Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What is Love?

"The Beatles sang, 'All you need is love', then they broke up." -Larry Norman

Most of us acknowledge the importance of love, in general terms.  Love is a central theme in our societies,  movies, books and songs.  But when we talk about love as being central, what do we mean?  When the Torah says "Love your neighbor as yourself" does that mean the same thing as Donna Summer singing "Love to Love You Baby"?

In a sense, they could be.  Perhaps love just boils down to one's needs or desire.  We need our neighbor, so we will act in a positive way toward our neighbor.  To love your neighbor as yourself is to put oneself in the center of the world and everyone else is receiving of the love that we have for ourselves. We desire sexual satisfaction and we express that sexual need/desire to others, and they may share such need and so we express it.  It is a psychological principle that expressing love to others usually is reciprocated.

But is love only about desire and what we want?  Is that even the primary basis of love?  Is romantic love simply selfishness?  Is there no benefit for the other involved?  In fact, could love only be about the benefit to others?  Is "love" in its pure form, focused completely on the Other, not on the self?  Although to "love your neighbor as yourself" begins with the self, isn't it actually teaching us to move beyond ourselves, to leave the self behind?  

And is there a different category of supernatural love?  Or is the love of God and for God simply aspects of human love?  Is God's love for people simply desire, for God's own attainment?  Or is it other focused, not having anything to do with the self, other than knowing what the self requires?

But do the desires and needs of God actually relate at all to human needs or desires?  And what about between humans?  Can the needs of a human male be the same as the needs of a human female?  And if we loved trees or loved dogs, would we give them the same kind of love we would give a spouse or a cup of coffee? Are there a variety of loves, or only one?

If love is really what makes the world go around, then why is it so confusing to even figure out what it is?  How does one express love politically?  Or is that even possible?


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