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Love in the times of February 2022

Love in the times of February 2022

by Christophe Porot February 9 2022, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 36 secs

“Since Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching I decided to write about love”, says Christophe Porot, Philosophy Coach and Consultant at Universal Enlightenment & Flourishing, in his third letter to readers.

I learned, once again, that love makes us utterly vulnerable. Whatever language people deploy about love being a chemical reaction never succeeds in capturing the experience itself. The experience itself, the felt inhalation of passion, can be overwhelming and awaken every sense within us. Being in love can feel like living in a crystal mansion that might shatter at any moment and cascade down upon us. The fragile condition we slip into with love is so powerful that it’s worth reflecting on what love truly is. If we are willing to enter into our vulnerability for another it might be worth meditating on the difference between when we’ve found true love and when we have not.

Conveniently, philosophers have not left us in the dark on love. Some say that setting up distinctions between types of love, or true love vs. not true love is a foolish endeavor because love is unconditional and immediately identifiable when it overtakes us. But in my experience defining the conditions of love is like lighting a candle in the dark, it allows you to fully see where you are going.

The first meaningful distinction is between beneficent love where we care for the good of another and unitive love where, independent of the good for another or the good for ourselves, we want to unite with our lover. Unitive love seems indifferent to well being because sometimes lovers would rather be miserable together than separate. While beneficent love seems more abstractly beautiful than unitive love, it seems to also be more rare. It is an ideal worth striving for, one people sometimes meet. But if we choose to enter into a relationship then we can look to the Cambridge Platonists for guidance on the three conditions of true love.

The first condition is that you must love the person more than you love being loved by the person - if what you love is being loved by the person, then the object of your affection, their love for you, disappears when they cannot make you feel loved whether that’s due to illness or other reasons. If you love the person, by contrast, you can always be there for them. The second condition is that you love who ‘you’ are around the person you love.

We are all socially flexible beings and we change, sometimes only slightly, in the presence of others. You must be able to love whom you become in the presence of your lover in order to preserve yourself in the relationship. Finally, you must share some third object of affection, something you both love, together. This one may seem odd and the third object of affection can be anything from philosophy to art. But both loving the same thing allows you to be in a loving state while together without uniquely being focused on one another. A common passion, in other words, increases how often you are in a loving state while in the presence of your lover.

If these three conditions are met, you are probably in a beautiful relationship. In my experience in coaching people, fear of love seems to be a common theme. And maybe that fear is related to the mystery surrounding what love is. My hope is that offering one among many frameworks of a loving relationship allows you to consider exploring love as a knowable good rather than imagining it to be a cosmic mystery beyond our reach. Surely, the power of love and the vulnerability it induces in us will always feel mysterious and to a degree be a mystery. But the conditions, which explain whether it’s a love worth preserving or trying to move on from (a Herculean task indeed) is something we can know. So I hope you find someone worth entering into the crystal mansion for, an emotional home, which can be fortified by time, but don’t forget to ask yourself whether or not it’s a love worth being vulnerable for.

Wishing you love, Christophe.

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