Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Falling in Love With Love

I'll probably be jumping around from topic to topic as I reflect upon the John Paul biography, before returning to his theology of the body (although we'll undoubtedly be bobbing and weaving it in as we go along). But at the moment we're back in Poland in the early '50s, where Wojtyla is a young priest. He is going about his priestly business, but, for whatever reason, is deeply drawn into the subject of male-female love. Indeed, in his own words, he falls deeply "in love with love."

Which is again a rather unusual course of events, isn't it? After all, the typical person who is interested in this fascinating subject of male-female relations just grabs an opposite partner of the complementary gender without so much as a first thought.

If you are anything like me, you dove right into the pool without even looking beneath the surface to determine if there were any dangerous objects below. This, despite the fact that you had seen all those movies in which these things rarely turn out well. No, you'd be different. Why? Because she/he is perfect! And besides, love conquers all. Ignore all those bodies piled up at the bottom.

And in any event, one certainly doesn't study the phenomenon from afar, like an anthropological observer in an alien culture. For one thing, how is one to study a reality that must be experienced in order to know anything about it?

Again, as mentioned yesterday, the usual way is predictably "natural." John Paul's way is... what? Unnatural?

No, not necessarily, unless the person were suffering from some sort of disease, say, hypotestosterone. Such an individual doesn't struggle with celibacy. Frankly, the problem doesn't even come up. And in any case, what qualifies the hypotestosteronic person to opine on the testosteronic? Or estrogenic, for that matter?

Disease is actually "natural," in the sense that it is explained without recourse to any factors outside nature. But to paraphrase Schuon, instinct is, for the animal, its collective intellect, a kind of unerring wisdom. Imagine being a bird, and having to invent the nest from scratch. That would be the end of birds.

Conversely, for man, intellect is his instinct. And the intellect is oriented toward the love, truth, and beauty which reflect its source. To the intellect, the latter are "natural." Therefore, it is strictly unnatural for man qua man to live in an environment drained of love, or truth, or beauty. Like the bird and its nest, if each man had to reinvent love, truth, and beauty, that would be the end of man.

In short, for man, the supernatural is his natural habitat. Denied the supernatural, he is no longer man, but a mere instinct-driven animal. Surely, therefore, it can be no coincidence that Wojtyla, from the age of 20 onward, found himself living in an environment ruled by leftist revolutionaries who systematically endeavored to do away with man by eliminating love, truth, and beauty (and the matrix of divine freedom upon which they depend).

Nothing makes one appreciate oxygen so much as being deprived of it. Otherwise one doesn't even notice it. Same with any other human need. In fact, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion developed a metapsychology in which our humanness is "born," so to speak, in the space -- one might say the delay -- between desire and its fulfillment.

One doesn't have to take this literally in order to appreciate its mythic power. The point is that during our first nine months of existence, we float in a watery medium in which our needs are met before we are even aware of them -- similar to how the needs of our lungs are spontaneously met once we transition to this here gaseous medium.

Once outside the material womb, we are then nurtured in the space of a mamaterial womb that is, to put it simply, composed of "love" (we are speaking of what should ideally happen, not what too often actually does happen).

Thanks to maternal love, the infant's needs continue to be met in this strange new medium. That being the case, they can't even be called "needs," because one cannot have a need until one is aware of an absence -- of the thing needed. Therefore, one might say that for the infant, "need" is slowly coming into existence as he becomes conscious of desire and of absence (not fulfillment, mind you, because this only confirms needlessness, so to speak).

When the infant cries, it doesn't yet know "why" it is crying. Hunger? Cold? Lonely? Pissed off? Please stop arguing and act like adults? Change the channel? Who knows? These are just words.

It is the mother's task to intuitively respond to the distress by "naming" it for the baby. Otherwise it remains a "nameless dread." Only eventually does the baby come to name these things. And one doesn't have to be a clinical psychologist to know that many people never do properly name them. For example, it is common for "loneliness" and "hunger" to get mixed up, so that the person eats when he is feeling lonely, or frightened, or angry, whatever.

And while we're on the subject, it is exceedingly common for people to confuse love and sex. Instead of being integrated at a higher level, they are merged at a lower one. Importantly, they must first be separated before they can be unified -- which is, for example, why sex with a child is always wrong. I would add "as if it needs to be said," but, as evidenced by the subhuman research mentioned in yesterday's post, it does need to be said. Adults who never separated sex from love prey on children who are unable to do so, if not literally then figuratively (the latter is a much bigger societal problem than the former).

