I went to a poetry reading tonight, kind of by accident (I was in Alley Cat books when it started), and the hostess, the real star of the show, in the sense of the one with the best public speaking skills, would ask everyone, what would you choose – love, or freedom.
I wouldn’t choose freedom.
Freedom to me really only makes sense in a context of oppression. Outside of that, freedom is just indifference from your neighbors. It’s doesn’t have a positive or a negative value, just neutrality; it’s the rights-equivalent of ‘whatever.’ You are free to do what you want because nobody cares and nobody is interested.
My bigger problem with freedom, the part I find crippling about it, is that freedom, maximized, amounts to overwhelming – and thus unused – opportunity. I can think of a time in my past when I was free to turn in any direction, go anywhere, choose anything. Guess what? At the time of the most maximum opportunity, I did the least.
In this world of ours, things need limits to be expressed; they need to be limited, perhaps fatally, by a form before they can find expression. Without that they’re just unlimited potential, a frankly boring abstraction. I’ve moved away from pure potential to more limited but world-embodied possibilities: from ‘I can be anything and everything’ to ‘I am this,’ and, qualified slightly, ‘I am that’ also. It was a move I should’ve taken earlier.
Then there’s love.
Unlike freedom, I’ve never had maximum love and been bored. If I did, I noticed it in its absence, later, as a good. So I would choose love, especially since, in this definition, if I’ve got it, there must perforce be a person I chose to love – the problem of choice has been solved by the terms of the question. The hard part is over.
Yet I understand what people mean when they question love. In the parental sense (a sense we tend to disregard), it’s such a tautology – parents should love their children – that no one ever quite imagines love under fire as this love. So that’s not what people mean when they say they doubt love, since that’s such a self-evident good; what they mean is something like, I doubt this concept that’s a cover for a painful form of desire, perpetually stoked. And this is often portrayed as some kind of wimpy cop-out, but I too wish to not be tormented by desire.
If you want to own that, take it; rampant uncontrolled desire is, I think, rightfully recognized as a source of suffering, and taking the simple, self-evident answer – no sentient being wishes to suffer – is right by me. I think you can separate love and suffering, actually – to a degree. Or maybe I’m ducking the question, in that case I would answer, it depends on the proportions, then.
Right now love feels remote, though I don’t think this state will last long; it feels philosophical, like some debate about Koine Greek and agape. There were times when I was in love, and thinking now, I aspire to be in a state of pure love. Still, in that kind of pure-abstract way, you feel the absence of limitation again – without being channelled to a specific person, it’s a kind of vaguely positive life-affirming force. Slightly boring, when thus defined.
Or is it?
Maybe that’s the question: if it’s possible to feel a kind of maximizing, totalizing love without it being directed at a specific person.What would that experience be like? If this is a love that is – in that ultimate sense – impersonal, then do we even recognize it as love?
This is the land of mystics and saints, this kind of love, with no object, or rather with the object here expanded to the maximum scope, as all sentient beings, or something along those lines.
I think, in looking back, in looking at highly personal, subjective experiences, I have felt such love, too. In a sense, I aspire to feel in love like that all the time. In fact, broadly speaking, I think we all should.
To love, with no object.