Love, Hope and Mankind

Regarding Love, Hope and the nature of Man. What follows is a synthesis of two letters which are my end of an on-going correspondence with another blogger, whom I quote here only briefly as I never requested his permission to post his letters entire.

It pains me to think that my tales here might be cause for consternation amongst others- I have always assumed that I would be taken as a fanciful diversion. That I allow mystery to surround myself could be defensive, or a necessary part of the fantasy. Either way, it serves my needs and I will never make a definitive statement on it.

Regarding the nature of Man: the view of Man as animal, slave to a genetic imperative and playing at games of morality and civilization has always seemed a desperate ploy to legitimize the despicable in their own eyes. I have read your site, watching you cast out questions of moral weight, and I have refrained from commenting as I felt that by the very premise of my identity I would be somehow impure, contaminating the flow of the debate.

Modern (and by that term I refer to post-Renaissance) morality seems overly concerned with concepts of life, death, and the right of one being to place bonds of obligation, consensual or otherwise, upon another. This has become immensely intensified in the past century, as the religious and political spheres have separated to some degree. In America it is quite acute and has been for some time. This serves to de-focus the understanding of morality and how it relates to everyday life and the choices made by sentient beings. By casting morality in political terms it becomes simpler to eschew it.

Let us consider love. You recently questioned your readers regarding the relationship between sex and love, with somewhat predictable results. The problem, from my perspective, is that you muddied the real question (What is Love?) by casting it in the context of sex. A recipe for unsatisfying results. I would have asked simply this: what does love mean to you?

Let me see if I can offer a cogent answer to that question.

Love, in its simplest form is a recognition that others matter. That their tragedies are your tragedies, that their triumphs are your triumphs, that their sorrows and joys are yours as well. Love is the fundamental connection between human beings, beyond all other things. It takes many forms and it hides in many places. Suggest to your local police officer that he engages in his profession out of a fundamental love for his fellow man and he may scoff, but inside he will recognize that there is a grain of truth to it. These are small relationships. Should we be tempted to blend emotion and physics we might call this the Gravitational Force of Humanity. This small love is what makes it possible to live in towns and cities, and to pass strangers on the street without fear or confrontation. This small love fails sometimes, tragically, but overall it seems to prevail.

Let me approach this from another perspective: do you on a daily basis desire to harm others? Do you seek to place your fortunes always above those who surround you? Would you deliberately harm a man who was looking you in the eye for petty personal gain? I submit to you that a significant majority of people would not. I understand that there have been psychological tests and experiments that might seem to bear out the opposite, but put the question in the terms in which I have stated it and ask yourself honestly what the answer would be? Then ask yourself the most important question: why?

The answer is again, love. Not that you love the man you might harm, but that you yourself seek to be loved and that such an act could not only harm the love you feel from others, but that which you feel for yourself. Self-love is powerful- just ask anyone who lets it get out of control. Look at those who do abuse others, those who would take the advantage that casual harm might gain them. Look at those who clearly place themselves above others in all things. They have common traits, not the least of which being that they find themselves surrounded by people who pretend to love them, people who are motivated by the same thoughtless need for themselves as the man or woman who has clawed his way to the top across the shattered lives of his betters.

What to make of this? Nothing more than that mankind seems to be as hard-wired for love as he is for procreation. If there is no hope for you in that statement then I doubt we could profitably continue this discussion.

Love manifests itself in many ways. Sacrifice, either of a lifetime or of life itself, is the most visible manifestation. The religious leader who gives up the chance for a wife and family in order to answer to a higher calling- he acts out of love for his faith, and that is by extension a love of Man. The clich?d soldier throwing himself upon the hand grenade to save his fellows, is that not an expression of love? The doctor who daily grinds against the depredations of nature upon the human body, what motivates him? If you think lucre is all, then you do not know many doctors. And what of engineers, electricians, carpenters, dressmakers, pastry chefs, cobblers, stevedores, drovers… it is the satisfaction of being part of an overall good that drives them far more than simple greed or need. It is the understanding of that basic connection that lets one take satisfaction in a job well done, regardless if that job entails shaping the foundations of a nation or merely stacking those bails in the barn.

In the end, just about every profession practiced by men is a manifestation of that overreaching force of love: none of it direct or even truly presenting itself openly to be seen, but I submit that it is utterly essential to making civilization work. When that love is sundered, civilizations fall.

