Sunday, December 28, 2003

I am interested in cultivating a dispassionate love.

What is dispassionate love?

I don’t really know, as yet. But I want to find out what it really means, in practice rather than theory.

I don’t usually pretend to know a lot about passion and love in the terms that most people use those words. Emotions, outside of alienation and anxiety, are not usually subjects counted to my expertise. But I believe in love and that love is the salvation of man. That, as St. James was reputed to have spent his last days repeating: “Little children, love one another. If you could do just that one thing, it would be enough.” And I am glad to resign myself, as Virgil, who wrote: “Love conquers all things; Let us, too, surrender to love.”

What I have understood about emotion has always made me regard it suspiciously. Emotion is greedy; it is desire. Emotional love is the most potently alluring form of desire for most human beings. Emotion is self-pleasure. It gobbles up the beloved for the sake of the satiation of the lover. And the lover is never satisfied.

Emotional love is a perversion. And there are differing levels of its perversions. There is the lust which overtly seeks to possess the beloved, using them for sexual pleasure, discarding the loved when its sexual purpose has been served. And there is a less overt, if not more dangerous perversion, which seeks after the soul of the beloved. This false love often masks as charity and romance, subjecting the will of the beloved to that of the lover. It subverts the identity of the beloved, attempting to recast the beloved in the image of the lover.

Both forms of false love stem from a misunderstanding of our own identity and function in the universe. These false loves, these passions, seek to steal from the beloved what does not belong to it. Man’s most ardent wish is his own justification, and all men intuitively understand their inability to provide that justification for themselves. Though conceived in the image and likeness of God, from their earliest days men are content to blind themselves to their true identity. They seek justification first in themselves, and when they fail, they look to their fellow men.

God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, created men to live in common with other men. It is axiomatic of our nature that it is, as the Lord said of the first man, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” And so God created society for men. Through society, we learn how we shall live. We learn to live by learning to live in society. We become independent by imitating those around us. And society is so central to the functioning of man that it forms the second of the great commandments. Christ taught that we must love God with our whole hearts and minds, and that we must love our neighbors as ourselves.

These commandments are linked and inextricably bound. It is impossible to love God without loving our neighbors, and the love of mankind is the love of his creator. We cannot serve man without serving God, or God without serving man, which is why Christ told his apostles that “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

This is because of our true identity and function in the universe. We are the body of Christ. We are bound to one another because we are all, wittingly or no, acting out the will of God. We are, as St. Paul wrote, “members of one another.” Our actions are not our own – they belong to the body of Christ, just as the movement of the thumb or finger do not belong to themselves, but to the entire body.

I do not belong to myself, just as my thumb does not belong to its self. My efforts are not my own; they are the efforts of the body of Christ. And my failings are not my own but the failings of all mankind. I am mystically responsible for not only my own sins, but for all man’s sins, because I am inextricably bound to all men. I am not my own possession, but the property of God. Because I am not my own possession, I cannot possess anyone else either. I cannot own anyone else because everyone has their own purpose and function in the body of Christ, and all men belong to Him.

A false love perverts this principle, seeking to misuse the beloved for the sake of the lover instead of the purpose of God. It steals because it seeks to possess what is rightfully God’s alone, and in its greedy passion, calls the beloved “mine.”

What men must ultimately love in loving one another is God living in every individual. We must not love passionately, for our selves and selfish pleasures. We must love dispassionately, doing what is right and best for one another, so that the will of God might be revealed through us. We are the body of Christ; His functioning on Earth. We must love with this in mind.

If we love as members of the body of Christ, we will love rightly. We will love as a function of God’s grace, enacting the best interest of the beloved and of ourselves, by making straight the paths of the Lord. We must love others in order to best reveal our true identities as children of God. We must never love to satisfy our own lust. It is necessary that we cultivate a dispassionate love. To love, as Christ loved, acting out His part in God’s plan, without seeking satisfaction for Himself.