Friday, May 28, 2010

Kierkegaard's Works of Love - Part II - Love Seeks Not Its Own

Love seeks not its own. But God sought his own, as did Christ. Yes, but this search was giving and sacrificing. This seeking is not humanly constructed. When human love its own it means to be loved. But God is love and so God does also seek his own as he seeks all into his love. Therefore a human loves another so that person might seek and love God. This is love which is also sacrifice. And so God is loved and lover. But no human being is love. And in as much as humans seek to be loved they seek their own. This is not love.

Love seeks not its own; for in love there is no mine and yours. But mine and yours are only relational qualifications of 'one's own'; consequently, if there is no 'mine' or 'yours,' there is no 'own's own,' either; but if there is no 'one's own,' it is indeed impossible to seek 'one's own.'
This is contrasted to justice which seeks to give each one its own. But justice is relative, a construction, as war, disaster, revolution can upset and confuse justice as to what is whose. Justice then despairs. Kierkegaard calls this confusion terrifying. But quickly adds,
And yet, in a certain sense does not love bring about the same confusion, even though in a most life-infusing way. But love - it, too, is an event, the greatest of all and the happiest of all. Love is change, the most remarkable of all, but the most desirable - it is precisely in the sense of something better that we say a person possessed by love is changed or becomes altered. Love is a revolution, the most profound of all but the most blessed! Therefore with love, too, there comes confusion; in this life-giving confusion there is no distinction for the lovers between mine and yours. Remarkable! There are a you and an I yet no mine and yours! For without you and I there is no love, and with mine and yours there is no love; but mine and yours(these geographical co-ordinates of possession) are in fact formed out of you and I and consequently seem necessary wherever you and I are. This holds true everywhere, except in love, which is the fundamental revolution. The deeper the revolution, the more the distance between mine and yours disappears, and the more perfect is the love. . . . The deeper the revolution is, the more justice shudders; the deeper the revolution is, the more perfect is the love.
I offered this quote at length finding it rich and significant. When I first read this chapter I quickly become concerned with where SK would be taken the dissolution of mine and yours. Would this be some utopian economic leveling? Perhaps. But it is not the point. The point in love is never fundamentally economic in SK's conception. I wondered about the dissolution of the self but SK quickly demands that you and I remain because we are necessary for love. And I wondered if this was all or nothing as SK can often outline his concepts. No. There is a deepening of this revolution.
SK then asks if it is not possible to conceive of this dissolution in erotic love. Doesn't erotic love speak of neither mine nor yours? This is true internally but not externally. The mine and yours become ours and this is expressed as a social form of mine over against all other yours and so erotic love still seeks its own whether individual or communal. Neither erotic love nor friendship is deep enough. So how is mine and yours abrogated entirely?
SK describes how mine and yours is a relationship of polarity. They must both exist if either of them is to exist. First consider the criminal. The criminal seeks to abolish the yours but if successful ends with no mine for he would eventually become all. But the lover seeks to remove mine in renunciation. And far from the curse of the criminal unable to capture all the lover freely enters into and receives all. I am paraphrasing here as I am not quite sure I follow the direct line of argument.
The lover knows nothing of tracking the exchange rate between mine and yours, lest they be fooled. In this way the lover is indeed the injured one. But to the extent that the lover travels deeply into this revolution he continues eternally in the forgetfulness of mine and yours and so exists not in injury (for injury in this case would be a return to score-keeping, of mine, but in blessedness. For to become bitter, resentful, envious is to re-emerge on the temporal plain of mine and yours.
SK then shifts and explains that love makes no distinctions (mine and yours) but makes infinite distinctions (loves all as individuals) Both the strong tyrant and feeble narrow-minded cannot do this for they continue to remodel the world in their own image. The strong believe in their own ability and the weak do not believe in God's ability. But the lover loves as all are equal before God (no distinction) but loves all as individuals before God (infinite distinctions). This discussion becomes important because it offer clarity around the practical expression of this love. Love is such that it keeps in mind that the greatest love is to help another stand before God and therefore become an individual. And so self-sacrificing love has nothing to do with mindless dispersing of possessions or of the burden to change or save another. It has to do with earnest care of all in their becoming a self (before God). In this way owning one's soul is higher than material ownership.
In the world of the spirit this owning of one's own soul is the very highest - and in love to help towards this, to become one's self, free, independent, his own, help him stand on his own: this is the greatest benefaction. . . . and please note, that the lover knows how to make himself unnoticed, so that the recipient does not become dependent on him - by crediting him with the greatest benefaction. This means that the greatest benefaction is precisely the mode in which the only true benefaction is accomplished. . . . Therefore one cannot straightway deduce which is the most beneficial deed, since the greatest benefaction, to help another to stand on his own, cannot be done directly.
The individual stands alone - by another's help. SK makes much of the dash here as it hides the other from the self. I wonder of the extent to which this has been considered in the claims attacking SK of irresponsible individualism. There is explicit acknowledgment of the relational nature of becoming free and individual though this relational nature must in some way be negating giving way to the greater acknowledgment that a self only becomes such by God though perhaps still - by the help of another. This may be more significant than I first gathered in reading this chapter. This is of course the SK's Socratic method that acknowledges this action as a type of midwifery. For Socrates the practice was in lightness with a smile that he was hidden behind the dash but the for the lover the dash hides a sleepless anxiety and a fear and trembling. Socrates seemed alright with the knowledge of his task but the lover fears for she may see that she succeeded! And what then? Find some satisfaction in it?! For every individual stands alone - by God's help. And all we may well be able to do is to keep from hindering this help.
SK adds an interesting comment here,
Insofar as the lover is able, he seeks to help a man to become himself, to become his own. But thereby in a certain sense not a thing is altered in existence, only that the lover, the concealed benefactor, is thrust outside, inasmuch as it is every human being's destiny to become free, independent, to become himself. If the lover in this respect has been God's co-labourer, everything has then become - as it was according to the essential destiny.
There is no accomplishment in this paradigm. I have laboured in spite of everyone, early and late, but what have I accomplished - a dash! In speaking of this lover who sees nothing yet loves he adds this final punctuation.
If he had not really been a lover, he would have directly cried out the truth less thoughtfully, and then he would have immediately have had disciples who had picked up the truth - and called him master.
This is a dangerous admittance pointing to his own inner struggles and hopes for a Christ-likeness in his life but a also a following a latent acknowledgment of his work. This confession reminds the clearly that anyone wanting to consider loving will most likely and may need to amount to nothing. For this is SK's understanding of Christ's (earthly) way, as we must await resurrection to see how things actually were or maybe are.

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