Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kierkegaard, Bono and love.

In the middle of a tough weekend a friend gave me an article which contained some beautiful but painful truths. It is by Mike Austin in 'Philosophy Today'. He is writing about authentic love through the words of Soren Kierkegaard and Bono (my two favourite writers!). I'll try to summarise it so stop reading now if you don't want to be bored by me clumsily writing about love.

Kierkegaard claims that authentic love is not a mysterious feeling, a mood of the soul or an empty promise. It is 'sheer action'.

The work of Kierkegaard and Bono seems to agree that romantic/human love is founded in preference, inclination, impulse and passion. This love is only a form of self-love, not focused on the well-being of the other. This love is expecting even demanding something in return. I love so I'll be rewarded with her love, her care and her affection. If my love is based on my preferences or on the traits of the one I love and my preferences or their traits change then my love changes.

'I could never take the chance Of losing love to find romance, In the mysterious distance Between a man and a woman' (U2)

Their solution then is to base love with something more lasting and stable. Romantic love must be based in divine love to be authentic. Kierkegaard claims that we should conceive of love as a moral duty.

Love as a duty is rooted in the eternal. God is unchanging like our emotions so this is a more firm foundation for our love. We become committed to another as a matter of conscience. A duty to love one another. Three become one.

Love as a duty doesn't take away the freedom, impulses and passion of romance. It is more free because it does not change when the object of love changes. On our own we fail to persevere, we tire of the other person, we feel like moving on to someone else. But authentic love (love as a duty) binds us together and gives us courage, strength and wisdom to hold on to the one we love when love's counterfeits would fail.

If anyone is still reading that was a really crap synopsis but ask me for a copy if you would like to read it. It may help you to avoid the mistakes that I made.


Anonymous said...

You may like to check out the Feb 4 issue of 'Time' magazine - The Science of Romance: Why we need love to survive.

dave wiggins said...

I thought it was a great synopsis John boy. I would never take a chance on losing love to find romance.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I know a little about Kierkegaard and nothing about Bono (sorry!) but I would like to comment on what you wrote. First you are right, we have to base our love "with something more lasting ans stable" than our preferences... but self-love is not completely wrong. The great commandment is to love "God, our neighbours as ourselves". Three have to be loved: God, the neighbour and myself. How can I love others if I do not love myself? The measure of my love for others is the love I have for myself.
I realise that we will never find a totally adequate concept/word in order to describe or to explain love, but do you really think that the concept of "duty" is the best one? It sounds a bit legalistic and artificial.
I do not say it is wrong. As Christians, we know that love is a commandment. So we have no choice, we have to love. Christian love does not depends on mood and feelings. Whether I like the person or not, whether I agree with him/her or not, I have to love him/her.
However I believe that the concept of duty/commandment is not enough and does not answer the key question: why do I have to love? If we do not answer this question, I suspect that the duty of love, the simple external obedience to a commandment, will not last very long when it will face the trials of disappointments and betrayals which always accompany love.
When you write: "Love as a duty is rooted in the eternal. God is unchanging..." you may give the impression of a very monolithic God. The image which is given to us in Jesus Christ is one of a God who suffers, who is passionate, angry, who cries, shouts, weeps... a truly living God.
Again, duty and commandment come from outside, love is from within. It is why I think that the first question to ask when you speak about love is: what is in your heart? what is you deep desire? what do you long for? and the answer is, should be: to love and to be loved. Why? because we long to live, to be fully alive... and it is precisely why Jeus came to us, "so that you may have life and life to the full" (Jn 10:10).
This is the point I want to make: for me the key concept for love is life. Because we want to live, we have to love... then we are able to justify the commandment which takes its full meaning because it is rooted in the heart, where God is. Jesus said: "If you wish to enter into life, keeps the commandments" (Mt 19:17).

J-Mac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think in the early stages of a relationship (especially)love should not feel like 'duty'. You have to like the other person, be excited by them, feel good with them. They make you feel good about yourself! Romance should very much be part of it! If it is not, I think you need to question if this is a relationship you want to keep building on.

J-Mac said...

Of course. That's what I was trying to say in the last paragraph. I guess the article is speaking way down the line from the early stages, about the person you will spend your life with. Much food for thought anon, thanks!

Anonymous said...

What were the mistakes that you made?