Sunday Sermon: LOVE

love

There is an interesting discussion evolving in the comments thread under the “Ten Tips…” post. 

Also a review of “UNDERSTANDING LOVE” here.

Love is a problem. But ‘love‘ is really a problem. It has always been a problem in English! The problem? The word is riddled with ambiguity. We use the one word in English in many different senses. A good review is to be found here.

In ordinary conversations, we often say things like the following:

1. I love chocolate (or skiing). [or mashed potatoes]
2. I love doing philosophy (or being a father).
3. I love my dog (or cat).
4. I love my wife (or mother or child or friend).

However, what is meant by ‘love’ differs from case to case. (1) may be understood as meaning merely that I like this thing or activity very much. In (2) the implication is typically that I find engaging in a certain activity or being a certain kind of person to be a part of my identity and so what makes my life worth living; I might just as well say that I value these. By contrast, (3) and (4) seem to indicate a mode of concern that cannot be neatly assimilated to anything else. Thus, we might understand the sort of love at issue in (4) to be, roughly, a matter of caring about another person as the person she is, for her own sake. (Accordingly, (3) may be understood as a kind of deficient mode of the sort of love we typically reserve for persons.) Philosophical accounts of love have focused primarily on the sort of personal love at issue in (4); such personal love will be the focus here.
And more in an excellent overview here.

love

SS: Letter from Laura

As readers will know, Laura is a contributor to the Blog, who has written for us several times, and who has been missing for a time. But, she is back! In her moving and important letter she explains her short absence and offers some wise suggestions for us all.


Dear Bob,
You don’t know what you have until is gone. That is the idea I want to explore here. How is that possible? And what is to know that I have something? And why does it matter? I think I’ll start with the last one.   I’ve had a tough year of cancer treatment. Before I was diagnosed I was riding my bicycle, eating fairly well, although eating too much sugar perhaps.  Those bikes rides in the backcountry were so energizing, so pleasurable, so refreshing. I miss them. I miss being fully mobile and strong. I keep thinking that the day I am able to ride again I am going to savor the journey even more. But I will savor it more only because I’ll have the memory of being impaired and how terrible the feeling of being sick is. As with other things, I think that a person can live not appreciating enough what she enjoys moment by moment. But I appreciated my rides before. It is only that I miss them because I love riding free. It is like a wine lover having a glass of nice wine after a long period of abstinence. His pleasure level will be higher than before. Now think of something much simpler. Every day I wake up, get up and walk. But I can’t say I enjoy these actions as I enjoy riding a bike, so it is a different feeling, a deeper one. What happens when I am sick in bed, with a bad backache or healing after surgery? That day I miss my capacity to get up and walk and it just dawns on me the complexity, perfection and wonder of moving to stand up position and how the body holds itself and stands there with no pain or difficulty and then starts to move legs and arms automatically with such a beautiful synchronicity and grace, without pain or difficulty. Every basic function my body has is terribly missed when for some reason it can’t perform. I miss them so dearly simply because I understand all these things are part of being human and being able to move and explore. And as I gain this appreciation, then I care more and I feel more in tune with my body. Not so much before and even less when I was a teenager. Does it matter that I really comprehend what nature has given me and what I have now? Yes. It is important to have this connection just so I live more deeply my moments on this planet and I take better care of myself and others.   By saying that it is important to really comprehend what nature has given me and what I have now means that that understanding is not so straightforward. You can ask a healthy 6 year old whether he can hear and he would obviously answer he can. So he evidently knows what capacities he has; same with me. So it is not just awareness. To know you have these amazing abilities is something beyond the mere realization one can perform some action. The thing is, you gain something to add to this simple awareness when the capacity is taking away. You marvel and realize how miraculous (not in the religious way) is. And in that moment of enlightenment you say, wow! I have it!. But it is this going to the nothingness what makes knowledge complete and perfect. I wonder, though, whether this fleeting moment can leave a permanent print. Or will I go back to take things for granted? I want to keep feeling the glory of what my body does and how it lets me move and experience. Routine, I guess, is what could take me back to the old not knowing what I have. The job is to do anything possible to not lose that knowledge.     I wake up feeling so happy that I can stand up. It is real happiness. Living the moment is what matters now. I want to be always thinking deeply about the want of simple abilities and the joy of having them.  Because I want to know well what I have before it is gone.
Laura.

Sunday’s Sermon: Stuurman

 

historyRemembering Stuurman

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy: they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

RUSSELL: Douwe Stuurman?

HARDIN: Well, he’s one of a kind. He was one of the spearheads of the movement to keep this [UCSB] a small liberal arts campus. He was, as you know, at Oxford–a Rhodes Scholar–and very much a lover of humanities in a traditional sense. I don’t know how one could summarize him. You know plenty about him anyway. He’s quite unusual.

It is appropriate at this time of year to think back on the year and all of the years that have slipped by so quickly, and it is appropriate to begin with a Proust quote, for the subject of this remembrance was a great Proust student: Douwe Stuurman. University of California Professor Stuurman. My MA advisor for my degree in English. A man who influenced generations of students in his long teaching career. A mentor, teacher, friend.

