What is Love
The Four Loves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 1991), pp. 61-2.
In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles [Williams] is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's [Tolkien] reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him "to myself" now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, "Here comes one who will augment our loves." For in this love "to divide is not to take away". Of course the scarcity of kindred souls — not to mention the practical consideration about the size of rooms and the audibility of voices — sets limits to the enlargement of the circle; but within those limits we possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases. In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious "nearness by resemblance" to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah's vision are crying "Holy, Holy, Holy" to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.
The Divine Conspiracy (HarperCollins: 1998), p. 163.
Intimacy is the mutual mingling of souls who are taking each other into themselves to ever increasing depths. The truly erotic is the mingling of souls. Because we are free beings, intimacy cannot be passive or forced. And because we are extremely finite, it must be exclusive. This is the metaphysical and spiritual reality that underlies the bitter violation of self experienced by the betrayed mate. It also makes clear the scarred and shallow condition of those who betray. ¶ The profound misunderstandings of the erotic that prevail today actually represent the inability of humanity in its current Western edition to give itself to others and receive them in abiding faithfulness. Personal relationship has been emptied out to the point where intimacy is impossible. Quite naturally, then, we say, "Why not?" when contemplating adultery. If there is nothing there to be broken, why worry about breaking it? ¶ One of the most telling things about contemporary human beings is that they cannot find a reason for not committing adultery. Yet intimacy is a spiritual hunger of the human soul, and we cannot escape it. This has always been true and remains true today. We now keep hammering the sex button in the hope that a little intimacy might finally dribble out. In vain.
Nathan Jacobson (Afterall.net, 2001. Revised June 2007)
Personally, there are few things I relish more than a ranging conversation with friends over an overflowing plate of supreme nachos. And, graciously, it is in this intrinsically good thing that lies the promise of truths that can set us free. Dialogue is no panacea, of course. In and of itself, it cannot usher in peace and goodwill on earth. Indeed, very often grudges and misunderstandings find their breeding ground here. Still, good conversation is the best thing on the menu, whether it is with a book, a blog, or a bloke. So what makes any old conversation about important and controversial issues a good conversation? I'd like to suggest a few essential ingredients, mostly learned from the unsavory taste of foot-in-mouth. Take these insights with a grain — or a dash — of salt.
Henry Drummond (James Pott & Co.: 1890), 69 pages. »
In this timeless speech, Henry Drummond argues that the greatest thing, the summum bonum, is love. But this love is not here just a cliché, the love of pop songs and romantic comedies. As Drummond puts it: "Patience; kindness; generosity; humility; courtesy; unselfishness; good temper; guilelessness; sincerity — these make up the supreme gift... You will observe that all are in relation to men, in relation to life, in relation to the known to-day and the near to-morrow, and not to the unknown eternity." I have always appreciated this fact, that the biblical portrait of love is not merely a beautiful but empty concept, but rather a love with form and flesh. Drummond enumerates and expounds on the nature of biblical love, contrasting it with other goods, analyzing its aspects, and defending its primacy of place. ~ Afterall
There is only one situation I can think of in which men and women make an effort to read better than they usually do. When they are in love and reading a love letter, they read for all they are worth. They read every word three ways; they read between the lines and in the margins. They may even take the punctuation into account. Then, if never before or after, they read.
Love is the state in which man sees things most widely different from what they are. The force of illusion reaches its zenith here, as likewise the sweetening and transfiguring power. When a man is in love he endures more than at other times; he submits to everything.
Aristotle on Love said...
The pleasure of the eye is the beginning of love. For no one loves if he has not first been delighted by the form of the beloved; but he who delights in the form of another does not, for all that, love her, but only does do when he also longs for her when absent and craves for her presence.
P.J. O'Rourke on Happiness said...
"Life, Liberty, and Whoop-de-do", in Forbes ASAP, Winter 2001, "Big Issue Number Six: The Pursuit of Happiness"
Happiness isn't impossible to describe. But, paradoxically, no one can listen to descriptions of happiness for long. Compare Dante's Inferno with Dante's Paradiso. Dante's beloved Beatrice would have died of boredom if he had tried reading to her from Paradiso rough drafts. On a less exalted plane, let any huggy-lovey couple show you their honeymoon slides.
The institution of marriage makes a parasite of woman, an absolute dependent. It incapacitates her for life's struggle, annihilates her social consciousness, paralyzes her imagination, and then imposes its gracious protection, which is in reality a snare, a travesty on human character. Love, the strongest and deepest element in all lives, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful moulder of human destiny; how can such an all-compelling force be synonymous with that poor little State and Church-begotten weed, marriage?
George Santayana on Love said...
Love is a brilliant illustration of a principle everywhere discoverable: namely, that human reason lives by turning the friction of material forces into the light of ideal goods. There can be no philosophic interest in disguising the animal basis of love, or in denying its spiritual sublimations, since all life is animal in its origin and all spiritual in its possible fruits.
