Love

Love

Love

Love

Excerpt

I have sympathy for people who have tried to understand suffer ing, love or life, who have failed and who have then turned defeat into victory by saying: “We are not meant to understand this. It is holy and it would be a desecration to analyse it, to distil its essence, to classify its forms and put them on a chart. To grasp it intellectually would be to crush it; to pin it down would be to kill it. The highest wisdom is to see where thought cannot go, to respect mystery and live in wonder.” I believe, however, that bright mysteries like love do not forbid thought but invite it. I also believe that if we attain some understanding of them we will not lose interest in them, as a person loses all interest in a crossword puzzle as soon as he or she has solved it, and that while understanding means the end of bewilderment it does not put an end to wonder.

Isn't there a danger that the intellectual analysis of love might make us self-conscious and rob us of our spontaneity? Well, first, I refuse to believe that love with a warm heart and a clear head is necessarily feebler or less spontaneous than love with an equally warm heart and confusion upstairs. Second, to be reasonably clear about the different kinds of love can be of practical value. If, for instance, a young adult wants to leave home and the parents say, “People who love each other want to be together, so if you love us you won't go,” they confuse different kinds of love and out of that confusion comes emotional conflict. In this and other cases the making of distinctions can be liberating.

Now let me say some things about this book.

Though at times I venture into ethics, my chief aim is to say what love is and this book should not be catalogued (as my Love and the Person sometimes was) under the heading “sexual ethics” or “moral theology.”

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