Monday, February 25, 2013

For The Love Of... Love

by CWK
A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Cancer Ward 
Satiety (satisfaction) depends not at all on how much we eat, but on how we eat. It's the same with happiness, the very same... happiness doesn't depend on how many external blessings we have snatched from life. It depends only on our attitude toward them. There's a saying about it in the Taoist ethic: 'Whoever is capable of contentment will always be satisfied.'  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The First Circle 

Herein you will find my impassioned plea for a life of love and happiness. I beg you: choose to be happy; choose love; choose joy. After reading that sentence, some of you just sarcastically smirked, "But I can't CHOOSE whether to love, or be happy. These are things that happen to me." 

I respond: You my friend are the problem with You. Repent  for, the Kingdom of God is at the door, knocking with insistent mirth; this Kingdom has been declared as one of, "JOY."

I. Life Out There? Life In Here?

Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes (E.B. Browning).
"I'm bored," we mutter, with a weary lisp  we mean it as condemnation on our surroundings: the external world in which we happen to find ourselves at that moment. "I'm bored," this is really a condemnation of our internal world. If we came, with stimulus, to the world, we would not need so much stimulation. We have to bring something to get something, and when we say, "I'm bored," we are saying that our internal world is bleak and desolate: lifeless and loveless. We are saying we bring death to a world alive. We are saying we bring hate to a world of love.

We complain of being bored   not because there is not life out there   because there is not life IN HERE. We complain of being bored, not because the world lifeless, but because we are dead.

We grow deader still: seeking stimulation leads to "diminishing returns," and diminishing life: our thrills kill. We ought to be finding joy in a grain of sand; instead, we are chasing joy in distant lands.

What is the opposite of being bored and disengaged from the world? Being alive to the world: or, being in love with the world. I am advocating:

(A) man's happy and cheerful affirmation of his own being, his acquiescence in the world and in God ― which is to say, Love (Josef Pieper).
I make this claim: we are bored and ineffectual not because the world is boring, but because we are boring. We have disengaged from the lovely world with a hateful heart. We have become disconnected, unfeeling: our hearts have grown hard and insensitive. We have gone blind to the beauty all around; we have not stopped to marvel at the the world alive at our feet. 

The problem is with us. Our problem is not the world out there, but the world in here. Our problem is not that the world is full of unlovely things, but that our hearts are hard to lovely things. The problem is not lack of loveliness, but lack of love.

"There are no uninteresting things; only, uninterested people." -Chesterton
"Pleasure in the work leads to perfection in the work" - Aristotle
"Decide what you feel." -  Aristotle
If Chesterton and Aristotle are right, then surely, we are wrong. And we need to repent.

II. To Love, or Not To Love

The best reason to do anything is because you love doing it; also true: you will be the best (do your best) when doing that which you love. This is indisputable. However, we assume that we are first good at something, and then, as a consequence, we love it. This is disputable.

"Pleasure in the work leads to perfection in the work." - Aristotle.

We read that and conclude, "I should do what I love." When, in fact, we should conclude, "I should love what I do."

We assume geniuses love what they do, and from this love comes genius.

 what if we cultivated a love of something before we did it? We always assume geniuses love doing something because they are good at it  is it not also possible to love something first, and thereby, make yourself good at it?

What is it to love? Love is prizing, counting precious. Those things we love, we savor, we relish, we delight in, appreciate, cherish, praise, esteem, extol, regard, and enjoy.

Jonathon Edwards defines love in the following ways: We love something to the degree that we are pleased with it. Love is pleasedness: the state of being pleased with something. Love is an intense delight. Love is a strong inclination of the soul that moves us toward something to try and grasp at it. When we love we admire an object; this admiring leads on to desiring to possess the thing we admire (admiring evokes desiring). Love is going after something as our highest good. Love is seeking something first. Love is favoring, choosing, preferring one thing above others. Right love is a sweet and holy affection that loves good things as good things, but loves God best as the best and highest good. Wrong love is an inordinate (loving good things as the best thing) affection. Now, what we love determines what we do. As Edwards said: "it is our inclination that governs us in our actions." This is why Augustine said: Moral character is assessed not by what a man knows but by what he loves.’

