Sunday, May 2, 2021

Birth Family Tribe Love Sex Apotheosis - Chapter IV - Love

Love. Those little glances and moments of eye contact. The odd awkward "hi" or "hello". The unspoken conversations, rehearsed in the mind, but harder to speak when the opportunity arises. The building tension between two people. Both knowing they're on the same wavelength, but fearing they may be mistaken. It hurts so hard because you know how good it could be. The gaze and the heart so focused upon just one person that to be denied makes the stomach sick, and living unbearable. Nothing and no one else registers.

True love is the devil, and the devil is the human heart.


Love. Be it true love, or the love a mother has for her child, or any other love, introduces a bias into the world. That loved person becomes more important than everything else in the eyes of the lover. It might be fair to treat people as equals, but it's also heartless. If ten people are dying and you can only save one it may be fair to simply choose someone at random. However, if one of those ten is a family member it would be somewhat cold and heartless to ignore that bond of love and let them die. Fair though it would be.

So here we have another dichotomy in life.

The desire for fairness and balance in the world

 vs

 The love we have for the people we're bonded with


People may go along with something that's terrible for wider society because they're worried about losing their job and not being able to pay the mortgage. That is, they put their family first. So it's not evil, but love that often spurs people towards bad actions.

As with all these dichotomies there isn't necessarily a right and a wrong. It's another duality where we must embrace both aspects and try in good conscience to strike a balance.

Let's say you're walking down the road and you have £10 in your pocket. You're heading to buy your brother a birthday present. However, along the way you see a homeless person. Now the homeless person needs the £10 much more than your brother needs a birthday present ..but your brother is your brother. You have an emotional bond with your brother that you don't have with the homeless stranger. So what is the right thing to do? Who do you give your last £10 to?

Again, there isn't necessarily a correct answer. Normally as humans we try to balance these things as best we can. We try to give 'what we can afford' to charity and strangers, whilst at the same time making sure we have enough to fulfil the responsibility we have towards ourselves and our loved ones. Your brother might be pleased to see his £10 given to a random homeless person. On the other hand it might ruin your relationship with him. Plus you naturally care more about your brother's happiness than you do a complete stranger's. So though it would be heartless to ignore the homeless person it would be equally heartless to not have a deeper care and affection for someone you're so closely related to.

We can see this dichotomy represented in the political spectrum. With 'the right' focusing on family, stating things like charity begins at home, and 'the left' imploring everyone to forgo all possessions in the pursuit of universal brotherhood. Consequently at the negative extremes the right have a tendency towards selfishness and the left have a tendency towards dehumanising people - i.e. reducing people to numbers.

If we return to the earlier example. If ten people were going to die and only one could be saved the person on the extreme right would save their family member and to hell with all the rest. Whereas the person on the extreme left would callously condemn their own grandmother to 'death by lottery' without a second thought.

What I would do in such a situation I wouldn't like to say - it's much easier to judge other people :) The realisation that we're trapped between these conflicting desires though at least allows us to contextualise things a little better as we wrestle with our conscience.

It also helps us to balance ideals with practicalities.

Ideally we should be generous to strangers, but it isn't always practical to be generous all of the time. If you give away all your possessions then how will you support yourself and your family. This doesn't mean that therefore we should abandon the ideal and give up aiming to be generous. It's just a realisation that things are not so simple. We're balancing many desires.

It's similar with debates about 'open borders'. Ideally a world without borders would be wonderful. It's definitely an ideal to aim for. However, it's not always practical to implement. There are real world costs and consequences, and there's a limit to people's generosity. This isn't because people are evil. It's because they're trying to balance the interests of themselves and their family, with the interests of complete strangers.

Likewise though we may believe in sharing we still lock our doors at night before we go to bed. That hard border at our door or garden gate representing the limits of our willingness to sacrifice our lives and everything we own. None of us are perfect, and it's extremely hard and unappetising to completely lay down ourselves for the benefit of others. Plus, it's not just our own lives, but the lives of those people that are close to us that we have a responsibility towards.

In many ways this brings us to the laws we live by, and a realisation that all laws are practical and not truly ideal. After all, what gives someone the right to erect a border in the first place? Or to declare a home one's property?

Ideally, if we were perfect people in a perfect world, we'd simply turn the other cheek when slighted. This is the ideal that we should be aiming for. However, this isn't always realistic. Again, partly because none of us are so forgiving that we're happy to just lay down and die without defending ourselves. But also ..because we have a care and duty towards others as well.

It might be noble to turn the other cheek if a robber steals from you, but what if that robber then goes on to steal from someone else? Or what if the robber stealing from you now means that your children go hungry? Is it still right to then turn the other cheek?

Once more, there isn't a simple right or wrong answer. Turning the other cheek remains the high ideal. Yet it isn't so simple, and when other practical concerns (such as your hungry children) are taken into consideration it suddenly becomes justifiable to punch the robber. Or to at least arrest him, try him in court, then send him to jail.

Ideally this should never happen, it's not nice of course to forcibly arrest someone then take away their freedom, but the world isn't ideal. So we often take pragmatic action to protect our interests. Hopefully we do this fairly, by establishing basic rights that are universal to everyone - following a general live and let live principle - implemented in a way that's proportional. Yet even fair laws are just necessary evils. Falling short of the ideal of forbearance.

It's easy to deem things like theft and murder as wrong. At least in theory. Still though, prohibitions against such things arrive from a degree of self-interest. We want to protect ourselves and the loved ones that we are close to. So we deem the 'use of force against others' needed to implement the law as just and 'necessary'. Theft is obviously wrong, but if someone is stealing to feed their children is it so cut and dried. Likewise with laws establishing national or personal property rights. What makes something yours and not someone else's? The fact that you were there first? That you took it before they did?

Ultimately it comes back to extolling the right to defend your territory - be it the property you own, or your physical body itself - against the rest of the world. It is self-serving. That's not to say it's bad. The desire is natural and unavoidable. We just risk becoming hypocrites and misunderstanding the world if we don't recognise this natural urge in both ourselves and others. We like to think of ourselves as good and others as bad, but in reality we balance our own interests (and the interests of those we love) with our desire to be generous and to deal fairly with the wider world.

None of us are perfect, and even if we were it would perhaps still remain impossible to balance the interests of those we love with a love for the world as a whole. To view everything equally is to view nothing as special.

The world would be fair without love, but what would the world be without it.

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