Love takes centre stage in the realm of meaning – the realm in which we surrender to the lens of our subjective human consciousness; the realm in which reality is created as much as it is perceived. When you love someone, it is like shining a light into every nook and cranny of their soul and illuminating all the treasures there; treasures that you wonder why no-one else seems to see. Love brings goodness to light; love is the light, plastering a rosy glow of meaning onto everything it touches. Love simultaneously creates and perceives goodness.
And it is love that reaches down microscopes and through telescopes and seduces mind-blowing secrets out of the world and what is beyond it. Is there love in space? Just look up!
Love is “spiritual”, as in the wonderful definition from this blog post: “Spirituality is an awareness of the gap between what you can experience and what you can describe.” Love seems other-worldly because it is profound, ineffable; it inspires compassion and altruism so loftily high above mundane human actions that we can barely believe humans are capable of it. Love is so powerful that we are inclined to disown it, transcendentalise it, give it a face and a name and worship it.
Of course, acting altruistically can sometimes be hazardous, and ineffective. Many people like the blanket acceptance and valuing of all people that is prescribed in some variants of religion, while others find it more constructive and meaningful to judge and be judged on individual merits even if this results in some competition for acceptance. As with so many things, both extremes have a grain of truth in them and there is no foolproof “ideal”: sometimes a person’s problems can be healed with kindness and acceptance; sometimes a person needs a kick up the arse to sort them out. 😉
But the fact remains that altruistic compassion and undeserved kindness and non-retaliation and “loving your enemies” are uplifting and inspiring things; things we tend to associate with humanity at its very best. And while it’s important not to make it an absolute ideal, and important not to shroud it in mystery, I think it’s also important that we are allowed to marvel at love’s amazingness, and not have to denigrate it by dismissively explaining it away (as Peter Atkins unfortunately does in this video, 8:54 onwards, in response to an undeniably provocative and irritating woman :D). Yes, love is totally natural – it’s clear that at least some people are instinctively motivated to be committed to another’s well-being, on top of the fact that as intelligent creatures we are morally creative and not tied to our instincts anyway. But since when does knowing how something works dampen your appreciation of it? Does knowing about intervals and harmonies and acoustic waves and the inner ear mechanism make music any less wonderful?
Love, music, art, nature, story-telling, mathematical elegance, empathy, deep connections with people… these are some mind-blowing things eh? 😉 And I suppose I just want it to be known and spoken that awe can be felt without confusing meaning and truth, and without compromising either. You can have both. Just look up…