A theory of love // ​​The Observer

What is love? Love is a commitment. What is Commitment? Commitment is dedication to someone or something. What is love a commitment to? Love is a commitment to the life of its object. The object can be oneself or another self. So ask yourself, what is life? Life is a constant attempt to approximate goodness. But what is kindness? Kindness is the realization of personality which, as understood in African communal philosophy, is the embodiment of moral excellence or virtuous living. It begins with conquering our wandering and evil passions. Thus, life is the constant attempt to approach moral excellence, which is its essence. Love is therefore a commitment to life thus understood and its essence. To love oneself is to engage in one’s life, that is to say in one’s constant struggle to approach the good. To love, therefore, is to engage in another’s life, that is, another’s struggle to approach goodness. It is also the essence of romantic love.

Three questions arise. First, where does love as described above come from? What are the causes? Love is a commitment to life and its essence, that is, the approximation of goodness. Life and its essence are immutable. And because love is a commitment to life that is unchanging, love is also unchanging. Therefore, because love is immutable, it cannot arise or be caused by things of a nature different from its own, i.e. love cannot arise from things that are mutable. It cannot come from a physical attraction or an attraction to values, ideas or material things. Beauty fades, money comes and goes, ideas evolve and values ​​change. Because these things change, a love hinged on them must change and cease to exist once they change. But love does not change because it is a commitment to life, the essence of which is immutable. So where does love come from?

Love comes from understanding. In particular, love comes from self-understanding. Understanding life begins with understanding yourself. If one understands that their existence is essentially a struggle to get closer to good, then one is able to understand that others around one are engaged in a similar struggle. Understanding this allows one to extend one’s commitment to one’s life, i.e. to approach goodness to a higher level where one can engage in the lives of others, i.e. in another person’s struggle to come closer to goodness. Rising to this level is possible only after understanding the essence of life by understanding oneself. So when two individuals, armed with an understanding of self – and therefore an understanding of the essence of life as a constant struggle to approach goodness – mutually agree to engage in each other’s struggle to approximate goodness, we say they are in love. Indeed, Christ taught this as the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

This understanding of love raises another question.

If indeed love is as described above, then we can love anyone that way. Yes indeed, because we can love anyone in the way described here because we each have the potential to engage in life – our own and the lives of others. But if this description of love is also the essence of romantic love, as we said above, then how to distinguish romantic love from other types of love? The difference is twofold. First, love as described here is not passive. It is a love that asks us to intervene actively in the world to facilitate, encourage and support the struggle of the other to come closer to good. Of all our relationships, the degree to which we can step in is worlds highest for our romantic partners, followed by our close family and perhaps a few friends. The second difference is that for our romantic partners, we also happen to share romantic moments. Yet romance is not the essence of such a relationship unless otherwise stated. Love is above all a means of perpetuating our species. That we have improved the method of perpetuation of species to engender certain delights should not lead us to confuse form with substance. Romance is therefore only a peripheral aspect of love. It cannot be the basis of love because, like material things, ideas and values, it is mutable; its intensity and levels of interest fluctuate and diminish. The essence of love is a commitment to life that is unchanging.

The third and final question that arises is: what is the character of love as it is described here? The character of such love is as described by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians. He is patient because he understands that getting closer to goodness is a lifelong process. It is good because it understands the struggle in which its object is engaged because its object is of the same nature as its subject. He neither jealous nor boasts, nor is he proud because he understands that goodness is neither exclusive nor rival, that is, all can have it without aggravating the other. It does not dishonor others because it understands that the struggle to come closer to good, in which its subject is also engaged, brings honor to its object. He is not selfish because he is engaged in the life of his object. He does not anger easily because he is grounded in an understanding of himself, his object, and the complicated nature of the struggle the two are in to approach goodness. This understanding predisposes him to sympathy and empathy. He keeps no record of wrongs because he seeks to encourage and support goodness as opposed to sabotage by constantly referring to the inevitable failures along the way. It does not rejoice in evil but rejoices in truth because while it is understanding it is also an honest love that basks in truth because truth enhances goodness while deceit undermines it. He always protects his object, i.e. he keeps his object safe from any harm or injury in order to keep it on track. He always trusts because he understands that trust is the foundation of a commitment to the life of another. He always hopes because he recognizes the best in his object. He always perseveres because he is unconditional and attached to the essence of life.

Trevor Lwere is a senior from Kampala, Uganda studying Economics and Global Affairs with a minor in PPE. He is a DJ in his spare time and can be reached at [email protected] Where @LwereTrevor on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Tags: engagement, lifestyle, love, relationships, romance

Sharon D. Cole