One of the best descriptions of the engaged love of a genius comes from Bryan Phillips description of the soccer savant Maradona:

You watch other football-prodigy videos and it looks like the little circus-genius is about to give himself a heart attack; Maradona heads the ball up and seems to be waiting for it to come back down again, I mean waiting patiently, like someone who trusts that a loved one will always come home. Mostly he's just still, and you can see how the wise heads in Villa Fiorito, the shantytown outside Buenos Aires where he grew up, would have spotted the littlemestizo kid, how word would have spread. It's different with this one. By the time he was 12 he was the halftime entertainment at Argentinos Juniors, where he was a ball boy. He'd do juggling exhibitions for the crowd, play keepie uppie with himself, a human YouTube channel already. You get the feeling he was just happy to be near a ball... He hadn't fully arrived as a player in his mid-teens, obviously, but there were glimpses. Everyone else on the pitch looked like they were working while he played.
Maradonna was engaged with a playful absent minded joy. He regarded a soccer ball above his head like a loved one on a short errand, soon to return. "He was just happy to be near a ball." Just happy. Every else worked; he played. I propose: the genius that Maradonna brought to the game of soccer was not, especially, a certain kind of skill, but an active will  the will to love  and a certain kind of heart: a heart of love, simple and sweet. He loved a soccer ball like it was his one and only. He bought such a heart to his work that his work became play, and eventually, his play became a masterwork.

Everyone, in some way or other, works; few take pleasure in their work. Think about the way people talk about their work: just about everyone complains about their job, right? Long hours. Mindless work. Bad boss. Is it any wonder that men find no pleasure in jobs they hate? They find no pleasure in them, and therefore they are pleasure-less. What if, for a solid week, men decided to love their jobs? What if we -- again quoting Aristotle -- "decided what we feel." What if we chose love? What if we were more like God: "We love because He (God) first loved us." God is first in the matter of love; his love precedes anyway we should him. What if, like God, we loved a thing, first, until it loved us back? 

How do men seek pleasure? They seek pleasure by chasing it. They chase pleasure to the darkest corners of the world, and to the darkest corners of their hearts. I recommend a revolutionary program: we should seek pleasure by taking it. We should take pleasure, right here and now, in the things right in front of us. We need, more than a change of latitude, a change in attitude. We need a new heart more than we need a new suit, or car, or home, or wife.

We'd all agree that few take pleasure in their work. But I shall propose something even more amazing: few take pleasure in their play.

Believe me. I spend a fair amount of my life as a Valet Attendant in the places where people play: the best restaurants; the best clubs; the places with the loudest music, and the most singing, and dancing. I've seen men at play, and been awestruck by how little fun they were having. 

I have known many drunks; I must report, contrary to popular opinion: drunks do not enjoy alcohol. They enjoy wine, beer, and whiskey much less than most. The one thing they never do is enjoy alcohol. In fact, they get drunk  not for surplus of joy ― but for lack of it. It stands to reason, if they had joy in their heart, they would find joy in their drink, and they would in a sort of forgetful revelry remain sober. For, if they enjoyed alcohol more, then they would drink it more slowly, and more joyfully. Thus, they'd drink less  but in a way  they'd drink  really drink ― much more.

We have a suffocating sense of luxury and no sense at all of liberty. All the pleasure-hunters seem to be themselves hunted. All the children of fortune seem to be chained to the wheel. There is very little that really even pretends to be happiness in all this sort of harassed hedonism. –G.K. Chesterton
We all eat ― few take genuine pleasure in their food; few taste their food. We all feel  we feel all sorts of things  few love. Why? Here is the secret that keeps the world at war: we love because we don't love. We choose not to. Love is, we feel, a matter of a passing feeling. Actually, love is also something we do, or don't do. Love is a matter also of the will, and intellect. In describing love as a matter of the will, I am not saying all we need is more will. Our will is broken because our hearts are broken. We need new hearts.

To love, we must decide to engage the world with a heart of affection; we must draw close, eyes open, heart open, and greet the universe as a beloved: with love, simple and sweet. I did not say easy: to engage with love requires attention, devotion, action: 

Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One "settles down" into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man "falls" into a brown study; he reaches up at a blue sky. Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good TIMES leading article than a good joke in PUNCH. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

III. How Can I Love Something I Don't Love?

My response: how can you love anything if you don't love. We must either (again, a quote from Aristotle) "choose how we feel," or let our moods choose what is real. We take it for granted that we don't love things because they are unlovely. What if the problem is not with 'things,' but with us  what if things are unlovely because we don't love them?

