March 08, 2016
The island where Ariadne was left was the favorite island of Bacchus, the same that he wished the Tyrrhenian mariners to carry him to, when they so treacherously attempted to make prize of him. As Ariadne sat lamenting her fate, Bacchus found her, consoled her, and made her his wife. As a marriage present he gave her a golden crown, enriched with gems, and when she died, he took her crown and threw it up into the sky. As it mounted the gems grew brighter and were turned into stars, and preserving its form Ariadne's crown remains fixed in the heavens as a constellation, between the kneeling Hercules and the man who holds the serpent.
Age of Fable, by Thomas Bullfinch
Our love stands strong as a guide to the decisions that one chooses on a day to day basis. One's time is directed towards increasing happiness by seeking that which is loved. Unfortunately, the uninvited guest named 'suffering' seems to present itself the closer that we get to reaching this love. Are we merely captives to current conceptions of love? For love to merely exist to encourage reproduction seems to discredit the importance of this love. To label one's love as an inevitable conflict between individuals exposes love as hopeless. There appears to be something hidden in the very concept of love that could stand as knowledge itself. But to access this knowledge, must one necessarily suffer? It could stand to reason that suffering is a result of the corruption of love and does not manifest from love itself.
Love's Ideological Captivity. At birth, an infant is passed an ideological preconception of their purpose. A cookie cutter that was also passed to the infants caretaker. A purpose to find happiness through romantic love. Current culture hands the cookie cutter to the infant and expects it to readily jump into the cutter's borders. The infant is expected to grow within that cookie cutter so that eventually they can be what current culture expects it to be. If one decides not to use that cookie cutter to mould their being, they become something not understood. They become alienated by those whom are different from their own culturally relative collective teachings.
The present ideological cookie cutter within Western culture pressures each individual to value romantic love as ultimate life purpose. One is held captive to a particular ideology of love. Romantic love is obsessed over, which causes great anguish on the subjects psychology. For one to have a 'good' life, one is expected to grow up, fall in love, have a family, work, retire, and then die. How is one to react to this ideology of love? It appears premature to assert that romantic love will achieve this happiness when relationship after relationship struggles and falls apart in front of our eyes. Culture's notion of 'love' seems to cause its people great amounts of pain and suffering. To say that romantic love can truly lead us to personal happiness seems extremely rash when one can understand from the observations in their own lives, countless unhealthy, miserable, and failed romantic partnerships.
Defining an Abstract such as 'Love'. To define romantic love, the haze of the abstraction must be cleared. It seems to manifest in each individual and guide their entire lives. One is led to investigate culture and what purpose it serves and why it is so highly valued in our current society. The ability to achieve happiness appears to be very closely tied to love. When we attempt to define this love, we tend to only be able to define what it is not, which creates confusion by comparison. This ultimately steers us away from our subjects real essence, which is and can only be itself.
According to Schopenhauer, one's desire for romantic love is heavily dependant on the human desire to reproduce for the greater good of the species from an impersonal level. To reproduce is to continue one's own self. It is to continue ones own existence in and through another. He asserts,
From this heteronormative perspective, one can understand romantic love to exist like a magic trick presented to the audience. Each individual is asked, "Is this your card?", and the responses are, "Wow, yes!". However, the factual trick is that all of the cards are the same. One believes this magic trick to be performed specific to their own individual selves, when in actual fact, they are simply the subjects of nature's own agenda: to sexually reproduce to improve the genetic gene pool of future generations.
The accuracy of this depiction does not account for many types of relationships. Homosexual, asexual, virus infected, and infertile relationships present an innate flaw in Schopenhauer's conclusion. In current society, one does not always seek what one lacks within the other, and one might seek similarities rather than genetic development. Short people might seek short people, and tall people might seek tall people. It could stand to reason that Schopenhauer's depiction was composed of his own cultural cookie cutter, that encouraged a cleaner genetic pool.
We are left with something hidden that is difficult to pinpoint or even articulate. The cookie cutter has given the mould, but not explained the reason why this particular mould should be utilized instead of another.
Upon commencing my investigations into this topic, I was asked by a co-worker, "What? You don't already understand what love is?" I responded with, "No, do you?" He brushed me off pridefully stating, "You must be stupid." I questioned him seeking his declared wisdom asking, "What do you know love to be?" His initial reply consisted of multiple linguistic filler words, followed with, "I can't believe that you don't know what love is."
The more I learn about this topic, the more I understand its unchecked ramifications. Just as Aristotle teaches one to practically integrate wisdom from thoughts into actions (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, translated by W. D. Ross (ebook, 1994), 4), my mission became to find out how others around me understood and interpreted this subject. It was at this point I commenced an experiment. One individual after another I sat down with, in attempts to extract a more competent understanding of my current cultures understanding of love, asking the popular but seemingly unanswered question, "What is love?"
I asked this question to a large number of age groups, sexual orientations, and relationship statuses. I spoke with over thirty individuals. In every case, the trend of hesitance and surprise carried on from the original subject. I was able to extract little to no information from a single person. Most concluded that I was mentally inept for asking such an 'obvious' question. From one perspective, the experiment was a failure. But was it really? This tells me that there is definitely something hiding in love. Something that others feel more comfortable to act within instead of articulating. The blurry heart now stands out as being what it is: extremely blurry. In a love driven society, we seem to know very little about it. Could suffering contribute to our cultural naivety on the topic of "love"?
Consideration also must be given to the cultural confinement of this experiment. This only accounts for a small portion of individuals whom reside and have contact with me within the small military town of Augusta, Georgia, USA. This experiment might assist us in our investigations, but can in no way account for the entire world or even all of Augusta. Our topic of love remains a mystery, and reasons why one would choose to endure through its suffering remains an abstraction. However, if our position shifts to observe another side of the metaphorical cube in question, answers may follow.
