How does someone learn to love?

  1. Learning to love means that we work on correcting our desires and thoughts in order to attain the quality of love for people, humanity and nature.

Every person’s love for other people is very weak and is therefore not expressed explicitly. Thus, if several people gather into a society and work on their unification above their natural egoistic attitude to others in that society, they will receive strength from each other.

In that case, the separate forces of the society’s members will be amplified into one great force and they will gain the ability to carry out nature’s law of “love your neighbor.”

Here, a discrepancy arises: Do we need to correct all of our egoistic qualities in order to attain love for other people, or do we only need love for those in our circle, our particular society, in order to attain it?

Usually people unite in order to improve their situation in some respect, and every person makes a calculation as to how much he gives to others and how much he receives, since such unity is based on the inborn egoistic calculation of each member, where “What’s in it for me?” is instinctively nested within each one of its members more powerfully than “How can I best serve them?”

Thus, if a member of such a group feels that he can receive more outside that group, he regrets being in the group. This kind of society distances a person from rising to relations of genuine love among its members.

Indeed, attaining love can only take place by correcting all of one’s egoistic desires and thoughts, by placing an altruistic intention upon them. By unifying and amplifying each member’s very small desire to love others, then in that union, they together create a new, common, great force, which every member can use to attain love of others and then to attain love for humanity and nature.

However, such unity can only emerge on condition that every member of society is ready to make concessions and compromises upon their egoistic desires and opinions in relation to the others. If a person is separated from others by his egoistic desires and thoughts, he cannot receive the force of love from them. Thus, one can receive the force of love from others only to the degree that one can concede one’s own desires before them.

This is similar to the inscription of numbers: If you first write a 1 and then a 0, you will get 10, meaning 10 times more. And if you write two zeros after a one, you will get 100, meaning 100 times more. This means that if another person is a one and he is a zero, a person receives 10 times more from the other person. And if he says that he is two zeros in relation to the other, he will receive 100 times more from him.

And vice versa, if he is a one and the other is a zero, this equals 0.1, so he is 10 times less than the other. And if he can say that he is a one and he has two friends who are two zeros in relation to him, then he is equal to 0.01 compared to them. Thus, the more zeros he places on the value of other people, the smaller he is himself.

Yet even if you already have the forces to love other people and you can really express that love, and you already feel that self-benefit only harms you, nevertheless, don’t believe yourself and be afraid that you might stop in the middle of the path and fall into egoism. You have to be afraid of receiving such egoistic pleasures that you won’t be able to resist them and will enjoy them instead of love for others. Precisely the fear of falling into egoism gives a person the forces to observe the law of nature, the law of bestowal and love. As such it was written, “love your neighbor as yourself,” and what I have described is part of the method on how to achieve such complete love, the method of Kabbalah.

  1. If you define love as a feeling, an affection, sentimentality, lust, co-dependence or an intensified form of “like”, I would agree that it is not something that someone can be taught in a direct manner. I would be open to agreeing that some degree these can be conditioned responses. To whatever degree such conditioning engenders these responses, I could agree that this form of “love” can be taught and learned.

I first began to “love” in a different sense after encountering “The Art of Loving”, by Erich Fromm. He defined love as “Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.” The word “active” differentiates this idea of “love” from those ideas of “love” which are at their root “passive”, “out of control”, something one “falls into”.

Fromm explicitly identified four elements of love: care, respect, responsibility and knowledge. Love has an object, the beloved. If something/someone is a beloved, then caring, respect, responsibility and knowledge characterize his/her/its artful lover. In Fromm’s context, “caring” is something one does to promote the life and growth of the beloved, not simply an attitude. “Respect” implies embracing the particular characteristics of the beloved such that acts of caring are acts of service the beloved, not to the “lover”. “Responsibility” was literally defined as “the ability to respond” to the opportunities to promote the life and growth of the beloved. “Knowledge” is the knowing of the beloved and knowing of what affects the beloved’s life and growth.

After considerable time chewing on and digesting Fromm’s elements and being “in love with love”, I discovered that this concept of love as service was central to the Judeo-Christian ethical system. The distillation of the Torah’s imperatives into loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself impressed me. Further reading of the parables of Jesus as well as the 13th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth and the apostle John’s first letter to the churches at large further refined my education in what it means to love.

Fast-forward to today, skipping the metaphysical and philosophical details, I currently understand that “to love” is to be deliberate in flourishing the beloved. I unfortunately lack the capacity to do this consistently and perfectly. As a self-beloved, I try to forgive myself and hopefully continue to grow in becoming my ideal self. I can’t claim to know that I have finished learning to love.

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