As we mentioned in our last post, the second of the five transcendentals is Love.
Parents love a newborn baby unconditionally and, in a sense, perfectly. They don’t need a reason to do this – something within their being forms an incredibly strong interpersonal bond with their child which gives rise to profound care and love.
This happens “instinctively” and naturally, and is so strong that most parents will sacrifice everything in their lives – including themselves – to assure the safety and well-being of their child.
Love is not restricted to children or spouses. We have the desire to connect with other people in profound friendship and care. Thus, we seek friends who we find likeable – and who we believe will like us. Though at first these friendships lack character and depth, they can, as we begin to trust one another more and more, lead to reciprocal care and commitment.
For example, you might commit more of your time, energy, creativity, loyalty, focus, and resources to your friend – and your friend might respond accordingly with a greater commitment of his or her time, energy, creativity, loyalty, focus, and resources. In this way, friendships grow.
The ancient Greeks referred to friendship as “filia” which basically means “reciprocal love.”
By “love” they meant “concern for others, caring for others, seeking the good of others, doing the good for others – even at great cost or sacrifice — being loyal to others, and sticking with others – even when times get tough.” Notice that the friendship grows when you give more of these qualities to others, and they, in turn, give more of them back to you.
It is perfectly natural for men and women to become really good friends, which leads toward greater and greater reciprocal commitment. Eventually, their friendship becomes so deep that they begin to complement each other, find a “home” in one another, and enter into a common bond which is so deep it becomes their first priority in life.
When this occurs, it is frequently accompanied by a strong sense of romance and a desire to make a future life together. Notice that this kind of friendship must be exclusive – it cannot occur with anyone else. Why? Because you can only have one first priority.
Obviously, a second “first priority” is a contradiction.
Perfect & Imperfect
Now we can get back to the point about our awareness of desire for perfect love. Some people do not believe they have such an awareness, but if you really think about it, you will see that you do.
How do we know that we have this awareness?
In a phrase, we have the capacity to recognize every imperfection in our and others’ love. How can we know every imperfection in our and others’ love if we do not have some awareness of what perfect love would be like?
How could you tell at a moment’s notice that your friend is answering you disingenuously, or that your friend doesn’t care, or that something is “off” in your relationship, or that something in a person’s tone of voice or facial expression indicates distance, indifference, detachment – a decline in care or concern? How do you always seem to know – instinctively?
If Plato is correct, then you probably have an awareness of what perfect love would be like.
Given that we have an awareness of what perfect love would be like, do we also have a desire for perfect love? Have you ever had a boyfriend or girlfriend who you thought might be someone you would want to spend the rest of your life with – and then subsequently discover – after a time of idealism – that his or her love was not perfect?
You might have thought to yourself, “He or she is not perfectly understanding; not perfectly responsive – he or she makes errors in judgment, gets impatient, disappoints you, and has lost the luster of time’s past.” Did you then start becoming disappointed – even frustrated – and then declare to yourself that he or she is “not the one”?
If so, you might ask yourself, “What were you looking for?” If Plato was correct, you were probably looking for perfect love. If you were looking for perfect love, then it is safe to say that you desire it.
The Awareness of Perfect Love
Now let’s get back to the question about your transcendental nature. If you have an awareness of and a desire for perfect love, where did it come from? Think about it – where could you get an awareness of what perfect love would be like?
Do you think you could get it from the world around you? Probably not – it seems very unlikely that any of us have encountered perfect love in the world (disregarding for the moment, Jesus Christ).
So where did you get this awareness?
Do you think you came to this awareness from something in your brain? Remember your brain is a composite of restricted physical structures and processes. Do you think that those restricted physical structures and processes can produce perfect love? If not, then where did this awareness come from?
Perhaps we can follow Plato to a proper solution. Namely, we must get our awareness of perfect love from something which is itself perfect love. For Plato, only perfect love itself can induce an awareness of perfect love.
Thus, perfect love itself must in some sense present itself to you so that you can come to an awareness of it.
So what is perfect love itself?
In the previous post, we saw that perfect truth itself must be a perfect idea of the complete set of correct answers to the complete set of questions – which requires a perfect act of thinking.
Philosophers identify this perfect act of thinking with God. The same philosophers believe that perfect love itself must be one and the same as perfect truth itself, and they prove this through the principles of simplicity and unity. If this proof is correct, then perfect love would come from the same perfect act of thinking – God.
If God is the source of our awareness of perfect love, then as with perfect truth, he presents the horizon of perfect loveto our consciousness. This enables us to desire perfect love and to detect every imperfection in our and others’ love.
God’s presence to you makes you transcendental – beyond the restricted, imperfect, physical world.
Next time, we will explore the third transcendental – justice or goodness – as an indication for the interior sense of God.