Let’s have a quick thought experiment.
Think about love. What makes it profound? What makes it worthwhile? What makes one love more significant, or, dare I say, real, than other kinds of love?
People often say, “You can’t love a dog,” but ardent dog lovers would disagree for myriad reasons. People generally accept that love among human beings is easy, but it’s always categorized as friendly-love, erotic-love, and all-encompassing-love (phileo, eros, agape).
The highest order of these is said to be the all-encompassing-love. But is it really? Read all of the greatest stories, poems, tragedies, and parables of love and you will find a common theme in all of them.
What is it? Suffering. The highest order of love that we tend to value and revere (sometimes even desire) is a love fraught with some kind of sacrifice; some kind of tremendous pain endured for the sake of the love. Think of Courtly Love, and the great Troubadours, or some of the best music about love (perhaps a subjective qualification, granted), but then think of mythology, and the Bible; sacrifice and suffering are the ultimate execution of the highest order love.
So what am I getting at? Well, I am postulating that for all the dizzying highs and “warm fuzzies” of love, the one thing that defines love in its highest sense is suffering. Without suffering the love is just a combination of emotions that produce a sort of euphoria, or state of well-being. When you add suffering to the mix, that’s when things start getting interesting; at that point the lover is making a conscious decision to endure whatever pain they are being faced with for the sake of that love. Rather than run from difficulty, they face the anguish with devotion in an effort to keep the love that they treasure alive. Perhaps this sort of innate appreciation for suffering in love is why most people say that one cannot truly love a pet, for what real suffering does one endure with an obedient pet?
Now surely some of you will say that battered wives stay in relationships for far too long, and that that would point to the “highest order love” on my view. No so; you would almost assuredly be obliged to point to codependency issues as the root of staying in this sort of scenario as opposed to real love. So for the sake of this idea, let’s just assume preliminarily that the love is between people who are not abusing one another.
Yours In Contemplation,