Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And You Shall Love the One You're With!

And the obnoxious lawyer said, "Bottom line it for us, teacher. What's your angle?" And the teacher responded You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

Dealing as he was with a pharisaical lawyer, could it be possible that the teacher was being a bit ironic? And "pharisaical" needn't have any Jewish connotations at all. Indeed, to interpret it that way would be to miss the point entirely. A "pharisee" is any person who strictly observes the rules in an outward, mechanical, and possibly hypocritical way. Today we might call such a person "anal," or obsessive-compulsive.

So let's just suppose that the teacher is making this statement to an anal lawyer, so it has a very specific context. First of all, he might be saying to the lawyer that YOU -- yeah you, smartass! -- shall love the lord, thus turning the tables on him and suggesting that it is actually possible to do this, just like any other ritual. Also, to say that you SHALL do so is to insist that the lawyer try to do something outwardly that can only be accomplished inwardly.

In other words, what could it possibly mean to say that you SHALL love? How can one be compelled to love anyone or anything? What if you're no longer in love with your girlfriend, but I insist that you SHALL love her? How would you go about doing that? Really, you could only pretend you loved her by going through all the correct motions. Is it possible to love God in the same way -- to go through all the correct motions? If we take the teacher literally, the answer would have to be yes. But how could that be?

At the end of this passage, the teacher then says that this commandment -- along with loving the neighbor -- is prior to all of the law and all of the prophets. This is helpful, because it emphasizes that the spirit is anterior to the law, and even that the very purpose of the law is to codify the spirit. But no law can actually do this, especially if it becomes only a law.

Now, for psychohistorical reasons, I do believe that there was a time that man required very concrete rules, since he was generally incapable of abstraction. Indeed -- and this is a bit of a sidetrack -- in Capitalism and the Jews, Muller makes the fascinating point that, ironically, it was the development of capitalism that really allowed the average Joe to begin thinking abstractly. In this regard, the Jews had a head start over the Joes because they had already been doing this for centuries vis-a-vis the Law.

That is, by no means is the rabbinical tradition one of slavish devotion to concrete and mechanical laws. Rather, there is a constant argument over what the laws mean, how they are to be interpreted, how they apply to changing circumstances, and the multiple levels of meaning. Really, Judaism is one long argument. (And remember also that study is a mode of love.)

Anyway, here is how Muller describes the cognitive impact of capitalism: "Such an economy created a mind-set that was more abstract, because the means of exchange were themselves becoming more abstract." In the past, exchange revolved around barter, giving one concrete thing for another.

But "with the development of credit, money becomes more abstract still, little more than a bookkeeping notation. Through constant exposure to an abstract means of exchange, individuals under capitalism are habituated to thinking about the world in a more abstract manner." Life becomes more "calculated, less impulsive and emotional."

Another critical point is that capitalism facilitates the emergence of the true individual, because it creates a field of so many choices in which to actualize the self. In agrarian culture, almost everyone is a farmer or a mother. But in a market economy there are "new possibilities of individuality." It is now "possible for the individual to develop a variety of interests and to become involved in a wider range of activities than would otherwise be possible."

Back to love as theological virtue. Pieper points out that there are indeed two sides of love, one active, one passive. It is both "something we 'practice' and do as conscious actors and also something that comes over us and happens like an enchantment." Here again, we are dealing with the complementarity of letter/spirit, but the former must be dependent on the latter, since it could never be the other way around.

And yet, if, as we were saying yesterday, love discloses reality, then there is more to it than just passively "falling in love." Rather, in a certain sense, to love is simply to assent to reality, or to "say yes to O." So in that sense, you must "love the Lord," for failing to do so is to situate oneself outside reality. Thus, there is an element of will involved, and will is the basis of faith. Again, irrespective of one's first principles -- i.e., whether religious or secular -- one can only affirm these principles with a leap of faith, or will.

Pieper makes the interesting observation that in the Psalms, there are many instances of the affirmation that God wills man. For to truly love someone is to want them to exist. To say "I love you" is to say, "boy, I'm glad that you exist!," or "existence sure is good with you in it!" And this doesn't just apply to people. For example, to love the United States is to say that one is happy it exists.

Pieper concludes that "love as the primal act of will is simultaneously the point of origin and the center of existence as a whole. What kind of person one is will be decided at this point." And "the most extreme form of affirmation that can possibly be conceived of is creatio," or bringing something into existence.

So if God loves man by willing him to be, perhaps we love God by willing him into existence. For God is always "beyond being" unless we cause him to ex-ist or "stand out" by reciprocating the love. You might say that love causes God to be in time.

13 Comments:

Blogger Van said...

"And yet, if, as we were saying yesterday, love discloses reality, then there is more to it than just passively "falling in love." Rather, in a certain sense, to love is simply to assent to reality, or to "say yes to O." So in that sense, you must "love the Lord," for failing to do so is to situate oneself outside reality. "

Isn't that also involving the ability and willingness to recognize it?

To go in a different direction that's a bit easier to describe, Ptolemy had some ideas about pendulums, and described how the pendulum didn't match up with his ideas of how it should work, and wrote the steps down, and why the pendulum failed to live up to his expectations. DaVinci did as well... they had some concepts, ways of looking at the world, they described it’s motions as Natural and Accidental (those measurements which they felt didn’t measure up) which prevented them from grasping what was there, ready, willing and able to be beheld.