Romantic Love is a construct of modern civilization, a mixture of the carnal with this smaller “l” love I have been discussing. That it can usurp all common sense, bring down the mighty or elevate the base shows how powerful it can be, but it is not the driving force of civilization. It is not at the heart of what it is to be Man. It is the advent and the elevation of Romantic Love that provides the despicable with their wedge to separate Man from Morality- pointing to this beautiful confluence of the carnal and the spiritual and calling it the mere satisfaction of genetic imperatives. If one must find the Devil whispering in the eaves, this is where he lurks: it is that which points to the underside of civilization, those dark and festering swamps where Man and love often fail, and calls that the norm, the nature of Man- there is the true voice of evil, the antithesis of love.

My point is that love is deeply written into the smaller parts of day-to-day life. Love is a basic function of human existence. As such it lends credence to the idea that there is an overall purpose to that existence. Not proof, just another hopeful sign.

I oft am concerned by the reactions I engender in folk, even when I cloak myself in the guise of the ordinary. I dislike the way my existence can warp the lives of those who stray close. Another scientific metaphor: my life as naked singularity for the human spirit.

Enough of that.

The question of my existence seems almost inconsequential to this discussion. I feel certain that the notions I presented could as easily have been born of a life in which one’s own demons had been unleashed, confronted and eventually overcome. This is germane to the reason I noted for declining commenting on your posts directly- the stated nature of my existence tends to distort the discussion. Either my words carry added import due to my immortality, or they are rendered suspect by my charade: a classic example of Catch 22, and another reason why I am enjoined against ever answering the question in an even remotely dispositive manner. Mystery makes me what I am in the virtual world. This pains me, but my choices in this matter are nil.

I hide from the world, my only exposure a web site upon which I spin tales and occasionally opine on the nature of Man. What would be the reaction were I to become publicly known as a verifiably ?immortal’ being? That my freedom would be forfeit is a given. That my destruction would be sought is to be expected for my existence would threaten too many hide-bound ideologies. You would likely be surprised to see how many people considered rational and thoughtful and committed to the scientific pursuit of knowledge would become irrational when presented with the certainty of my existence. I would become a symbol and a tool claimed by every faction as proof against others, or denounced as an incarnation of evil, some diabolical manifestation to be eradicated as a test of faith.

Could the Devil not dangle eternal life upon the mortal Earth as a lure to damnation? Do not misunderstand- I do not believe in the Devil, or in Evil as some coherent force, rather I use the terms because they are easy and recognizable, despite their ability to fracture the discussion. Nonetheless I believe my point is valid: there are those who do believe in Evil as an active force and my existence would be an intolerable outrage to them. I know this from bitter experience. Furthermore, there are those who would stop at nothing to possess what I have, my warnings as to being careful what one wishes for notwithstanding.

All in all, I am again left with no choice.

It was noted that I dwelt on the darkness without considering the balance of light; however, I believe my position is consistent with the idea that love counters evil, that hope counters fear. I find it odd that in my recent spate of bitter unhappiness I still seem more disposed towards taking a kindly and optimistic view of both the nature of Man and His prospects, than are you. Perhaps I misunderstand? My comment that you should be able to find hope in the statement that Man is as predisposed to love as he is to procreation was offered in the smug assurance that there would be no disagreement with the premise. That you might disagree with the fact is another issue entirely, for I am in no position to expect that anyone should accept my words as indisputable. My arrogance does have its limits.

You said:

As for the nature of man, I must disagree. There are many people who might justify their actions on the basis of simply being animals. The question is not their intentions- but rather what “despicable” could possibly mean if there is no greater purpose. If we are animals, then all we can do is follow our instincts. If we are hardwired towards behaviors, then how can we follow a construct of morality that is not completely based on pure utilitarianism or genetic success?

The argument becomes circular, and for most the only escape from the circle is faith. Faith is a lovely thing to behold for it provides courage in the face of hopelessness and stands as a bulwark against fear. In the age of ignorance it was sufficient unto itself; however, in the modern arena of ideas the critical thinker cannot easily dismiss the evidence of science. Being a person of faith the fear is that science is merely a tool of damnation, seducing one away from that which has served him so well for so long. It is a frightening dilemma and for those who fall prey to the idea that Man is naught but a somewhat more ingenious animal the slide in to darkness can be short and steep.

That there are those who justify their perfidy on the basis of the animal nature of Man does not lend credence to the notion. If Man is naught but a clever beast why does he possess a sense of right and wrong? For he certainly does. What purpose does it serve? Is it truly just a construct designed to give institutions such as the Church or the Prince control over the populace? How so? Why would a moral sense be required when the threat of death is as easily at hand? It seems to me that the question to be asked is not why so many are capable of such evil, but why any one man would eschew the practice of evil when all around him embrace it? Furthermore, why would any nation elect to abstain from the Empire of Power, why would any collection of peoples elect not to slaughter their foes en masse upon victory in war? Ask not why there is Evil, for the answer to that is the submission of men to the notion that their acts have no consequence beyond the pleasure they obtain and need no justification other than the ability to commit them. I include in this those who commit evil in the name of their faith. Ask instead, why is there Good? That is the difficult question, and the one worthy of the thinking Man.

