First and Ten on the Field of Love
It was different back when he was an infant, when I could get more elevation. But of course he couldn't grab on to anything then, so one had to catch the slippery dwarf as well. But that caused tachycardia and palpitations in Mrs. G, so....
Anyway, I could take the easy way out this morning by reposting something, but I think I'll do what I can and try to push on ahead into O, even if we capture only a few feet of territory. Every morning is a new first and ten. Although Raccoons prefer the passing game, not every post needs to be a long bomb. Rather, we should also establish a ground game, and occasionally push past the adversary with sheer muscle and will.
Most of us, when we're born, are placed at or near our own 20 yard line. True, some people have certain advantages, but there are usually compensatory factors that cause things to even out -- a regression to the mean, which is why the children of celebrities turn out to be such losers.
Rarely does someone suffer a true safety in life, in which they are tackled in their own endzone through no fault of their own. (We are speaking of America, not, say, the "Palestinians," who see to it that they're all born in their own endzone.) Of course it does sometimes happen, which is why I would never say that no welfare state whatsoever is necessary.
What is unnecessary is placing the welfare system at the 50 yard line, just to make it popular with the middle class. Among other things, doing so renders it a matter of self-interest rather than true charity. If you really think that AARP fights for the impoverished elderly, or that Johnnie Cochran really needed affirmative action for his children to catch a break from the racist system, you sir are worse than Hitler. Worse even than Johnnie Cochran.
So if we are going to advance the ball toward the goal line, we must eventually enter enemy territory. Thus, we are immediately faced with a paradox: the closer we get to the goal, the more attention we draw from the adversary.
The main tools of our ground game consist precisely in the virtues we have been discussing -- the cardinal virtues of prudence (wisdom), justice, courage, and temperance; and the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.
By sticking with these, we can play the game very much in the manner John Wooden did. When preparing his players for an upcoming contest, he didn't concern himself with the particular opponent or the individual personnel. Rather, he always told his players that all they needed to do was to execute what they already knew how to do, without regard to whom they were playing.
It's the same with the virtues. You're better off sticking with these, rather than trying to improvise or adapt your game to what the adversary might be thinking. You can always mix in your passing game as well -- prayer, meditation, the beer o'clock slackrament, etc.
Now lately we've been talking about love -- not just as "anything," but as a theological virtue. Why should it be a virtue -- and the most important one at that? Hmm. Perhaps because it's the hardest? I know -- because it is both a means and the goal itself? Because only love can give us a new first and ten? Because the whole field is made of love? Let's find out.
It sounds like we may be on the right track with that last one, about whether the field is made of love. But this will definitely require further explanation so as to avoid descending into a treacly bumper-sticker sentimentality. Pieper says that love "is based upon a preexistent relation between the lover and the beloved." This is indeed a key point -- like my helpful future editor, one wants to say PAY ATTENTION HERE MORON BECAUSE THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT.
The point is that "no one could love anyone or anything were not the world, in a manner hard to put into words, a single reality and one that can be experienced as fundamentally characterized by unity -- a world in which all beings at bottom are related to one another and from their origins exist in a relationship of real correspondence to one another. In short, we are confirmed in our sensing that love not only yields and creates unity but also that its premise is unity" (emphasis mine).
Therefore, love is not so much an emotion, or a state, or a feeling, but a disclosure of "the way things are." It does not create unity, but reveals it.
But this is precisely where a lot of people get mixed up, including Christians -- and not just the dumb ones, either. Because paradoxically, this oneness can only take place with twoness. In other words, if "all is one," full stop, then love isn't actually possible, is it? Rather, that would simply be a case of cosmic narcissism, or self-love writ large. God is not LaBron James.
The whole key lies in the eternal comm-union of the Trinity. They say that revelation of the Trinity is one of those things that man could never have figured out on his own, but I'm not so sure about that. I came to this conclusion long before I knew anything about Christianity except for a bunch of hostile cliches filtered through the academic left.
But before moving on to the subject of communion, let me set up our offense a little further. Pieper goes on to say that "alienation can exist only on the basis of a preexisting original oneness." The Fall immediately comes to mind. Adam and Eve can only be "expelled" from Paradise if they were once there.
Indeed, some would say that it would be impossible to even know about paradise unless one were exiled from it, so to speak -- just as a fish can't understand water until it is flopping on the deck. "Damn. Should have left that attractive bait alone!"
Hmm. I see that I scrawled a mysterious message to myself in the margin: If you say yes to O, it doesn't mean you're saying no to Ø. But if you say yes to Ø, you must say no to O.
What could this mean? Perhaps that if we say Yes to the unity of love, it encompasses the other, and ultimately affirms the whole world. But if we say Yes to Ø, it affirms our radical isolation and confirms Sartre's belief that hell is other people. But hell is only some people. Sartre, for example.