciprocation, which must also be free and gratuitous, however paradoxical the statement may be.

So, although there are many reasons that explain the kind of contradiction I just presented —each person recognizing him or herself unworthy of the love given— one of them consists concretely in the fact that the lover does not see only what stands out in the beloved now, but all the plenitude that the beloved is destined to embody and which love discovers in him or her.

And, as an element within any healthy marriage, each one of the spouses loves the other more than him or herself, seeing in him or her many more virtues and possibilities for growth than the other can see by mere introspection. And it is with all that wonder that she places her affection in him.

b) Another of the unavoidable effects of love, alluded to previously, is that insofar as someone falls in love and realizes that their affections are reciprocated, regardless of their age, social condition, state of health, etc., they inevitably make a resolution to improve, to make themselves less unworthy of the love that is being given to them.

Thus, when we hear the sad statement made about someone that “he was nothing in life,” we can be sure that no one truly loved him.

This is certainly the meaning behind this sentence from Gautier: “Nothing contributes so much to make a man evil as not being loved.”

And we should probably also add the following statements by Niemeyer: “Love engenders love and even rough nature is not always able to resist its power. If many more men had found more love in their childhood and youth, they would have become humanized to a greater degree.”

In keeping with these last words, the achievement of a successful life is often the result of the awareness of being loved and of the unbreakable confidence that the lover puts and stirs up in the one he loves.

When we hear the sad statement made about someone that “he was nothing in life,” we can be sure that no one truly loved him.

c) Finally, we can make our appeal to the egotist. He is often considered the defining example of the condition in which the person closed up in himself more or less consciously refuses to love others; but this, on occasions, can be only the result of a faulty upbringing or an uncorrected temperament.
What is much more revealing of effective egotism is the one who, by contrast, ends up afflicted by the capital defect of refusing to be loved. Precisely because he realizes that with the love he could receive, he would have to make the effort to improve, coming out of himself and loving in return. He is not willing to endure the sacrifices —delightful, in fact, though he does not know it for lack of experience— that come with “loving because of being loved.”

3. And the effort of one’s own self-giving

Corroboration in being, the demand for plenitude, the discovery of a perfection that one does not see in oneself, fierce desires for improvement…

a) The poet said it much better in what I still consider to be the most enlightened love song in Spanish in the entire 20th century, My Voice Because of You, by Pedro Salinas:

“Forgive me for seeking you this way / so clumsily inside of you. / Forgive the hurting, at times. / It’s that I want to take out / of you the best you. / The one you did not see and I see: / a swimmer through your delicious sea depths. / And to seize it / and hold it high / as a tree holds the last light / it finds in the sun. / And then you / in your searching would come to the top. / To arrive there / you rise over you the way I want you, / barely touching your past / with the pink tips of your feet, / your whole body tense, now ascending / from you to you. // And then let my love be answered / in the new creature you were.”20

The final verse, with the verb in the past tense, is the peak of this inspired composition: Salinas affirms here that the personal unfolding of every human being is precisely that, development; and that the whole of the person’s fulfillment is found in some way contained in the act of being that is given to him at the very moment of creation.

Our task is to develop that richness until reaching, at the end of life, what to a certain point we already were from the beginning: beauty is close to the origin, Goethe said.

And to achieve it, we need the love of others.

b) Also Gregorio Marañón, in one of the passages of his study on Amiel, cited previously, expresses it with unsurpassable keenness, and what he says about the woman also applies with equal strength to the man:

Amiel did not know that the ideal woman is not to be found, and almost never in that state of perfection: for, usually, she is not the work of chance, but in large part, a work of her own creation […]. The feminine ideal, like all other ideals, is never given to us complete; we have to build it; with our own mud, of course, but the essential thing is to build it with the love and sacrifice of every day, exposing the future of one’s own heart for it in a risky game of heads or tails.21

c) At this point, I consider it important to insist on one aspect.

It seems certain that love, that wanting another to be and obtain the definitive richness that is virtually enclosed in their being, takes shape as the engine of all education, of any intention of helping other people. But I would like to recall that, precisely since we are dealing with people, each one is unique, and his or her perfection, while somehow analogous to that of others, also takes form in a strictly singular and unrepeatable way: unique.