This immature fusion of sex and love is much more common than one might realize. For example, one rarely sees a promiscuous young woman who isn't actually searching for the love of which she was deprived as a child. This is hardly "empowerment," but the sad confession of a missing part of the self. Likewise, men who are unable to commit usually have deficits in this area. Being human is complicated, because it is not simply given, like "dogginess" or "fishness."

Rather, it can only gradually be actualized, similar to how, on the biological plane, the embryo slowly develops along the lines of its inner form. The latter is objective development, so to speak. But not really, for man is not an object; nor is he a subject; rather, he is a subjectObject, in which, as they say, the soul is the form of the body. Therefore, our subjective development occurs in the same way -- which is to say, it develops.

And to say "development" is to say time -- not empty time, but structured, or formal, time. In this regard it is analogous to, say, the seasons, which provide man with a kind of earthly analogue of "conditioned time." In reality, human time is never empty, like the abstract duration of physics, which doesn't actually exist. And even if if did, you could never prove it without having a good time trying.

Now, the most potentially complicated part of becoming human is that we cannot do it without other humans. Not human "objects," mind you, but human subjects. Provided only with objects who meet their every biological need, babies will actually die (which, one might say, is a kind of mercy).

And not only that. Rather, these must be deeply intimate relations with human subjects, beginning with mother and father. We start out completely entangled with these loving objects, and it is only through their love that we will gradually disentangle from them and then be able to radiate the love outward. Then, as the poet said, we will be back at the beginning, but know the place (consciously) for the first time.

In any event, as we shall see, instead of "falling in love" in the usual disastrous way, John Paul well and truly "fell in love with love," which became one of the cornerstones of his theology. I don't pretend to be an expert on the matter, but it seems to me that the others were freedom and truth. And none of these could exist separately from the others, as some sort of abstraction from the totality of being.

Early on, Wojtyla recognized that sexuality is "a gift from God," which one may not offer to another person without "the knowledge that he is offering it to a person." One can fail here in ways both obvious and subtle.

More obviously there are fetishists and other paraphiliacs who prefer sex with actual objects. But we can also treat subjects as objects, which is "wrong" because it is unnatural for humans to do so -- bearing in mind what we said about intellect being man's instinct.

Rather, as John Paul wrote, "On the other side there is also a human being who must not be hurt, whom one must love. Only a person can love a person. To love means wishing the other's welfare, to offer oneself for the good of the other.... In this area one must not separate love from desire. If we respect desire within love, we will not violate love..."

He also took seriously the power of "young love," perhaps more seriously than the typical jaded adult who sees it only as "puppy love." But he "came to believe that 'young people are always searching for the beauty in love.' They might fall short of the mark, but 'in the depths of their hearts they still desire a beautiful and pure love.'"

I would regard this as coming from the same place as the adolescent's political idealism that typically draws him into some form of leftism, at least in the absence of any boundaries or guidance. Some of us outgrow our puppy politics, and develop more mature ways to express our innate idealism, the latter of which being the perpetual shadow cast by the eternal "lure" of love, truth and beauty.

13 Comments:

Blogger JP said...

Bob says:

"If you are anything like me, you dove right into the pool without even looking beneath the surface to determine if there were any dangerous objects below. This, despite the fact that you had seen all those movies in which these things rarely turn out well. No, you'd be different. Why? Because she/he is perfect! And besides, love conquers all. Ignore all those bodies piled up at the bottom.

And in any event, one certainly doesn't study the phenomenon from afar, like an anthropological observer in an alien culture. For one thing, how is one to study a reality that must be experienced in order to know anything about it?"

I finally figured out that I was actually love shy a few years ago. Not to the point where I would avoid dating women, but I was unable to approach women in whom I had an actual interest in dating.

In fact, I pretty much went through my teenage/college years only able to date people in whom I had basically no interest.

With the first girl I actually dated, I knew she wanted to date me, because she flung herself at me, however I had no interst in her. I figured that I should date her since it would at least shut up my father who wondered why I didn't appear interested in women. It was because I would suffer extreme embarassment when I tried to approach the girls I was interested in.

Of course, breaking up with her when I went to college was pretty easy. "Buh-bye" I said.

The girl I broke up with when I left college from law school was more of a problem, being that she was actually in love with me. That's another story, however. My complete lack of jealousy (which bothered her) should have clued her in. I would have been glad if someone had taken her off my hands.

Although I certainly avoided pitfalls, being that my attachement to my girlfriends was extremely weak.

7/06/2011 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, it is very common for people to protect others from their love, usually because they unconsciously associate it with something bad or toxic.

