Saturday, March 1, 2014

Adam Levine writes for Hallmark; or, What do you mean by "love"?

At least, that's what this little meme forces me to conclude. It's precisely the cutesy, sweet nothing Hallmark hawks as a deep, meaningful sentiment.

A sentiment it is, not an argument. Basically, Levine, singer-songwriter for Maroon 5, has admitted to everyone, "I have no clue what distinguishes one kind of love from another, and I really don't give a rat's patoot." (And if he thinks this picture has anything to do with love, he's completely farblondjet.)

Part of it is not blameable on Levine. Love is a pretty indefinite word, and is used to expressed the affection one has for a pet as well as the powerful bond that leads a soldier to sacrifice himself for the sake of his buddies ... as well as a lot of other things. Moreover, love is treated as if it were indefectible, or as if a particular variety of love could never be inordinate or inappropriate — hey, it's LOVE, right?

It's this same muddled idea of love that led director Nick Cassavetes to argue that there's nothing inherently wrong with a brother and sister having sex, as in his movie Yellow. "I’m not saying this is an absolute but in a way, if you’re not having kids — who gives a damn? Love who you want. Isn’t that what we say?

That may be what we say, but it doesn't follow that we say so with wisdom.

One of the best Christian books on the subject is The Four Loves: An Exploration of the Nature of Love, by C. S. Lewis (New York: Harvest Books, 1988). Lewis' reflections are hooked on four classical Greek words: storgē (natural love, or affection, such as felt between parents and their children); philía (affectionate regard or friendship); érōs (passionate love, with sensual desire or longing); and agápē (spiritual, unconditional, selfless love). This is worth reading in tandem with his monograph The Abolition of Man (New York: HarperCollins, 1974), Lewis' great exposition on the axiomatic nature of the principles of natural law.

Here is not really where I want to get into an extended argument. I'll simply content myself with observing that, because of our sloppy and indiscriminate use of love to describe different qualities of emotions and responses, as well as because of our using it as a "wrecking ball" to justify everything from bumping uglies with a new partner to killing a parent suffering from Alzheimer's, love is actually losing meaning. A person might just as well say, "I have this welter of inchoate but overall pretty benevolent feelings about you," as say, "I love you." I also wish to observe that, pace Levine, the argument was never about "parts" or "hate" but about the proper ordering of marriage and the human family.

It's odd that I mentioned The Abolition of Man, for here comes an article in The Federalist by Dr. Michael Hanby, "The Brave New World of Same-Sex Marriage":

This triumph of technology over the human person will not be merely technological. It will be internal as well as external, ‘spiritual’ as well as material. [Aldous] Huxley understood this with great clarity and C.S. Lewis with even greater clarity, though the gulf between them is otherwise infinite. They saw that the plastic body emptied of its dignity through eugenics had as its necessary counterpart the plastic soul deprived of its human inheritance and emptied of its capacity for truly human thoughts, feeling, and experiences. This process too, which is even harder to see than it is to understand, is already well underway.

Hanby ends his piece with the argument that, "deprived of the desire or even the capacity to think about the true meaning of things, and unable to perceive the loss, people will not merely be susceptible to manipulation by sentimental platitudes and sophistic arguments" — such as "Marriage should be about hearts, not parts" — "they will be eager for it. For in the brave new world, ‘true’ is just another word for ‘feasible’ and freedom is learning to love what you’ve got to do anyway."

I'll end my piece with the same thought I ended my last post in The Other Blog:  One day, fifty years from now, as we sell young girls from polygamous families to brothels as sex slaves, perhaps some people will wake up and finally agree that perhaps the slope was a little slippery.