A friend of mine has been diving into the world of Franklin’s Virtues with some really great deep thoughts. It’s been inspiring similar reflections in myself, though I don’t quite share his desire to lead a virtuous life.
“Love” is often quoted as a virtue in a lot of lists, but it’s one of those unfortunate blanket words that can very easily get misconstrued. I have done it myself, especially in my “irresponsible youth” (to borrow from G.W. Bush). At that time I thought of “love” in the romantic sense as being a virtue requiring constant and active expression, and like the proverbial bull in the chorus line there were a lot of sprains, bruises, and outright crashes.
I realize in hindsight it was the danger of a lack of education – in that case, polyamory without any education in the communication and relationship dynamics that are required to make that work. I cut myself some slack; the resources weren’t available then, and when your relationship models come from science fiction books you quickly find out just how valuable editors can be.
I got better, chiefly because I began to realize, and then actively study, the many faces and kinds of love. I believe there are some kinds that do, in fact, deserve unbounded expression – but there are others that I, frankly, believe to be positively a vice.
In no particular order:
- Parent: Kids come first, no matter how many you have or how ugly they are.*
- Compassion: Striving to alleviate the suffering of others (which is different from alleviating pain, mind you).
- Informed Consent: Passionate, romantic love is a great thing – if it’s free from coercion and all parties are aware of what they’re getting into.
- Self-Love: This is not narcissism; rather, it’s the previous two directed at oneself. It’s along the lines of “please take care of yourself before trying to take care of someone else.“
- Wonder: Curiosity. Exploration. The desire to understand and know the world, the people, the events around you, and through understanding achieve a love of them.
- Jealous: It’s just bad. Period. I often find it surprisingly when people take a negative emotion like jealousy and seem to believe they are helpless before it. We find ways to manage anger, hunger, desire, addiction…why not jealousy?
- Prideful: Much like yoga: you don’t actual win at love, and if you’re trying really hard, you had best check yourself because you’re likely doing something wrong.
- Nationalistic: It’s possible to love a person even when they’ve done bad things; likewise, it’s possible to love your country while still acknowledging the ways it has failed or the ways it can do better. Nationalism forgets about the latter, and worse.
- Greedy: Whether it’s because of a belief that love is zero-sum (Mom loves sis, so she must not love me!) or simply because it’s trying to fill a hole in one’s self-esteem, the need to acquire tokens and expressions of love is really just another compulsion that endlessly eats itself.
Those are my initial thoughts. Did I miss some? Got any more you’d suggest?
* personally, I’ve never had any ugly kids. But I hear they exist.
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