Hope for Man can be found in a single man, and be valid for all Men. The Christians out there would be nodding in agreement; however, I see Jesus only as an example of something I see manifest all about me. Hope for Man does not require that all men be capable of choosing Good over Evil, just that some are, or even one. For if one can, others can, and that is the essence of Hope.

One Response to “Love, Hope and Mankind”

  1. The following comments were originally made last year and are included here as they originally appeared. —ZM


    I was nodding at alot more than just the last paragraph- well done.
    Allison | Email | Homepage | 10.06.03 – 7:57 am | #

    There is another way.

    It hasn’t worked so far because it is inherently limited by death.

    It’s called Power.
    TheYeti | Email | Homepage | 10.07.03 – 8:24 am | #

    I seem to be awash in generous words today. My thanks. Regarding the idea that men of faith fear science as a tool of damnation, I do believe I can stand on that statement. I did not mean to imply that this is the only reaction just that it is one. We are all aware that science has the power to lead people astray, both in the arena of facts and of faith. Those who build their worldview upon the foundation of Faith are by their very nature required to look upon science as another possible avenue for the insidious forces that surround them to attempt to pry them away from that which they believe. This does not require that they reject science, merely that they take on the additional burden of reconciling science and faith- no small task, that.
    MD | Email | Homepage | 10.26.03 – 8:02 pm | #

    I found your discussion to be extremely thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing it.

    However, as a person of Faith, I have this one contention. If I may quote, you said, regarding faith;
    “Being a person of faith the fear is that science is merely a tool of damnation, seducing one away from that which has served him so well for so long.”

    I must disagree, at least on behalf of logical persons of faith. Science, in it’s most elementary definition, is nothing more than Man’s explanaition of how the universe around him, indeed, works. The tennents of Science have shifted profoundly over the years, as I am sure you remember. It was not so long ago that Spontaneous Generation was the valid, logical explanaition for how rats got into a locked room containing bags of grain. The Geocentric Universe was also an indisputible fact for ages.

    The non-analytical Christian may, indeed, have an irrational fear of Science. The rational Jesus Freak, however, realizes that Science is very much the Great Cosmic Hemline, and that fashions of the day dictate which theory is or is not appropriate to display in public. Today, humanity has developed from a Primordial Soup. Last century we developed from monkeys, and a week from Tuesday we will have been part of the unicellular life released into space from a cellestial event involving a planet spinning around Alpha Centauri and a rather large chunk of ice.

    Faith, also, has it’s fashions, but that is another topic altogether.

    I thought it fitting that I should mention here that I have added a link to you at my site. Very little traffic, as I have taken anonymity to heart, but I have a profound respect for both your intellect, and you r ability to express that intellect.
    Mr. E. | Email | Homepage | 10.26.03 – 9:56 am | #

    The words are too faint. You are worthy of more than the timid ovation you have received.

    But, as usual, I wander from my intent.

    I should not have taken your statement regarding faith and science so bluntly, as your words have thus far been a far more delicate instrument. My error is resultant of the incessant strugle to reconcile the skirmishing factions to whom I am espoused, if not with equal esteem, then at the least with equal thew. It is unfortunate that there are those of each camp that reject the other in entirety, and that these seem to garnish the lion’s share of public consideration, but it was ever thus with extremists.

    I must, however, reiterate my enjoyment of your deft analysis of the topic of love. You say well that love is the recognition of the worth of others. I would add that love, in this definition, is the natural state of Man, and that we view that one who is without even this, most base form lof love, as one to be either pittied or despised.

    This being the case (and you may feel free to contravene), can one argue the predisposition to love as being a more likely attestation of evolution or of creation? It is a discussion that promises intriguing fruit, to say the least.
    Mr. E. | Email | Homepage | 10.28.03 – 12:09 pm | #

    Ah, another topic for in-depth discussion. You sell yourself too softly, Mr. E.

    MD | Email | Homepage | 10.28.03 – 7:56 pm | #

    Perhaps, but any compence, drawn from such a worthy purse as yours, is precious coin indeed.
    Mr. E. | Email | Homepage | 10.29.03 – 10:52 am | #