Rational Religion

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What’s Love Got To Do With It?


It may occur to persons of good will, reading these essays, that I have had very little to say about Love.


More nonsense has been written (spoken, sung) about love than about anything except god, or perhaps diet.


The main problem is that love has so many definitions that it is, at least in English, a “catchall” word.   To be of any use, it has to be broken down into categories: “romantic love,” “mother love,” “filial love,” “theological love,” “pair-bonding love,” etc.


The most serious secondary problem is that love is so individually subjective that every person’s “love” of any category is somewhat different from any other person’s love, in the same category.  In pair bonds, for instance, husbands’ and wives’ definitions of the “shared” emotion are often best left unexplored for fear of impairing the strength of the bond.


Love is metaphysically constructed.   That is, each of us invents his/her own definition; not in words, but in emotions.   We fashion not only our feelings but as well our “love objects.”   Those whom we “love” do not actually exist except in our own electrochemical impulses.


The stronger our “love,” the more distortion of actuality is likely.  I do not say reality because that implies some independent classically physical basis for the relationship, and I don’t think that is usually possible. 


Actuality can be a psychosocial phenomenon.  Neither person in a “love” relationship has the same view of nor probably even the same investment in the relationship, but if there is a relationship, and there is agreement about that, then it can be acted upon and that can have an affect in both lives.


This is also why one-sided love, without any actual relationship, is so dissociative.  Whether one is “in love” with another person who is not interested in a relationship; or possibly is not even aware that she or he is a specific someone’s love object in the first place; or whether one loves an abstraction, such as god, the emotion is very likely to become obsessive.


The lover is forced to do it all by himself.  There is no possible return of emotion, so the lover must construct both sides of the relationship.


  In a way this can be freeing; even comforting.  There is complete control of the situation.  One does not have to take into account any one else’s troublesome needs and desires.


The down side is that the lover is in grave danger of losing all contact with reality, because there is no actuality to provide orienting feedback. 


Some of these people, if they are psychologically fragile in the first place, become stalkers and religious nuts.


(In a study of the cult phenomenon, years ago, I ran into an unexpected awareness within the political-emotional framework of various cults of a certain kind of “convert” who was so “blissed out” that he or she was of no use as a member of the community.   All these people did was “love god.”  That’s all they did, except sleep occasionally--and eat, putting a drain on the community’s resources.  It was sort of spiritual-emotional masturbation, and even the other culties recognized it as an aberration.)


Conclusion:  Love is crashingly metaphysical.   Therefore it can be a positive or negative force in the Universe and in individual people’s lives, depending entirely upon the situation and the personalities involved.


The only way to deal with it rationally, is the same way one deals with faith; one’s own and other people’s.   Realize that there is a strong possibility that you are deluded, and don’t do anything you can’t reconsider.