7/06/2011 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

He also took seriously the power of "young love," perhaps more seriously than the typical jaded adult who sees it only as "puppy love." But he "came to believe that 'young people are always searching for the beauty in love.' They might fall short of the mark, but 'in the depths of their hearts they still desire a beautiful and pure love.'"

Yes, I think there's something to that. It's only recently that people have thought waiting to marry until sometime in one's mid- to late- 20s was a generally a good idea, after all; the capacity to love with depth, truth and purity must be there at a younger age. When people married young and expected to stay together for the long term, I imagine their approach to the care and feeding of a loving relationship must have been quite different than what we generally see today, where people expect to have several girl/ boyfriends before finding "the one," and so in practice they only stick with someone until the initial excitement wears off or the blinders of perfection fall from their eyes. And of course, what we practice becomes what we do...

7/06/2011 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

In my case, other people kept embarassing or making fun of me at exactly the wrong time.

Moral anger probably also played a part, I suppose.

I once chewed out one of my friends for being so debased and evil as to engage in pre-marital sex. Not surprisingly, that wasn't well received.

7/06/2011 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Conversely, for man, intellect is his instinct. And the intellect is oriented toward the love, truth, and beauty which reflect its source. To the intellect, the latter are "natural." Therefore, it is strictly unnatural for man qua man to live in an environment drained of love, or truth, or beauty. Like the bird and its nest, if each man had to reinvent love, truth, and beauty, that would be the end of man.

In short, for man, the supernatural is his natural habitat. Denied the supernatural, he is no longer man, but a mere instinct-driven animal."

An interestng way to put it. The materialist 'natural' impulses are the most common though, and they do, if the person is unreflective, pull and keep you down on the flattened ground of nature.

But when a person looks up, they are drawn in that direction... they are drawn into self reflection "What am I doing?!" and the most common answer from self (the guy self soph that is) is "I dunno, but she's beautiful...", and if you manage to avoid the entangling branches of fears and objects, you will be drawn upwards into the super-natural.

Come to think of it, how else would, why would, you bother looking up? Power? Control? Safety? Comfort? Nah, much simpler to satisfy and intensify them by digging in and hunkering down.

It takes the beauty and inspiration of the other, or an uncommon awareness of the higher source of that beauty and inspiration, to acheive lift off.

"In short, for man, the supernatural is his natural habitat."

Interesting.

7/06/2011 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

In fact, the psychoanalyst W.R. Bion developed a metapsychology in which our humanness is "born," so to speak, in the space -- one might say the delay -- between desire and its fulfillment.

I'm reminded of that phrase from Sertillanges (I think) that was so challenging last fall: "To be long multiple is to be deeply one," if memory serves...

7/06/2011 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I really love this post.
(You know what I mean.)

"And while we're on the subject, it is exceedingly common for people to confuse love and sex."

Well, it's about time someperson said it.
Actually, some troll the other night I think actually was serious when he suggested Jesus was a homosexual because he loved John or something.

7/06/2011 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

One more point on...
"... it is exceedingly common for people to confuse love and sex."

...because actually, what I think is being confused may be love and Love. Or love and beauty. And sex being a telos for a different recognition.
Let's say a young healthy man sees a beautiful naked woman. It is a moving problem that he needs (desires) to satisfy: what should he do about it, no? Something must be done (expression). If one only has a hammer, everything looks like.. You get the picture (also expression). Perhaps he is just registering (Love) in this case "beauty". And Love recognized as such is all there is to be done about it.
Thus we may also say that Love is now in the eye of the beholder, same as beauty. And that is no small thing.
I mean, I never enjoyed music so much as when I stopped trying to force my nonmusically talented self to be a musician.

7/06/2011 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - while running errands today this tune popped up on my playlist. Seems apropos...

7/06/2011 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

If you are anything like me, you dove right into the pool without even looking beneath the surface to determine if there were any dangerous objects below.

Did I ever. I am afraid I took my cue from Ovid: Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.

A shark is a fish.

7/06/2011 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

In reality, human time is never empty, like the abstract duration of physics, which doesn't actually exist. And even if if did, you could never prove it without having a good time trying.

You might have explained the mechanics of Quantum Entanglement.

7/06/2011 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

And speaking of objects, one of the Front Porchers has a correlated post on the subject.

7/06/2011 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Mushroom,

Thanks for the article. It's a keeper. It reminds me of something someone I trust (a former teacher) said -- "It's not just..." i.e. just this or just that.

7/06/2011 10:16:00 PM  

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