Recall that Aristotle defined love as “wanting the good for the other as other.” And we could also echo Unamuno’s words to a novel writer who complained to the teacher that his work was not sufficiently recognized. Miguel answered him:22

“Don’t think you are more or even less than any other, for men are not quantities. Each one is unique and cannot be substituted; put your main effort into consciously being so.”

Julián Marías makes the same point, although from a somewhat different perspective, which emphasizes more the needs of the lover than the quest for the beloved’s good. Even so, with a slight correction to the focus, what he does say turns out to be a very useful summary in our own context:

What I have called the “insatiability” of love means that the lover is not content with any abstraction, that this or that aspect of the beloved is not enough for him, but rather he aspires to her in her integrity, past, present, and future, bodily and spiritual, sentimental and intellectual, in this world and in the other.

In her temporal reality, throughout life —let us not lose sight of the fact that human life is an ongoing process in which the time that has been lived settles in and allows one to anticipate the pre-lived future— love consists mainly in letting the other one be. This is the root of its essential respect, compatible with its avidity which reaches the point of the insatiability that I just discussed. The lover needs the beloved so much that he has to let her be what she is, what she has to continue being.

The only thing that he can do actively to her is to stimulate the birth of what is most hers and what is best in her, helping her to discover herself, to see herself as in a mirror that the one who sees her offers to her. He who wants to change the beloved —a quite common mistake— does not truly love her, since love leads him to want her to be as much herself as possible, and that is why he limits himself to trying to clear away false adhesions in order to free up who she really is, not to change her to be like oneself or like what one personally prefers.23

The lover loves the beloved so much that he impels her to be deeply what she is and to conquer what she should become.

And with this we can move on to the next point.

 

Don’t worry.

Human knowledge is progressive. We do not usually fully un-derstand something when we read it the first time. What we halfway understood prepares us to study what comes next, and our new knowledge clarifies what we already learned. Often it is just a matter of reading the same thing over again. But the end result often brings considerable satisfaction.

Keep it up.

 

Help for personal reflection

 

• I said earlier, “if it always turns out to be at least imprudent to judge a man or a woman, the question becomes an absurdity when we try to gauge someone we do not truly love.” Would you know how to give the deep reason why this is so? Do you think that judging a man or a woman is always and in all cases an imprudent act? If not, with what conditions would it be allowed to make that judgment? What would you tell those who think that in order to judge with objectivity, there has to be an impassible affective distance between the judge and the person?

• The word “beauty” has appeared in these pages on several occasions.

Perhaps it would be good for you to dedicate some minutes to reflect on what beauty is and how it is related to love. Specifically, it may help you to determine what this term means in each one of the following sentences:

“Those who love each other are given the special privilege of seeing with incredible intensity the beauty of the one they love…” (Alice von Hildebrand).

“Beauty is close to the origin” (Goethe).

• Now consider what Niemeyer says: “Love engenders love and even rough nature is not always able to resist its power. If many more men had found more love in their childhood and youth, they would have become humanized to a greater degree.”

Do you think that the two statements —the one about nature and the one about man— have the same degree of truth?

After studying this lesson, would you be able to explain in what sense(s) we can say that love humanizes?

• We have almost all heard the famous phrase by Pindar, repeated centuries later by Jaspers, among others: men are called to “become what we are.” What do you think this means? In what measure —if any— is love important to “become what one, in a certain way, already is”?

• Regardless of your own thoughts, which you will have expressed in response to the previous question, how do you interpret this sentence in light of what you read in the pages you just studied?

 

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

1 Aristotle, Éticas. I collected and gathered various fragments. [Very summarized version of Ayllón, José Ramón. Sevilla: Altair, 1998, nn. 123 and 129].

2 «Perché ci sia amore, bisogna che l’amante faccia germogliare possibilità latenti o compresse del nostro essere». Alberoni, Francesco: Ti amo, cit., p. 101.