Chesterton was the prophet of love. He was the politician of the joyful life: he campaigned, and tried to get loving joy, elected in every home. Read these quotes, and you'll see what I mean:

There is the great lesson of 'Beauty and the Beast,' that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.
To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once. 
I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.
The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. 
Men grow too old for love, my love, Men grow too old for wine, But I shall not grow too old to see Unearthly daylight shine, Changing my chamber’s dust to snow Till I doubt if it be mine.
I entertain a private suspicion that physical sports were much more really effective and beneficent when they were not taken quite so seriously. One of the first essentials of sport being healthy is that it should be delightful; it is rapidly becoming a false religion with austerities and prostrations.
The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children. 
Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.
Monotony has nothing to do with a place; monotony, either in its sensation or its infliction, is simply the quality of a person. There are no dreary sights; there are only dreary sight seers.
Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing-- say Pimlico. If we think what is really best for Pimlico we shall find the thread of thought leads to the throne or the mystic and the arbitrary. It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Pimlico: in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to Chelsea. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Pimlico: for then it will remain Pimlico, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Pimlico: to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Pimlico, then Pimlico would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles; Pimlico would attire herself as a woman does when she is loved. For decoration is not given to hide horrible things: but to decorate things already adorable. A mother does not give her child a blue bow because he is so ugly without it. A lover does not give a girl a necklace to hide her neck. If men loved Pimlico as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is THEIRS, Pimlico in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. Some readers will say that this is a mere fantasy. I answer that this is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her (From, Orthodoxy, "The Flag of The World").

IV. Acedia: Lovelessness

If you want to do well, you must first love well. Even, if you want to love well, you must first love well. You must, that is, engage with a devoted heart of affection and delight. The opposite of this mentality can be summed up in that classical term: Acedia. 

Acedia is an embittered and heartless approach toward life: a careless carelessness (I don't care that I don't care!); a loveless life; a disengaged life; a willful distancing from goodness; turning a blind eye to beauty. Acedia is looking joy in the face, and saying, as an act of the will as definite as throwing a flower to the ground, "No thanks." In other words, Acedia is something we are responsible for. 

The Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church defines Acedia as:
a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray. 
Thomas Acquinas warned against Acedia in men because he saw it's opposite in God: God is the ultimate CHOOSER. And, what does He choose -- freely, because he wants to, according to His own will -- He chooses to love. He chooses to love especially (note, I did not say surprisingly) those objects which men deem unlovely. He chooses to love -- not just the bad -- but the worst. The apostle Paul was the greatest sinner in history; God loved him with an everlasting love.

In Summa Theologica, Acquinas says:
(Acedia is) "the sorrow of the world" that "produces death (a lack of life and vitality)." He compares it to what is a good and even happy sorrow "according to God (2 Cor. 7:10)." Acedia is "sorrow about spiritual good in as much as it is a Divine good." It leads men to flee from the Divine good, "on account of the flesh utterly prevailing over the spirit.
Acedia involves a revolt of the soul against a place of joy in the world: a revolt of the soul, in other words, against my place in the world.

C.S. Lewis, Membership:

True personality lies ahead - how far ahead, for most of us I dare not say. And the key to it does not lie in ourselves. It will not be attained by development from within outwards. It will come to us when we occupy those places in the structure of the eternal cosmos for which we were designed or invented. As a colour first reveals its true quality when placed by an excellent artist in its pre-elected spot between certain others, as a spice reveals its true flavour when inserted just where and when a good cook wishes among the other ingredients, as the dog becomes really doggy only when he has taken his place in the household of man, so we shall then first be true persons when we have suffered ourselves to be fitted into our places. 
Josef Pieper, Leisure The Basis of Culture:

Acedia, for Aquinas, signifies a man renouncing the claim implicit in his human dignity. He does not want to be as God wants him to be, and that ultimately means that he does not wish to be what he really, fundamentally, is... It is a "despairing refusal to be oneself."...For Aquinas Acedia (sloth) was the incapacity to enjoy leisure, and it was held to be the source of restlessness, and the ultimate cause of "work for work's sake."...A restlessness issuing from a lack of will to action is itself at the bottom of a fanatical and suicidal urge to work. Acedia, for Aquinas, signifies a man renouncing the claim implicit in his human dignity. He does not want to be as God wants him to be, and that ultimately means that he does not wish to be what he really, fundamentally, is. It is a "despairing refusal to be oneself."...Sadness overwhelms him when he is confronted with the divine goodness immanent in himself... The contrary of acedia is man's happy and cheerful affirmation of his own being, his acquiescence in the world and in God -- which is to say love... This is at an infinite distance from the "fanatical worker." Acedia is an offense against the peace of the mind in God. Acedia is a vitia capitalia, i.e. a fault from which other faults follow "naturally." There is that restlessness that makes leisure impossible. Then too leisure is only possible when a man is at one with himself, when he acquiesces in his own being, whereas the essence of Acedia is the refusal to acquiesce in one's own being. Idleness, and the incapacity for leisure, correspond within one another. Leisure is the contrary of both. This restlessness and despair are the twin children of Acedia. Finally, idleness so far from being synonymous with leisure, is an inner disposition rendering leisure impossible.

