On Love

It is not easy for a Filipino to philosophize. We do not possess the long tradition of philosophical dialogue that the Europeans and the Chinese have. The German can readily cite Heidegger, who quotes Hegel, who in turn ultimately quotes back to Aristotle. But we Filipinos have no such illustrious old names to give when seeking a concept.

But where we lack, we must build. And here allow me to muse on something the Filipino consciousness is very much fond of being preoccupied with: love. But let me approach it not in the Star Records way of approaching it, that is with too much expression than what is good for the intellect. Instead let me approach it in a rather cerebral way, analyzing its dynamics in a rational manner.

To describe what it is to love is rather problematic. Besides, it will take up space here, so I will merely discuss it briefly. If we are to assume that human beings, with their being-ahead-of-themselves, assume a certain mode-of-being-in, a “care” (and I here use the term in the Heideggerian sense), then we can say that love is a form of being-in. To be precise, it is being-with, when individual subjects opt to fulfill their potentialities as beings together.

With that out of the way (because I do not wish to dwell on that) we can proceed to looking at how love itself works.

We mentioned that love is an example of “care,” or mode-of-being-in. As such, we can say that, like all care, love is rooted in the will. What differentiates an individual assuming an attitude of indifference to life and one assuming great involvement in contemporary situations is the will, for the will of each one is the basis for their chosen cares. We can say then that one loves because one wills to love.

And Sartre’s discussion of the subject ultimately endows the will with the appellation of “free,” “radically free” in fact, and everything is at the mercy of the will. Thus, love, as mere option to will, is ultimately subject to it.

Does this mean then that love is entirely a matter of conscious decision? Obviously not. Love has a strong subconscious dimension. This dimension encompasses both the period ere the will has chosen to love and during the point when love has been declared by the will already. When the will is discerning who to love the senses are taken into account. Such perceived qualities as proximity, relation and physical attributes are of course taken into consideration. But we still stress the superiority of the will, for it is ultimately the will which grant these qualities the importance needed to elect them to qualifications for love. For the standards in love are arbitrary, and the arbitrariness is solely reliant on the whims or follies of the will.

That being said, let us proceed to analyzing the nature this care takes and why these natures vary.

We distinguish at first between Familiar and Romantic love. It is evident that for most people the love felt for a relative and a friend is different from that of a “special someone.” But how does this difference arise?

Observe that in the former type of love, the objects of the affection are in close proximity to the subject, so close in fact that at some points these objects define the subject (hence we get “words of wisdom” such as “the mango tree will bear mango fruits” and “tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.”) We can say then that this familiar love is the love of one to the others who define him/her, who are “part” of who he or she is.  It is “choosing to be-with the other beings that are definitive of who we ourselves physically and contextually are.”  To put it lightly, our love for our family and friends is no different from our love  for our fingers and toes!

Then there is the love felt by Romeo for Juliet (I hate the example, but I must illustrate the point clearly), that “love” which we Filipinos are most obsessed about. And it is most apt that we name this kind of love “Romantic love”, for it is a kind of love that stands in stark contrast to Familiar love. We have said that Familiar love is love for that which is closest to us, choosing to be-with our given-ness. But when Marius sees Cosette’s eyes and falls madly “in love” with her, it is not familiarity that he sees but an otherness which stirs in his subconscious the greatest sense of incompleteness. For this kind of love is the yearning for what we do not have, the longing for what is not in our immediate given-ness. As there is bliss in the home for Familiar Love, there is wanderlust, or homesickness for Romantic Love.

This line of thinking is very much in agreeing to William Luijpen, who describes this kind of love (though does not make the distinction we have made) as a choice by subjects even though the subjects who love do not need to make the choice. This kind of love is not aimed at preserving who we are, it is aimed at making us more than who we are.

What then of sex? Is sexual attraction also love? To this I say yes if it be condoned by the will. No matter whose vagina it may be, a man will always find it his inclination to put his penis into that vagina. That is the basic nature of sexual attraction, it is founded on an uncontrollable and irrational subconscious urge. When one takes that urge to the level of will – when one wills that urge to be fulfilled, then we can say the urge has fallen into our category of Romantic Love. Why? Because behind this urge is a desire to “eat” an “other,” to be for once more than what one is already. Sex seeks physical oneness with another, and that is love. Contemporary culture, which seeks to keep Romantic Love wholesome in order to control random bouts of sex, distinguishes between this “animalistic” type of Romantic Love (thereby calling it “lust”) and the more subdued, “rational” Romantic love. But let me stress that the two are one and the same, and that which Contemporary culture seeks to glorify is but prolonged foreplay, for one of the ultimate goals of this second type of love is oneness with another, both on emotional and physical respects.

Let us then look at some unusual cases, and see how this paradigm works in the situation.

What of instances of incest? In Leoncio Deriada’s “Pigpen” we see Purok arrested by a strong desire for his daughter Innocencia. How then do we put our difference between Familiar and Romantic Love in this situation? We must first insist that Familiar love and Romantic love cannot go together, this is a paradox. If that is the case, we can say that of the two only one is present behind Purok’s actions. And we have already established that sex is a form of Romantic love. That being the case we can say that Purok only saw his daughter as someone who was not him, who did not define him as a person (perhaps his sense of being a father to her was not that strong). As such, he could only be something which he did not have, and consequently yearned to have.

Here too we also see that the pretense of love’s permanence is dissolved. Our choice of being-with another being is never permanent, and it can sometimes last for an extremely short time.

Returning to the incest, our line of thinking is consistent with other reported cases. It is scientifically verified that incestuous relations occur between relatives who shared relatively little proximity (both physical and emotional) to one another. A girl falling in love with her brother she never met, or one who feels the strongest urge for an emotionally distanced father, both seem very convincing now in this light.

But what then of orphans? Of people without friends? Can they only then feel romantic love? To this I also say yes. But before the reader begins assuming that all orphans and loners are sexually depraved individuals, I must point out that I never imagined my conception of Romantic love as being purely sexual. The end of love is not the point of this discussion, but the nature of it. And so we can say that the orphan, who seeks recognition from parent-figures, seeks this recognition with the same desire to be-with that Purok felt at that instance for Innocencia. Similarly it is with equal “lust” for an other that a lonely person clings to new found friends.

To sum, we have defined Love as the mode-of-being-in that chooses to fulfill our potentials as beings with other beings. Though we have admitted that subconscious aspects play a role in the beginning of love, we emphasized the superiority of the will in this and stressed that to love is a choice. We have differentiated Familiar love, the mode-of-being-in that chooses to fulfill the subject’s potentials as being with the beings that define the subject physically or contextually, and Romantic Love, the mode-of-being-in that chooses to fulfill the subject’s potentials as being by seeking what the subject lacks. Then we have observed the unusual cases of incest and loneliness.

In a future post I shall discuss detachment, how it can be done, and how it may be avoided.

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