C.S. Lewis on Sentimentality said...
The Four Loves (Harcourt Trade: 1971), p. 9.
The debunkers stigmatise as slush and sentimentality a very great deal of what their fathers said in praise of love. They are always pulling up and exposing the grubby roots of our natural loves. But I take it we must listen neither "to the over-wise nor to the over-foolish giant." The highest does not stand without the lowest. A plant must have roots below as well as sunlight above and roots must be grubby. Much of the grubbiness is clean dirt if only you will leave it in the garden and not keep on sprinkling it over the library table. The human loves can be glorious images of Divine love.
C.S. Lewis on God is Love said...
The Four Loves (Harcourt Trade: 1971), p. 6-7.
St. John's saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougement) that "love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god"; which of course can be re-stated in the form "begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god." This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God. I suppose that everyone who has thought about the matter will see what M. de Rougemont meant. Every human love, at its height, has a tendency to claim for itself a divine authority. Its voice tends to sound as if it were the will of God Himself. It tells us not to count the cost, it demands of us a total commitment, it attempts to over-ride all other claims and insinuates that any action which is sincerely done "for love's sake" is thereby lawful and even meritorious. That erotic love and love of one's country may thus attempt to "become gods" is generally recognised. But family affection may do the same.
C.S. Lewis on Lust said...
The Four Loves (Harcourt Trade: 1971), p. 94.
We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he "wants a woman". Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much he cares about the woman as such may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes).
Life of Johnson (Oxford University Press: 1998), p. 624.
I thought admiration one of the most agreeable of all our feelings; and I regretted that I had lost much of my disposition to admire, which people generally do as they advance in life. [Samuel Johnson replied] "Sir, as a man advances in life, he gets what is better than admiration — judgment, to estimate things at their true value." I still insisted that admiration was more pleasing than judgment, as love is more pleasing than friendship. The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with champagne.
Vincent van Gogh on Compassion said...
The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh L192, Written May 3-12, 1880 (New York Graphic Society, 1958), I:349.
Last winter I met a pregnant woman [Sien], deserted by the man whose child she carried. A pregnant woman who had to walk the streets in winter, had to earn her bread, you understand how. I took this woman for a model, and have worked with her all winter. I could not pay her the full wages of a model, but that did not prevent my paying her rent, and thank God, so far I have been able to protect her and her child from hunger and cold by sharing my own bread with her. It seems to me that every man worth a straw would have done the same in such a case. What I did was so simple and natural that I thought I could keep it to myself. Posing was very difficult for her, but she has learned; I have made progress in my drawing because I had a good model. The woman is now attached to me like a tame dove. For my part, I can only marry once, and how can I do better than marry her? It is the only way to help her; otherwise misery would force her back into her old ways which end in a precipice.
Vincent van Gogh on Love said...
The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh L133, Written July 23, 1880 (New York Graphic Society, 1958), I:193.
I think that everything which is really good and beautiful — of inner moral, spiritual and sublime beauty in men and their works — comes from God, and that which is bad and wrong in men and in their works is not of God, and God does not approve of it. But I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things. Love a friend, a wife, something — whatever you like — you will be on the way to knowing more about Him.
Vincent van Gogh on Love and God said...
The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh L161, Written November 23, 1881 (New York Graphic Society, 1958), I:274.
You must not be astonished when, even at the risk of your taking me for a fanatic, I tell you that in order to love, I think it absolutely necessary to believe in God (that does not mean that you should believe all the sermons of the clergymen) — far from it. To me, to believe in God is to feel that there is a God, not dead or stuffed, but alive, urging us toward aimer encore [steadfast love] with irresistible force.
The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh L164, Written Dec 21, 1881 (NY Graphic Society, 1958), I:285-86.
I cannot live without love, without a woman. I would not value life at all if there were not something infinite, something deep, something real. Every woman at every age can, if she loves and is a good woman, give a man, not the infinity of a moment, but a moment of infinity.
The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh L72, Written Aug 2,1876 (NY Graphic Society, 1958), I:64.
To express my feelings for her [Kee], I said, "She, and no other." And her "no, never, never" (niet, nooit, nimmer) was not strong enough to make me give her up. I still had hope, and my love remained alive, notwithstanding this refusal, which I thought was like a piece of ice that would melt. But I could find no rest. The strain became unbearable because she was alwys silent and I never received a word in answer. Then I went to Amsterdam. There [her parents] told me, "When you are in the house, Kee leaves it. She answers, 'Certainly not him' to your, 'she, and no other'". Your persistence is disgusting. I put my hand in the flame of the lamp and said, "Let me see her for as long as I can keep my hand in the flame"... no wonder that Teersteg perhaps noticed my hand afterward. But I think they blew out the lamp and said, "You will not see her." Well, it was too much for me, especially when they spoke of my wanting to coerce her, and I felt that the crushing things they said to me were unanswerable, and that my "she, and no other" had been killed.