Conflict! It stands to question whether the source of this desired happiness is misplaced. To identify personal happiness primarily within another directly puts us eye to eye with the bull. Sartre asserts that a relationship places us in direct conflict with the other."While I attempt to free myself from the hold of the Other, the Other is trying to free himself from mine; while I seek to enslave the Other, the Other seeks to enslave me." (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (New York: Washington Square Press, 1961), 77)
From this perspective, ones task is to claim a type of ownership of the other. A role to capture the freedom of the other. It is not a 'love potion' that is desired, but a free choice to give up some of thyself for the other and the likewise, directed towards one's own person. Both parties desire for the other to utilize their freedom to in turn suppress their autonomy to comply with the asserted requirements of the other. To freely and passionately commit oneself to that other, but ironically, resulting in destruction of parts of that very freedom in question. Thus, for Sartre, a direct conflict exists between both parties who desire to own the current object of their affection. Both parties actively and constantly winning and losing parts of themselves within their expectations and requirements of and from the other. It lies unconsciously as the goal of each involved to strive to recover those parts of themselves that have been lost as a result of the other's subjugation.
I for one do not wish to be the cause of a process as sinister as this. To gain an ability to effectively fix mechanical problems, one must understand the mechanical problems involved. To be able to relate this depiction in almost every relationship that I have seen frightens me. But this is not written in stone and I cannot accept this to always be the case. Two individuals aware of these mechanical workings will be equipped with tools that many are not. They do not have to be doomed to this fate.
True Hidden Knowledge. Reflecting on the prior survey, we are led to interrogate what love really is and how it functions. The hidden seems special. For Nussbaum, the not so obvious is in fact just the opposite: the only given. This given seems to not just be an abstract concept, but true knowledge itself. As science acts as a vehicle directed towards knowledge, love stands as the knowledge itself. This love that we are very careful before verbalization, but drives our entire life, acting not just as a word, but stands as true knowledge itself. "knowledge of our love is not the fruit of the impression of suffering, a fruit that might in principle have been apart from suffering. The suffering itself is a piece of self-knowing." (Martha C. Nussbaum, Loves Knowledge (New York: Oxford, 1990), 267)
This places perspective on our topic's experiment. To articulate love is to place the known into the less known. The vehicle to communicate this knowledge might lie within intellectual scrutiny, however, in doing this, the result is only backtracking from the known. From this knowledge that we truly know stands impossible to reject. It is already known, felt, and acted within. It is there and is contradictory to what one already knows to proclaim any different.
How can one come to understand and cope with all the pain and suffering that manifests as a result of our love? The moment the other departs one's side, suffering incurs. To love one is required to make sacrifices that demean their own individual autonomy. It is to place trust in a fallible being to continue to carry out this role. To love is to take many risks, some that could result in human suffering. Each heart knows this, yet most persist in a constant struggle directed towards love. If Nussbaum is correct, love is not something that can be avoided because it already is. Each individual is guided by it. To avoid it is to avoid true knowledge itself. It is what it is, and the knowledge it manifests as a result is observed in the actions of every individual.
The relevant inquiry seems not to be, "What is?", but instead, "What can one do about it?" For Nussbaum, the answer lies in learning how to fall. (Martha C.Nussbaum, Loves Knowledge (New York: Oxford, 1990), 274 - 280) As within martial arts, to avoid intense pain and suffering, one must learn how to fall. To reduce the great suffering that is involved with falling, one can learn how to fall so that minimal damage is inflicted. Suffering can exist as a learning utility to avoid future critical wounds. If thrown to the ground by another, one can learn to sit back into the force of the fall and prepare for the impact. The result is still the ground, but the damage inflicted is minimized. To rise up, brush oneself off, and move on can become an inconvenience which does not need to cripple us.
Learning how to fall appears to be a great deal more appealing than ignorant suffering. Can it stand as a solution to assist humankind to deal with the pain and suffering that love brings about? Are we still missing something? Falling still entails suffering of some sort. Humans do not wish to suffer. Can suffering from the human heart be strained and removed instead of merely creating new and inventive coping mechanisms?
Without suffering, all that is left is joy. Is this not what we are all striving for? Tolle suggests that we can indeed remove suffering from our lives, and the culprit of suffering lies in human selfishness.
Without the expectations that one should not need to suffer, suffering becomes absurd and its very definition collapses. If suffering is humbly accepted the process to remove suffering begins. By no longer identifying with the causes of suffering, the human being in turn transcends it. To reposition ones perspective on expectation is to entirely change the situation. Without suffering, all that is left is joy. The remnants is pure love. Love that can stand strong without lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, or pride. To truly love another is to toss out the cookie cutter entirely and reinstate it, not with a cooking utensil, but itself. It is erroneous attempts to define such an amazing word as "love" using comparisons of what it is not will fail. But when we look at what it is, our perception is transmuted from what current culture tells it to be, and what it really is.
To love without the demon of suffering waiting around the corner can enlighten our perspective on how one chooses to pursue their love. To love virtuously, independent of its corruptions, can be to recognize the cultural conflict that Sartre raises, learn from its ramifications as Nussbaum asserted, and accept it in its entirety as Tolle suggests. For one to love does not also necessitate that one must suffer. Suffering, however, does serve a righteous purpose: its own destruction. Suffering is not a welcome emotion and most healthy individuals will do what they can to avoid it. It appears that the best way to avoid it might just be to embrace it. To remove love of its suffering can enable one to share a purer form of love with their special someone. Love itself.