The contrary of acedia is man's happy and cheerful affirmation of his own being, his acquiescence in the world and in God -- which is to say love... 

A heart of love embraces God, the world, and myself, and my place in His world. All three must be embraced. First, God, then His World, then myself, then my place in his world. Actually, if we embraced God and acknowledge that he rules all things, the rest would fall into place.

In the first place, God, in his holy providence, has placed us in the condition where we are. He knows what is best for us, and what will best serve the end for which he made us; and of all other situations, he has chosen for us the one that we now occupy. Who could choose so well as he? And then, what can we gain by fretting about it, and worrying ourselves for what we cannot help? We only make ourselves unhappy. Moreover, it is very ungrateful and wicked to complain of our lot, since God has given us more and better than we deserve. It is better to look about us, and see how many things we have to be thankful for; to look upon what we have, rather than what we have not. This does not, indeed, forbid our seeking to improve our condition, provided we do it with submission to the will of God - Harvey Newcomb, How to Be a Man; How to Be a Lady: A Book for Children, Containing Useful Hints On the Formation of Character (Kindle Locations 2434-2440). 

When men turn from God, they turn from themselves, they turn from everything. They will not be happy  that's true in the sense of their ultimate destination, but it is also true of their motivation: they refuse to be happy. C.S. Lewis was right to say: Those who will experience God's eternal joy are those who have said, "Thy will be done." Those who will suffer eternal misery are those to whom God has said, "Thy will be done."

When it comes to happiness, the most startling feature of humanity is not that we are not happy, but that we don't want to be happy: we choose, as a matter of course, from a cold heart, a thankless life. We choose hell, on earth; we choose hell, hereafter.

Why would anyone choose sorrow over happiness?  Hell over Heaven? Enduring sorrow over lasting joy? Despair over delight? Why? I have sometimes looked on myself in states of self-pity, and been startled by the words of King David, "Why are you so downcast, O My Soul  why so downcast within me?" Why in the world would I, or anyone, choose a joyless life? Why, indeed.


True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare. The absence of this digestive talent is what makes so cold and incredible the tales of so many people who say they have been “through" things; when it is evident that they have come out on the other side quite unchanged. A man might have gone “through” a plum pudding as a bullet might go through a plum pudding; it depends on the size of the pudding—and the man. But the awful and sacred question is “Has the pudding been through him?” Has he tasted, appreciated, and absorbed the solid pudding, with its three dimensions and its three thousand tastes and smells? Can he offer himself to the eyes of men as one who has cubically conquered and contained a pudding?

When you have really exhausted an experience you always reverence and love it. The two things that nearly all of us have thoroughly and really been through are childhood and youth. And though we would not have them back again on any account, we feel that they are both beautiful, because we have drunk them dry.

Chesterton, A Miscellany of Men.


The wisdom of E.B. Browning:

If thou must love me, let it be for naught except for love's sake only.

And each man stands with his face in the light/Of his own drawn sword/ready to do what a hero can.

What is genius but the power of expressing a new individuality?

What I do and what I dream include thee, as the wine must taste of its own grapes.

He said true things, but called them by wrong names.

First time he kissed me, he but only kissed The fingers of this hand wherewith I write; And, ever since, it grew more clean and white.

The Greeks said grandly in their tragic phrase, 'Let no one be called happy till his death;' to which I would add, 'Let no one, till his death, be called unhappy.'

For tis not in mere death that men die most.


