Thursday, 7 November 2013

What kind of thing is Love? Force or substance?

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For a Christian, the subject of Love is one that cannot be ignored because it is supposed to be the focus of our mortal lives. 

As I wrote yesterday: The choice of salvation or damnation is a real and autonomous choice, but like other such choices is susceptible of influence - especially from Love. I believe that the Love of a Christian for others makes it more likely that those others will choose salvation. And indeed, that this is perhaps our major work in this mortal life.

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But what kind of a thing is Love - what is the best metaphor for understanding it and talking about it?

Most people think of Love as a force; somewhat like magnetism. Love is an attraction. It works here and now, when the loved entity is nearby and present.

Love has various strengths, rather like an electro-magnet. It can be switched-on and -off, as someone - for example - falls in- and out-of Love, or Love turns to hate.

And so on...

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But maybe it is better to think of Love as a substance. So that Loving someone is something like depositing or lodging this substance in another's body.

And the substance of Love is permanent - it cannot be removed.

And the substance of Love is itself wholly good.

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I imagine something rather like micro-particles of gold dust, luminous gold dust in the flesh and blood. These, as I say, cannot be removed, and therefore will accumulate in a loved person - inevitably being 'detectable', and having an effect forever.

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So that Love is something that can just happen to you - like it or not, with or without your consent - you get filled with luminous gold dust!

So Love is there, it cannot be removed: the question or choice is what to do about it.

If we consent to Love, and meet Love with Love, then I imagine the luminous gold particles would get into the blood stream and circulate everywhere in the body and soul, so that person would begin to glow and all they did would be affected by Love!

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But we can choose to cut ourselves off from the Love that is there, resist its effect, cover-up the luminosity.

The glow of that inner Love can be defiled, dirtied, dimmed by scribbling hideously over it so the light within serves to illumine the vileness on the surface; or by growing an opaque shell over it, the light dimmed right down to invisibility (although it is still there, underneath).

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Weird as it seems; one advantage to the metaphor of Love as a substance is that it makes clearer sense of living for Love when Love is an accumulation of something permanent; it makes easier sense of why we should Love others if our Love makes a significant and lasting difference to them and intrinsically benefits them; and shows us why any act of Love anywhere by anyone is valuable - permanently valuable.

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Note:  I got this idea from reading the Harry Potter book series - http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/harry-potter-co-inherence-and.html - where Love is discussed and affects the plot somewhat as if it were the kind of substance I describe above.

5 comments:

  1. Well done for avoiding the song title.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo2P7AhMbxk

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  2. Good metaphor. It corresponds well to the one St. Teresa de Jesus used to describe the soul: a diamond whose coating thickens with sin and is polished away by virtue and good deeds, letting God’s light shine through.

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  3. One other way I've thought about the effect of Love is that it enables the possibility of joint decisions. To wit, very rarely I have had an intuition that a particular choice I was making was linked to a choice someone else was making, or had made, such that the difficulty of the decision was shared or transferred among two people. In that sense I could influence someone's decision (or someone else was easing my decision!), but only because I felt the particular burden of the other person's choice.

    The Biblical quote that comes to mind in connection with this is:

    "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ."

    I had a sense of this, though, long before I had any interest in Christianity, and originally explained the feeling in terms of a vague sort of ancestor-worship. (The sense that previous generations are actively involved in the life of the current generation, and there is some kind of influence that goes in both directions. Which is true, as far as it goes, but takes on a different meaning within the Christian framework.)

    But this would also explain how, exactly, being loved may assist a soul in making the right choices in the afterlife.

    Attempting to isolate this effect from, say, the act of praying for someone (which is the proper and recommended outward mechanism if one wants to share or take up a burden), would quickly degenerate into Charles Williams-style theurgy (where he concluded that co-inherence could be employed outside a Christian framework, if a person was so inclined). But it does make an interesting conceit to explore on the level of speculative fiction.

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  4. "Attempting to isolate this effect from, say, the act of praying for someone (which is the proper and recommended outward mechanism if one wants to share or take up a burden), would quickly degenerate into Charles Williams-style theurgy (where he concluded that co-inherence could be employed outside a Christian framework, if a person was so inclined). But it does make an interesting conceit to explore on the level of speculative fiction."

    ... and now I feel silly that it's taken me so long to get around to reading 'Descent into Hell', since this phenomenon is described quite exactly with the manner in which Stanhope transfers Pauline's fears onto himself.

    All the previous objections to making an explicit discipline of this still apply.

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  5. @A - yes - it does make for a powerful novel, though.

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