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Letter from Sayward – 2

Community:  “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

by Paul Stahnke for Episyllogism

 

Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about ‘community’. For me, ‘community’ is the idea of belonging, feeling at peace with other people, and with where and how I live. This is an odd concept because I often go for days on end without speaking to anyone beyond my wife, Michelle. Every Wednesday morning I drive into town in order to visit my mother who is slowly dying in a care facility. I usually buy a few groceries, woodshop products, or welding supplies. I also meet with a local discussion group for one hour. In addition to following a formal meeting format, about 45 minutes is spent discussing a scheduled topic. Sometimes, a member might talk about a particular family situation or experience that has been bothering them, but by and large the meeting topic organises the flow of ideas into a particular theme. There is no cross talk that might hijack discussion although the thoughts of one member might be taken up by another, and so on. There is no formal order of member participation.  Sometimes, there is silence. For unknown reasons, in this small group simple silence is quite pleasant and allows a time for reflection.  The experience can only be described as ‘intimate’, for we share our most private concerns and thoughts. The size of the group varies between 10-18 people, and usually I am the only male. The ages range from 40 – 80, and group members come from all walks of life.

 

Last Wednesday’s topic was, ‘belonging’. I found it pretty hard to separate the sense of ‘community’ from this theme.

 

Today, while thinking more about this concept, I researched and subsequently read an article from a CS Lewis website. The author is Art Lindsey (senior fellow), and the article title is: “Community – and why we need it….Love is never stimulated apart from community”.  One particular quote caught my eye, “When we live our lives in isolation, what we have is unavailable and what we lack is unprocurable”. (Basil, an early Church Father). It goes on to say, “When we live our lives independently, other people are poorer because they cannot benefit from our gifts”. And, “When we isolate ourselves, we are poorer because the benefits of other’s gifts are lost to us, so what we lack, we cannot get”. [Source]

Why do people often feel isolated and estranged when living in large groups or in today’s western societies?

An excerpt from a Globe and Mail article states it this way:

 

“Chronic loneliness has roots that are both internal and external, a combination of genes and social circumstance, but something is making it worse. Blame the garage-door opener, which keeps neighbours from seeing each other at the end of the day, or our fetish for roads over parks, or the bright forest of condo towers that bloom on our city’s skylines.

Or blame an increasingly self-absorbed society, as John Cacioppo does. Prof. Cacioppo, the leading authority on the health effects of loneliness, is director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience. “One of the things we’ve seen is a movement away from a concern for others,” he says in a phone interview. “Economics basically says you should be concerned about your own short-term interests. There’s more division in society, more segmentation; there’s less identity with a national or global persona, but rather on the family or the individual. People aren’t as loyal to their employers, and employers are certainly not as loyal to their workers.”

Last fall, an old school friend came for a visit. It did not go well. I had really been looking forward to seeing him and made sure we had lots of food and wine. Michelle left to visit her sister and we were planning to fish, cook out on the fire, and generally get caught up. After a day I found myself wishing he would just stop talking. It was incessant, and while it was certainly company, there was absolutely no connection left in our lives. I tried to understand why I felt that way? I was also upset at my attitude. What had changed in the last 15 years? I’m not sure, but I did have a few ideas. One, in that time cell phones came into existence and have since morphed into the ever-present smart phones with camera; being connected, supposedly. Cell phones don’t work at our house but we do have Wi-Fi. He ran around taking picture after picture and continually tried to phone or text his wife. He would interrupt a walk or talk with, “Wait one second, I’ve got to ‘get’ this”. He brought up other people from our past and I had only a vague recollection of what they looked like. Finally, I told him that I hadn’t really thought about school after I had left. I suppose the main reason for our bad visit is that I have changed; I am no longer the same person.

We no longer lived in the same ‘community’.

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Remembering Professor Stuurman

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Remembering Stuurman

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy: they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

RUSSELL: Douwe Stuurman?

HARDIN: Well, he’s one of a kind. He was one of the spearheads of the movement to keep this [UCSB] a small liberal arts campus. He was, as you know, at Oxford–a Rhodes Scholar–and very much a lover of humanities in a traditional sense. I don’t know how one could summarize him. You know plenty about him anyway. He’s quite unusual. [from UCSB interview]

Remembrance of things past: It is appropriate  to think back on the year and all of the years that have slipped by so quickly, and it is appropriate to begin with a Proust quote, for the subject of this remembrance was a great Proust student: Douwe Stuurman. University of California Professor Stuurman. My MA advisor for my degree in English. A man who influenced generations of students in his long teaching career. A mentor, teacher, friend.

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Response requested.

The Globe and Mail on Sunday published a Q&A interview:

Helen Humphreys is the author of more than a dozen works of fiction, poetry and non-fiction, including The Reinvention of Love, Afterimage, Coventry, and Nocturne, a memoir about her brother’s death, which was a finalist for both the Trillium Book Award and the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. A resident of Kingston, she’s also won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Toronto Book Award and the Harbourfront Festival Prize. Her latest novel, The Evening Chorus, explores the lives of three people affected by the Second World War.

One of the interesting questions is: “If aliens landed on Earth, which book would you give them to teach them about humanity?”

They are here! So, I’m asking you, dear Reader, which book would you give them?

aliens

Sunday’s Sermon: Stuurman

 

historyRemembering Stuurman

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy: they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

RUSSELL: Douwe Stuurman?

HARDIN: Well, he’s one of a kind. He was one of the spearheads of the movement to keep this [UCSB] a small liberal arts campus. He was, as you know, at Oxford–a Rhodes Scholar–and very much a lover of humanities in a traditional sense. I don’t know how one could summarize him. You know plenty about him anyway. He’s quite unusual.

It is appropriate at this time of year to think back on the year and all of the years that have slipped by so quickly, and it is appropriate to begin with a Proust quote, for the subject of this remembrance was a great Proust student: Douwe Stuurman. University of California Professor Stuurman. My MA advisor for my degree in English. A man who influenced generations of students in his long teaching career. A mentor, teacher, friend.

Continue reading