On Love and Enjoyment, From Stephen N. Philippo:

Augustine makes the distinction between enjoyment and use: "Some things are to be enjoyed, others to be used, and there are others which are to be used and enjoyed. Those things which are to be enjoyed make us blessed. Those things which are to be used help and, as it were, sustain us as we move toward blessedness in order that we may gain and cling to those things which make us blessed . . . To enjoy something is to cling to it with love, for its own sake. To use something, however, is to employ it in obtaining that which you love, provided it is worthy of love." (DDC I, iii, 3. iv, 4.) And, for St. Augustine, as it should be for us, the only thing worthy of his love, the only "thing" to be "enjoyed for its own sake" is the Holy, Blessed Trinity, the One True God.

Concerning love of our neighbors, St. Augustine reminds us that "all other men are to be loved equally; but since you cannot be of assistance to everyone, those are especially to be cared for who are most closely bound to you by place, time or opportunity, as if by chance. Just as if you had an abundance of something special that you could only give enough of to one other person, yet two came asking, neither of whom deserved it more or less. You could do no more than choose by lot. Thus, among all men, not all of whom you can care for, you must consider those in your life as if chosen by lot, who, in reality, are chosen by God." (DDC I, xxviii, 29). Therefore, the second great pre-requisite of St. Augustine's for interpreting Sacred Scripture is charity to every person in your life.

Concerning love of self, St. Augustine recommends frequent confession. Our souls in this life are engaged in deadly warfare with the devil and his fallen angels, as well as our own selfishness. As a result, we are constantly being wounded, either in a minor way or mortally. A mortal wound (sin) is deadly and will destroy all opportunity for Eternal Life, if not remedied. If we truly love ourselves, then we will want to be always ready to meet our Maker. The only way to meet our Maker when we die is to be in the state of grace. The only way to maintain the state of grace in this life is to go to confession frequently. We should pay special attention to our worst flaws and beg Our Lord to root them out.

Therefore: 1. set your sights on God alone as the only object of your love and enjoyment, while enjoying other men only for the sake of Him; 2. be truly charitable to all who cross your path, for it is not by accident or random chance that they come into your life; and 3. go to the Divine Physician for the cure to your wounds (sins). Thus are laid down the three most important pre-requisites for correctly reading Sacred Scripture: charity towards God, neighbor and self; without which none can be faithful to the Truths taught in the Bible.

In essence, St. Augustine notes there are those things we are to love for their sake alone, namely the Holy Trinity; and those things we are to love as ourselves, namely all other men. So, whoever in his own opinion feels he understands Sacred Scripture, or any part of it, yet does not build knowledge of love of God and neighbor, "has not yet known as he ought to know." (1 Cor. 8:2) Or, if such a one has discerned from the Scriptures an idea helpful in building this two-fold love, but which was not the intention of the Sacred Author, he is not in error, for his intention is not to lie, but to build up the kingdom of heaven. So, if one is mistaken in his interpretation of Scripture, yet he builds up charity, which is the end of the precept (cf. 1 Tim. 1:5), he is mistaken like the traveler who makes a wrong turn yet ends up at the right place regardless.

However, it is better not to leave the correct path, lest by habitually deviating, one end up in the wrong place altogether. By rashly asserting things the Sacred Author did not intend, one frequently runs into other passages he cannot reconcile to his interpretation. If one in humility gives way to Scripture, fine. But if one loves his own opinion more, he will grow vexed with the Scriptures, and ultimately be destroyed by it. For, "faith will totter, if the Authority of Sacred Scripture waivers. Indeed, even charity itself grows weak, if faith totters. If anyone falls from faith, it is inevitable that he also fall from charity. For he cannot love what he does not believe exists. Yet, if he both believes and loves, by leading a good life and obeying the commandments, he gives himself reason to hope that he may arrive at that which he loves. And so "there abides faith, hope and charity, these three," (2 Cor. 13:1) which all knowledge and prophecy serve" (DDC I, xxxxi, 37.).

Therefore, St. Paul tells us that the greatest of the three theological virtues is charity, because once we have attained to Eternal life, faith and hope cease. They are no longer necessary. Charity alone remains. Therefore it is the greatest of the theological virtues.

On The Important of PRESENCE

“Bliss—a-second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious—lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.” On another draft sheet, Wallace typed a possible epigraph for the book from “Borges and I,” a prose poem by Frank Bidart: “We fill pre-existing forms and when we fill them we change them and are changed

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“He could do the dextral pain,” he thinks. “No single instant of it was unendurable. . . . He hadn’t quite gotten this before now, how it wasn’t just the matter of riding out the cravings for a Substance: everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news.” 

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