Galileo came along, and after a pendulum caught his attention (in church btw, not that it matters, but interesting), and began investigating the same motions, went through the same steps, but not insisting on adhering to the same preconceived notions, he was able and willing to recognize things as they truly were and integrate them into a larger understanding of reality - he was open to the Aha! moment, and was struck with it. Big time.

When do something similar we meet someone, there are certain features and mannerisms they have which catch our attention, as we investigate further, and if we are open to seeing them, rather than insisting on our preconceived notions of how we would like them to be, if we are able to recognize and perceive who they really are and that complements our values, ideas and desires, they integrate into our larger understanding of not only who they are, but of who we are, and if there are enough clicks, wham, bam, Aha!, it's love at first sight... and if we’re really lucky, amidst all that clicking and integrating, we may just lose some preconceived gunk in other areas and become more honest and truly formed versions of ourselves, than we were before meeting them.

We've got to be open to see, and we've also got to conform to how things are, at least some, to even be able to click, integrate and Aha! with the One, with all our heart, and all our soul. If you aren't willing to, or if you aren't able to recognize it (your tea cup's already too full of the wrong stuff to be filled)... you're gonna be outta luck, no matter how closely you follow the letter of the laws.

(Barring the Head waiter Gracefully bumping your cup and spilling it all out, that is. Best keep a napkin handy.)

7/13/2010 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Love the waiter analogy.

"..become more honest and truly formed versions of ourselves, than we were before meeting them."

Yes!

It works best when both have a prior assent to O, too.

"In other words, what could it possibly mean to say that you SHALL love? How can one be compelled to love anyone or anything?"

Great question!

Maybe because it's more of a drawing-to than a compelling, but the responsibility still rests with the individual to choose to face reality as it is. "It's meant to be," to use a romantic cliche. The reality is that we really have no other home but in him. He's where we belong, and we are happy nowhere else.

Then, like flipping on a light switch, the power of love both illuminates us and "glorifies" the Lover.

Looking at it that way, it starts to make more sense. "We love because he first loved us," etc. If you've ever had that love wash over you...there's something magnetic about it. It really is power, but not the sort the world seeks.

E.g., even in the most judgment-laden prophetic literature you find passages like,

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her [Israel], and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.

And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope."

There's a point at which love has to get tough, but the whole purpose of getting tough is redemptive...to bring wholeness, joy, and glory back again. For the sake of the beloved.

7/13/2010 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Yes, I think you could say that, to love God is to bring Him into your existence by an act of your will. When we love someone, we "admit" them, both their existence and into our lives.

7/13/2010 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

...remember also that study is a mode of love.

This is another one of those things that is so obviously true it must be pointed out for most people to know it. Going back to yesterday, it also explains why it is so unwise to spend too much time studying the adversary's playbook.

7/13/2010 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

Julie alludes to an "adversary's playbook."

I would like more information on this playbook, such as where to locate a copy.

Of course I realize she may mean a more disseminated or metaphoric "playbook." In that case any sources of adversarial info would be appreciated.

Also would like readers to weigh in on married love; might be getting hitched soon so how's it?

Not in Cali of course they won't allow it.

7/13/2010 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

bh said "I would like more information on this playbook, such as where to locate a copy."

It's a do-it-yourselfer, but only a couple steps you need to remember:

1. Locate mirror.
2. Converse with self.
3. Take notes.

Viola.

7/13/2010 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

Me and my mate each wear one leg of the pants, I think... that was a thoughful and honest response, Dianne, which I appreciate.

And Van gave me a nice compliment; he considers me the adversary. In Van's world that is an important spot and I do feel kind of warm inside here. Thank you both.

But I am no adversary, really. I bear no malice. I do not want to deface raccoonism or dissuade its members from their beliefs.

I just love it here because the deep things get an airing. You can't get it elsewhere.

The way Bob discounts and ignores me also fills some need inside me.

If there was anything I would want more of here, its feelings.

7/13/2010 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger Dianne said...

um..yeah..ok...that's what you come back with?

7/13/2010 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"what is up with there being a 'male' and 'female' type"

Yes, you'd almost think the biological manifestations are drawn from something archetypal...

7/13/2010 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"Going back to yesterday, it also explains why it is so unwise to spend too much time studying the adversary's playbook."

Excellent observation.

7/13/2010 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"...a nice compliment; he considers me the adversary..."

Now that's funny. No, bh, I meant that you are your own adversary... one legged though you may be.

7/13/2010 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

Well I didn't choose to be the way I am. So what should I do? I'm trying to make the best of it.

You guys don't have to be mean to me. You see Bob didn't leave any comment so he's giving permission to write good notes to me if you want.

Having a kid with my mate is a dream we both share but it won't be easy and yes we do worry it will warp a kids' mind.

I don't know, what are our choices. Celibacy, just dating. Maybe marriage and kids just aren't in the cards for us.

It would be easier not to exist at all. I wonder if anything out there, or anyone except Cheryl and my parents, wants me to exist. Who made me, and why? If not just random happenstance.

What good am I then?

7/13/2010 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

You might say that love causes God to be in time.

Every new post carries at least one new insight for every raccoon (at least in my experience).

7/14/2010 05:50:00 AM  

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