3 I put the word «previous» in quotes because, as you can see, I am not talking about chronological or successive moments or stages, but about dimensions or elements that intersect and interact with each other.

4 «Le moi qui aime veut avant tout l’existence du toi; il veut en outre le développement autonome de ce toi; et il veut cependant que ce développement autonome soit, si possible, harmonieux par rapport à la valeur entrevue par moi pour lui». Nédoncelle, Maurice : Vers une philosophie de l’amour et de la personne, cit., p. 15.

5 Alberoni, Francesco: Ti amo, cit., p. 139.

6 Consequently, it is always more imprudent to judge —and never in a definitive way— a man or a woman. The question becomes an absurdity when it is a matter of evaluating someone we do not truly love.

At times, the parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents… of a young person are quick to give their opinions about the quality of the boy or girl they have chosen as their boyfriend or girlfriend, basing their opinions on some isolated and partially perceived traits: «Look who he has fallen in with…!»

This is a very big «metaphysical» mistake! I say this only half joking. Only those who love can truly plumb the richnesses, which are often in potency, that that person holds within.

«In the depths of all souls,» writes Édouard Rod, «are treasures that only love can discover.»

7 Hildebrand, Alice Von: By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride. Manchester – New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 1989, p. 16.

8 Chesterton, Gilbert Keith: Orthodoxy; in Brave New Family: Men and Women, Children, Sex, Divorce, Marriage and the Family (Edited with an Introduction by Álvaro de Silva). San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990, p 24.

9 Hildebrand, Alice Von: By Love Refined, cit., p. 15-16.

10 Hildebrand, Alice Von, By Love Refined, cit., p. 180.

11 Hildebrand, Alice Von, By Love Refined, cit., p. 180.

12 Borges, Jorge Luis: Antología poética 1923-1927. Madrid: Alianza/Emecé, 5a. second edition, 1993, p. 78, Otro poema de los dones.

13 Joubert, Joseph: Pensamientos Edhasa, Barcelona, 1955, p. 89, no. 592.

14 Joubert, Joseph: Pensamientos, cit., p. 69, no. 419.

15 Ortega y Gasset, José: “Estética en el tranvía”; in El espectador, I.

16 Guitton, Jean: L’amour humain…, cit., p. 83.

17 Guitton, Jean: L’amour humain…, cit., p. 83.

18 Marañón, Gregorio: Amiel. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 11a. ed., 1967, p. 134.

19 Brancatisano, Marta: Fino alla mezzanotte di mai: Apologia del matrimonio. Milano: Leonardo International, 2ª ed., 2004 (1ª ed., 1997), p. 88.

20 Salinas, Pedro: Love Poems by Pedro Salinas: My Voice Because of You & Letter Poems to Katherine. Parallel text in English and Spanish. Translated and with an Introduction by Willis Barnstone. With a Foreword by Jorge Guillén and an Afterword by Enric Bou. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2010, pp. 77 & 79. Original in Spanish: «Perdóname por ir así buscándote / tan torpemente, dentro / de ti. / Perdóname el dolor, alguna vez. / Es que quiero sacar / de ti tu mejor tú. / Ese que no te viste y que yo veo, / nadador por tu fondo, preciosísimo. / Y cogerlo / y tenerlo yo en alto como tiene / el árbol la luz última / que le ha encontrado al sol. / Y entonces tú / en su busca vendrías, a lo alto. / Para llegar a él / subida sobre ti, como te quiero, / tocando ya tan solo a tu pasado / con las puntas rosadas de tus pies, / en tensión todo el cuerpo, ya ascendiendo / de ti a ti misma. // Y que a mi amor entonces le conteste / la nueva criatura que tú eras». Salinas, Pedro: La voz a ti debida. Madrid: Clásicos Castalia, 1974, 2ª ed., pp. 93-94. AA.

21 Marañón, Gregorio: Amiel, cit., p 112.

22 Unamuno, Miguel de: “¡Adentro!”; in Obras selectas. Madrid: Plenitud, 5a. ed., 1965, p. 186.

23 Marías, Julián: La educación sentimental, cit., p. 282.


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