Is it Possible to Love Indiscriminately?

I was watching Mike Wallace’s 1959 interview of Ayn Rand recently.  Concerning government and economics, I find myself in much agreement with Rand’s philosophy, but many of her views on love and selflessness are intolerable.  Yet, she makes an interesting point in this section of the interview: it is impossible to love indiscriminately.  To love without standards, for her, would be a meaningless kind of love.  In particular, those without virtue cannot be loved.  Her interviewer, Wallace, found this view problematic because, human nature being what it is, only very few people would deserve to be loved.

Jesus teaches the People

Of course, such a view neglects that most people–probably all people in reality–are loved in spite of their defects.  What causes one person to love another is often rather mysterious, isn’t it?  But, Rand was onto something when she said that loving indiscriminately is impossible.  You see, love requires the lover at least to know his beloved.  Also, of the many kinds of sympathies, love is unique that it can only exist where there is intimacy and knowledge of a person’s individuality.  Max Scheler (whose work I connected to Attack on Titan) classifies five kinds of sympathy:

  1. Identification
  2. Vicarious
  3. Fellow-Feeling
  4. Benevolence
  5. Love

Max Scheler

The other four kinds of sympathy or affection don’t require knowledge of someone’s individuality.  One can identify with someone merely through their humanity, vicariously place oneself in another’s shoes with whom one’s never spoken, have a degree of fellow-feeling in regard to people who’ve experienced similar events, and it is perfectly possible to feel benevolent toward a Mongolian shepherd, though one has no intention of ever meeting a Mongolian let alone visiting Mongolia.  No one can love that Mongolian shepherd unless they meet him or become pen pals or something.  Some kind of self-revelation is necessary in order to love a distinct personality!

Can't say that I love him, but owning a tame eagle is pretty cool.

Can’t say that I love him, but owning a tame eagle is pretty cool.

How can we square this with Christ’s command in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  You can be sure that Christ did not only mean that we should love people we know personally: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matt. 5:46)  Of course, you can say that Christ wished for us to love one another on the order of benevolence–“willing the good” for one another.  Often, the word charity is treated as a kind of love based on action or willing the good.  But, in the Greek version of the above texts, the verb αγαπαω is employed, from which the word agape is derived in English.  I have seen the word agape defined as the love of God for man and the love each Christian should have for one another.  Having a great goodwill is essential to the concept of agape, but this kind of love goes beyond willing and doing good for them.  So, how can we αγαπωμεν all men?

sacredheartjesus

The solution lies in meditating on the nature of the Word–or rather, Christ’s two natures, human and divine, united in His Person–and the nature of mankind.  Each human being is created in the divine image and likeness.  Each one of us reflects God in our own unique way.  If a soul is lost and falls into hell, a singular and never again to be created reflection of God is lost forever.  But, what can we say about the humanity of Christ, which is so perfectly united to his divinity?  What sort of human being is not only the image and likeness of the divine, but divinity itself?  O divine humanity!  Jesus Christ perforce has all the perfections of mankind within Himself and is the very source and foundation of our own goodness.

Since Jesus Christ has whatever goodness we find in ourselves in Himself, we are led to the inescapable conclusion that we find ourselves–our true selves–in Christ.  Apart from Christ, we shall never find our true originality.  But extension, we cannot perceive the true individuality of others unless we see them in Christ.

Jesus on Trial

Now, you see the solution to how to love all men unconditionally: to love Christ in loving His brothers and sisters–all mankind.  An individual’s personality may be unknown to us, but we can see the person as God, whom we love in loving that person.  Even people who irritate us or do us harm may be loved in this way.  And who knows but that by loving the naturally unlovable, they may become great human beings?  St. Stephen loved the people who stoned him to death because he loved Christ who desired their salvation.  St. Stephen’s prayer “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60) perhaps gained for St. Paul the gift of his conversion on the road to Damascus.

So, in order to love all mankind, we must love one individual: Jesus Christ.  One need not stop short at a general feeling of goodwill toward all men, but we may love them all as we love Christ.  So, in a curious way, I agree with Ayn Rand that we cannot love indiscriminately; yet, this proves no obstacle to loving all in Christ, that unique individual who united all mankind within Himself.

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One comment on “Is it Possible to Love Indiscriminately?

  1. […] via Is it Possible to Love Indiscriminately? « Medieval Otaku. […]

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