NewsReel 24/2/15 - The Metaphysics of Love


[ Masterweb Reports: Obienyem Valentine reports ] - Those that answer Valentine dread the month of February like a plague.  Besides close friends who always demand that you celebrate your name in grand style, most confront you with all manner of questions bordering on the concept that your name is supposed to embody.  Thus, you are asked whether you were born on the 14th of February or whether you were a by-product of love affair that took place in the month of February.  One fact I have come to discover over the years is that people take those that bear the name of Valentine as experts in all known techniques of love, starting with its fundaments to its metaphysics.


Despite much research, we cannot tell unarguably the exact date the feast started, nor the route by which it entered into history.  Perhaps it is connected to the life of a certain St. Valentine who was said to have suffered martyrdom in Rome as the Church hagiography would want us to believe. Perhaps, as the legend of the saint’s heroic faith says, it grew out of the love shown to prisoners by the saintly Valentine. Perhaps it has to do with the period in the year when birds of the earth look for mates. Perhaps it is another case of substitution of a pagan feast by Christian feast as a subtle way of blighting paganism at the bud.  We do not know.  Valentine’s Day is part of history whose beginning has been forgotten, and whose end we shall never reach.




The popularity of Valentine’s Day could be linked to the nature of the theme it celebrates – love.  Writing about love, Archbishop Fulton Sheen called it “the most used, and the most misunderstood word.”  The misunderstanding inherent in the nature of love often provokes people to ask questions such as: How much of what we claim as love is love indeed?  Does love have different levels and spheres?  Is it possible to love our neighbour as ourselves, as the Holy writ prescribes?  What is love?  These are the questions with which the most comprehensive theories, treatises, and analyses of love find it necessary to begin.




To the Greeks, love could be Eros, Philia, and agape.  Plato’s ladder of love in the Symposium has different loves for its rungs, up to what we commonly call “Platonic Love”.  St Thomas Aquinas distinguishes between love in the sphere of the passion and love as an act of will.  The former he assigns to what he calls the “concupiscible faculty” of the sensitive appetite; the latter, to the rational or “intellectual appetite”.  Sometimes, people talk about metaphysical, contemplative, material and acquisitive love, etc.




Whatever form love takes, it implies a complex psychical experience of strong attraction to, intense desire for, vivid appreciation of, a profound interest in, ones object of love.  The object of love could be a fellow being, institution, cause or even nature.  It involves tender affection, sympathetic understanding, admiration and loyalty, with reference to its object.




But apart from a few people who recognize the fact of plurality of love in their analyses, most of us, especially the youth, talk abundantly of love, commonly in the sense of amorous appetite.  These are people who confess their loving the object of their love more than their own mothers. Recall the “sugar in my tea” and similar stuff.  Our elders consider this form of love to be a form of “possession” or “madness”, and would frown at anyone who would propose it as a fit guide in the choice of marriage mate.  They do this, knowing that once the erotic side of love diminishes or fades away altogether, the disinterested element fades too; interest in the other’s happiness evaporates, all tender feeling is eroded, and the one desire is to get away.  This is what Lucretius called “erotic befuddlement”.  What Dedriot deridedly described as “the voluptuous loss of a few drops of liquid.”  It is a spark thrown off by the contact or nearness of two opposite bodies.


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