Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; for love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (1926)
Inspired by my continuing open dialogue with Arthur (or diablogue, as is my learned colleague’s phrase), I’m thinking first and foremost here about love. Arthur noted that I’d cautiously buried the ‘l’-word deep down in the middle of my previous blog; to which I return with a ‘beat you round the head with love’ approach here and now! It is the love given by the child that I’m offering due thought to.
So that I don’t go over old ground, your reading of my previous blog immediately before this one will help: in reality, children love; love is beautiful, as I believe, and should be accepted.
The space between that last blog and this one is served, in part, by Arthur’s thinking on the ‘theory of mind’. This leads me to think on how we can ‘know’ another by knowing ourselves. That a child can ‘know’ me, or vice versa, when I’ve only just met them has been a source of several years’ worth of trying to understand. Arthur writes, in My eyes are thinking about what is behind your eyes: ways of seeing and theory of mind:
I now realise that ‘the theory behind the gaze’ is what distinguishes this intense seeing from the glance of an unthinking reactive playworker who tidies up my piece of cardboard while it is catching the light.
Children love. Why? My head has been buried in philosophy books, looking around linked and, as yet, unlinked ideas. I surface and hope my words come out in ways that are readable!
According to Professor Owen Flanagan (of Duke University, North Carolina), Franz Brentano (Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, 1874) brought back the thinking of Aristotle and Aquinas when he discussed the idea of ‘intentionality’. Our conscious mind must be mindful of something. It has an intention, an object it aims towards. Mental states are aimed towards ‘objects’, which can be anything. Love is a mental state and I think of myself as the object, the intention, of a child’s love. In other words, the child’s mind has to be conscious of something, has to aim at something: I am the object of fascination, deemed worthy (when I am); I am loved.
Love as more
Dr Paul Gilbert, University of Hull, writes that ‘Plato viewed love as a desire for beauty, which should transcend the physical and even the personal, culminating in philosophy — the love of wisdom itself’.
In the light of most of this thinking I can view children in such ways. That is, because my mind understands something of a notion of beauty (albeit a personal one), I consider that others can do the same too, especially children. My belief is in tune with love as much more than merely physical and personal. Perhaps others have their own words for similar thoughts. What I can’t know, however, is what those thoughts of the children are: (a) because language isn’t necessarily good enough, in general, for such ideas to pass between two people (even here I’m struggling with words); (b) specifically, between myself and the child, word-language is unformed and perhaps inappropriate (it disrupts the bubble of the moment).
When we analyse (or over-analyse), we risk destroying the very thing that we’re looking at. I type that full stop and realise what I’m currently doing.
Archetypes and the mythic realm
If love transcends, or goes beyond, the physical and the personal, what does it amount to? Here I shall recycle some recent comments to Arthur, from memory. Here we’re into the realms of Carl Jung’s archetypes. It is, what I call (and perhaps others have done so too — I must have got it from somewhere) a mythic realm. That is, this is a dimension, a space, a place (but not a solid place) populated by characters we can all associate with: mother figure (not ‘mother’), joker/trickster, shadow figure. The child mind, or the mental state of love, is aimed towards (wants to ‘see’, connect with) these archetypes of this mythic realm. A child, more so than an adult, can more readily see what they might know as (if they had the words) The Wise One, The Knower, Seer, Understander. A child is not yet fully pressed into what the adults call the ‘real world’: the mythic realm is still a living space to the child.
When I am ‘seen’, am I seen because I’m in that mythic realm at that moment?
Inalienable love, or giving and receiving
I thought that love was not inalienable (that which cannot be transferred). In other words, I thought that love could be transferred, given out. Of course it can be given, but it doesn’t transfer to another person lock stock and barrel. It’s odd and cheesy to say it (it sounds like a cheesy old song), but the more you give it away the more it grows in you.
Why else might we, and children, give love? Do we give to receive love? Or is it the only true altruism, the only act of selflessness? I’m not so sure there is any such thing as altruism: no matter how noble or kind our act, we might always receive something in return (even if it’s ‘just’ the glow of knowing you have loved).
Perhaps we give love because, deep down, very deep down beyond the words and thoughts we understand, we are scared. We’re scared of aloneness (I use this word deliberately): life as a search for shared connection, connection to the archetypes we all associate with and understand at some level, a kind of ‘cure’ for solipsist thinking (that is, that my mind is the only mind I can truly know as true; therefore I can’t be sure of others; therefore this is my aloneness). Of course, by using the possessive that is ‘my’, this suggests that ‘I’ consider there also to be an ‘other’ or ‘others’ (‘you’, ‘them’), and my aloneness is not real at all. The only other way to think is to use ‘it’ instead of ‘I’: it is not at all certain about love.
Love as irrational
When we analyse (or over analyse), we do it in a very rational, logical way. However, much of what we do as humans is irrational — superstition and belief, for example. We are, as are human children, irrational creatures. I shouldn’t differentiate at all here between adults and children: we are all irrational creatures.
Love is irrational. It’s that concept again of how it grows bigger in you the more it gets depleted (given away). When children love, they don’t do so in rational analytical ways (in this model, and so I assume because I don’t know their minds for sure). Children love because you are there, because you have crossed over into the mythic realm (which they can see), because it is just necessary to do so.
Love and gravity
Sometimes love just can’t be helped.
Professor Adam Morton, University of Bristol, writes: ‘Your mind is like your weight’. Run with this with me . . . Your mind, that which you are. So, by extension, your mind is like your mass? Your gravity?
Love has a mass.* Its affect can be felt. I think of love as dark matter, holding the universe together, exerting gravity and being affected by the gravity of objects too. Sometimes love just can’t help but aim towards the gravity of others.
*Yes, I am aware that mass and weight are different things!
Back to Earth. There’s a philosophical principle called Occam’s razor, which suggests — in essence — that the simplest answer is the one to go with. Children love — why?
Love is imbued in us from an early age: a reaction to being loved; the more we receive, perhaps, the more we give back.
I can’t just leave it there though. Occam’s razor might suppose that the fewest amount of assumptions creates the most elegant solution, but I have to add in assumptions because that’s the nature of this enquiry!
Love is imbued in us from an early age: a reaction to being loved; the more we receive, perhaps, the more we give back, until/if we reach a point where society, culture, others’ fears suppress what we give out. Many children love because it is just what they do, in various ways, until they’re imposed upon differently.
Beyond Occam’s razor: into the light
In my rummaging in philosophy pages, I found something that I see as quite beautiful. I want to use it as a final idea here, but a pause in the overall and ongoing thinking on love.
Professor Hossein Ziai, University of California, writes about the Islamic Philosophy of Illumination, according to the 12th century Persian thinker Shihāb al-Dīn Yahyā Sohravardī: ‘Objects, depicted as lights, are inherently knowable because they include essential light that may be ‘seen’ by subjects who, recovering their own essential lightness, become self-cognisant and capable of ‘seeing’ the object’s manifest light-essence’.
Adult as light, and seen by the child.
* Main reference material: Honderich, T. (Ed) (1995), Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.