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🪟 26 - Love as consciousness
Frame & Axiom #26 (Part 4): Love as the force in and of everything.
Table of contents
PART 1: NATURE
PART 2: JUSTNESS
PART 3: MIRRORS
PART 4: IDEALS
Love as consciousness
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🪟 Love as consciousness
My fellow sufferer,
I wish to take a more abstract turn now.
In the realm of community, a just engagement arises from a frame of love, yes, but the reality of love itself is one that runs very much deeper. You see, love is not at all limited to people. The love of people is merely one particular emanation, the one everyone thinks about when deliberating “love”. I also do see it to be the highest, since we are indeed wired to love persons (e.g. a waitress by the name of Jane), after all, instead of say, something abstracted and intangible (e.g. Man; human nature). But as a whole, love in its fullness has its wings spread over all aspects of reality.
A man loves not only his partner, his family, and his friends, but everything else he stands for — his religion, his ancestry, his ideas, his affiliations, his aesthetics, and so on. But perhaps this requires more scaffolding, for I might come across as working with multiple definitions. Here I am dealing with the broader abstraction of what love is on its own, and in all its mystery, detached from who or what is being loved. Wait up… What an impossible question! What is love? Who could claim to know such an incomprehensibly potent thing? Certainly, I will not be fooled by the possibility of formally defining love. Formal definitions of any infinite thing would only be a criminal reduction of it. Just try to define beauty, or God, or eternity, and you will see what I mean. You can never really satisfactorily capture its true essence, and you fall all too easily into the trap of describing its attributes, falling into a bout of language games, taking some seemingly essential parts and flaunting it as a whole. Still, I will carry out this same futile exercise with love, seeing that it is so potent, so deeply embedded in the nature of being, that it would be invaluable to explore the guideposts for where its essence may lie.
To begin, in this reality, one is always attending to a mad multitude of things. Data, information, objects, and so on. Love resides in attention — that which draws toward one over others, and zooms the mad multiplicity out of perception (thus, ”love makes blind”). Love also resides in desire — the pull of heart and soul; that which grips your tastes, and has you captive. Love also resides in all affirmation — the force behind all spirited action; that which reaches toward, and encourages the persistence of. Love is something like all these, yet at the same time infinitely more.
Does this not apply to all that one loves and can love? For me, I may say that among a multitude, I love God, my family, my friends, my line of work as a technologist, profound art, jazz pianists, Malaysian food, women, and not the least, my ideas and the inspirations behind them — seeing that the allocation of my attention is weighted towards these things, and my soul has tastes only for these things, and it is reflected in what I act in affirmation of. Even my act of writing this book is an act of attending to, serving and affirming the persistence of my ideas and the inspirations behind them; in other words, an act of love. Of course! Will anyone affirm something he does not love, as long as it is of his own volition? Sure, there may be a clash of higher and lower, ideal and non-ideal loves, but that is not inconsistent with my proposition — that one affirms in accordance with his love.
I think it is also fair to say, in many ways, what you love is synonymous with what you value. You value acts of kindness… you love acts of kindness. You value the propensity for intellectual ramblings in a partner… you love that in a partner. You value a watch on sale… you love a watch on a good bargain. You value an honest government… you love honest people in power. I could say the same about my own loves — I value God, my family, my friends, my line of work as a technologist, profound art, jazz pianists, Malaysian food, women, and my ideas and the inspirations behind them.
Thus, I think it may be said that love, viewed in its broader reality, is not so much merely about a man affirming his fellows. Love is something like the pure force of attention, desire, affirmation, and so on. Now with this, we can begin to see love as truly limitless, and how far, as I have mentioned, it has its wings spread over all that is.
Inquirer! You who asked who am I? I shall address you again. I think we are, above all, valuers of things. What is left of us, in the absence of what we value? Something quite indistinguishable from ourselves. In fact, I think valuing some things over others is the very emanation of consciousness. To be more precise, I might try to elucidate my very informal theory of consciousness (in all likelihood that someone else has already treaded similar territory). Concisely, it is as follows. Man’s consciousness lies within his unique capacity to knowingly and unknowingly parse through a multitude of causes and effects, of orders and magnitudes suitable to his stage in the development of his consciousness, and his values are imparted by his ecology of higher and lower causes and effects.
This is what Nature necessitates — all of one’s life is an emanation of what he values, and his fundamental essence lies within his unique capacity that takes stock. And this capacity is one we call “transcendent”, since it is an awareness that goes puzzlingly far beyond his otherwise hopelessly limited and feeble nature. Indeed, although it hardly (…hardly!) makes any sense when comparing side-by-side our feeble biology and the infinite physical and psychical universe we can comprehend, man seems designed with an impulse towards infinity. Perhaps a semi-audacious speculation can be made pertaining to this — as it was written, “God is Love”, thus it was Love that blew its breath of life into a formation of dust at the beginning of time, from which the first consciousness was born. Indeed, the beyond-ness of love seems to point to such a thought. Kierkegaard, who I think is a true master of describing infinite mysteries, writes of it in Works of Love: “as the calm lake … invites you to contemplate it, yet with the darkness of the reflection prevents you from seeing through it, so does love's mysterious origin in God's love prevent you from seeing its ground. When you think you see it, it is a reflection that deceives you, as if what only hides the deeper ground were itself the ground.”
Accordingly — earlier on in this chapter, I had stated that everything begins with the separation between the internal and the external. It should be of little surprise for me to reassess it at this stage, to say that it is only somewhat true, for it is also an illusion — a helpful Platonic conceptualisation in the scheme of sense-making — but an illusion nonetheless, for it does not do justice to the all-encompassing reality of love. I see love as the bridge between the internal and the external. And it is worth conceptualising it as such, seeing that so much more of reality has to do with subjective phenomenon, that which loves, than it has to do with that which exists outside of it, that which simply exists, and so it can be said that to insist on a distinction between the internal and external would not be effective so far as the goal is to live well, since living well would have to entail loving well. Love is after all the means through which you commune with reality, through which the psyche attends to the world, and the mad multiplicity is made palpable.
Now, do you see how it is the force of love that gives rise to all things? Love is the emanation of consciousness itself — the uniquely endowed human capacity to interact with the infinite. Can you imagine a man emptied completely of love? I find it hard to. One who does not love has no values, for he is animated by nothing, and is therefore as good as unconscious. You might as well say he was emptied of his consciousness. By all means, return the man’s loves to him! I see love as the force that animates. Or, the force of spirit.
The psychiatrist Jung captures this sort of framing lucidly in his autobiography Memories, Dreams and Reflections: “For we are in the deepest sense the victims and the instruments of cosmogonic “love” … something superior to the individual, a unified and undivided whole. Being a part, man cannot grasp the whole. He is at its mercy. He may assent to it, or rebel against it; but he is always caught up by it and enclosed within it. He is dependent upon it and is sustained by it. Love is his light and his darkness, whose end he cannot see. “Love ceases not” — whether he speaks with the “tongues of angels,” or with scientific exactitude traces the life of the cell down to its uttermost source. Man can try to name love, showering upon it all the names at his command, and still he will involve himself in endless self-deceptions …”
Inquirer, you had asked who am I? — you have quite carelessly posed the most ultimate of questions. I will offer all the help I can extend, and from now, I will dedicate this section of writing to ruminating properly over this question. For now, if you begin to look closely at your loves and the full magnitude of your capacity to love, you will find something solid to chew on.
Till next time,
“Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7, ESV) and “God is love…” (1 John 4:16, ESV)