09 June 2012

Loving Someone

(continued from below)


The usually unconscious and unacknowledged despair in our hearts today, while it can force one to lose all his marbles or desire to gain them all as an opium, has as its conclusion and final consequence the fact that each one becomes alone.

Loneliness has perhaps never been more real and felt than it is today. No more nationalism, no more community, no more causes for which we see the need to unite and fight. The lack of values outside of ourselves have pushed us into having as our highest goal the attainment of our own happiness--not of the group, the country, more especially of "the world"or human beings as a collective. Happiness, thought by the Greeks as only attainable in fellowship and friendship with others within the polis, or the Christian philosophers only in union with God--happiness is now to be sought in the attainment of individual security, individual success, and individual capital.

So we have come full circle to what Socrates keenly observed among the Athenians at the dawn of philosophy. Seeing that the Athenians had instead of worshiping their gods started worshiping money and fame, he called for the need to examine and interpret their lives, saying that self-knowledge was the highest good for a human life.

The danger of autistic desires which can lead to lonely lives (and eventually lonely deaths), can however still be exposed. Self-enclosed as we are in birth and death, we can nevertheless let something from the outside enter our lives. I am talking about loving someone. While love, naturally, has been there (or could be there) since mankind existed, it is also perhaps more today than ever that we see its value. If the Greeks thought that the highest form of love were intellectual love (agape), or the love of the form of the Good--hence philosophy, or "love of wisdom"--and if the medievals saw that God was the highest and greatest object of love, now, since we no longer either know how to think or believe, we are left to loving fellow human beings (or at least we are supposed to).

Ask the common man on the streets what he lives for or why he labors under the sun, and he will tell you that he does what he does because his his family; for those who do not have families, they will answer for their future family. These answers are rather automatically said today as if there are no longer any doubts about the matter. Most of us live and die for loved ones. Happiness, so it seems, is now thought to be found in loving someone.

Love is able to break the fortresses of the despairing self by calling on it to let enter another. Alone, there is really that danger of despair and hopelessness and depression. Because the lover is responsible for an other than himself, he either leaves his own darkness, or at least, his suffering can then find some meaning (sacrifice). That is to say, when we suffer because of and for ourselves, there arises no real need to want to address and ease and eventually end our own pain. It's difficult to always have to fight for yourself, you see, in the sense that, you begin and end with yourself: at the end of whatever road to happiness you take, you end up only finding yourself--whereas it is always rather comforting to know that wherever you go, the persons you love will be there when you come home.

"No one ever works except for children," Charles Peguy then observed. Perhaps whether we know it or not, whether these children be biologically our own or unrelated to us, we build things not only because we wish to enjoy it in the little time that we have remaining in our short lives, but we also build possible dwellings and homes for others, especially those who may enjoy it more than us in the future, like the children.


Margaret Bernadine Hall, Les Miserables, 1862,
Liverpool Museum


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Maira Gall