["Love and Responsibility", by Karol Wojtyla, read for THE 341, Christian Marriage]
Okay, so here begins the very thing that inspired this whole blog. I suppose I should also add that the subject of love, particularly intrapersonal love, has been something that I'm constantly trying to wrap my head around and understand, probably because I've ended up learning a lot about close friendships recently. And right here, the future JPII starts to give the readers an incredible shedding-of-light into this very complex and often misunderstood area of humanity.
Now, I won't be summarizing the whole thing, so I'll just make a brief mention of the first part of the reading, his thoughts on the verb "to use". He notes that each person is a subject of actions, and at the same time ought to be an object of actions, as the direct end of an action, instead of the means. He also adds that the reason love works is because there are two subjects acting towards the same common goal, which makes them each an end to the other. I thought that was a very interesting idea, that each person cooperates to achieve love. And then I basically got on a philosophical and intellectual and personal "high", for lack of a better term. Because I read the next assigned section, the chapter on the "metaphysics of love".
Okay, wow. This guy knew what he was talking about, mostly because he's totally grounded in faith and reason, and because all good is eminently rational in the end, even if we can't see it right away. And here, he basically sheds all manner of light on the subject of love, particularly between men and women.
Here's the bit which really blew me away. He starts talking about love between men and women, and gets onto the topic of attraction. I'm sure that most of you are familiar with this concept. But right here, it got boiled down in a very interesting way. First, it's associated closely with Love itself, as an integral part of it. And then, it gets defined in such a way that starts to bring everything together...See, here's how The Great puts it: "To attract someone means more or less the same as to be regarded as a good." He goes on to explain things thus: when we feel an attraction to somebody, what we are really doing is finding the good in that person, and responding to that good which we find, a response of desiring to have that good. Of course, that's not the most interesting part. It's something he says after this explanation that just...it makes so much make sense. It's about discerning an attraction towards someone.
"In these circumstances the subject [of feelings of attraction] does not inquire whether the other person really possesses the values visible to partial eyes, but mainly whether the newborn feeling for that person is a true emotion."
I read that, and I was like..."Dude! That makes so much sense!" Honestly...it's just amazing. What he's saying here is basically a cut to the core of all hopeless romantics and sentimentals. Think on it, the scenario of a young man or woman meeting a member of the opposite sex, and then developing feelings for them afterwards. What is the first question they ask? "Oh, but do I really like them? Or is this just a feeling that'll go away after a while. Because I really want it to be something real." Hey, I've done that myself. And the moment I read this, it was one of those "Oh, DUH!" moments. And here's why: I figured out how simple it was to commence discernment.
It's not a fuzzy process of testing your emotions and seeing if they stick around. In fact, it's a very friendship-building process. The question you should be asking isn't "Are my feelings real?" but rather, "What gives me these feelings?" To distill the source of the attraction, which means to identify the good in the other person which the attraction stems from. Are you attracted to them because they're pretty/handsome? Because they're smart? Because they're romantic? Once you figure out the why, you know that your feelings are founded on something, and you can evaluate that something. Not only that, but the reason that it builds friendship is that when you are attracted to someone, and even "falling in love" with them, you are discovering more and more good in them which you are attracted to.
That's probably one of the most powerful things I've found, because it's so practical, and it makes so much sense. It's not sentimental and silly, but very grounded in truth and reality, especially grounded in the transcendent Truth.
There's more that follows, though, and it's even more powerful and beautiful, and I really don't have time to cover it all here. Shortly put, it's about the different aspects of love. The first one discussed is desire. When you love someone, you desire them as a good, in this aspect. For example, you recognize that there is something about them that leads you closer to God, and you desire that, so you stick around them, so that it comes to you. This type of love, though, must eventually evolve into the love of Goodwill, where you place the good of the other above your own good. And here's the really awesome bit.
These two loves seem to contradict each other. But the fact of the matter is, according to JPII/Wojtyla, they coexist and flourish with one another in the context of reciprocal love. In this sort of love, the other is desired as a co-creator of love, and so the desire to commit oneself to strengthening and growing this love is entirely selfless, instead of selfish. And that, alone, pretty much blew my mind. He then went on to discuss sympathy versus friendship, sympathy being the experiencing-together with another person of emotions or events, which on its own is not friendship. Rather, friendship is the commitment to the other, and a sort of giving-of-self on some level.
However, he says that sympathy develops into friendship, as we stop relying on emotional experiences and go towards the good found in others. This is just like how the love from desire grows and integrates the love from goodwill, something which can eventually blossom into Betrothed Love, which is the next step of reciprocal love, leading to the culmination, Married Love.
JPII, that was amazing.
(Note: you all should really just read Love and Responsibility on your own, as it's just amazing, and I can't begin to convey how everything works together in this brief blog post. Don't take me as the final authority by any stretch, there's a lot more to what I read than this scant summary up here)