Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Of Love and Reason
Unlike many new age thinkers, I do not agree that ego is a bad thing. Ego exists and everything exists for a reason. Knowing that ego must serve some function we can then begin to try and understand what that function is, where it is derived.
As children we have very little ego. We also possess very little in the way of a defined sense of self. Instead we attach to a parental figure in our dependent state and draw from them a sense of self. According to this parent we are either good or bad, strong or weak, loved or unloved, alone or attached. While there is no doubt a vast and complex amalgam between ego creation, environment, genetics, and personality, it is beyond the realm of this writing to explicate fully on the subject.
We are born weak and formless into a world of threats and danger. So once this attachment to parents take place, or a lack of attachment to them occurs, we begin to form a defense against threats. Real or perceived, the threats do no matter. As we interact with our parents and the world around us, the basis of these threats are often founded on the decisions our parents made in rearing their children. "Don't eat those berries," the mother says, shows a stern face, becomes angry with the child. "Don't pull that lion's mane," the father says, warding his child from danger. And so the ignorant child learns of danger from the disapproval of the parent. The more firmly attached to the parent, the more likely the child will be to survive in a world of constant danger. The formation of ego is a necessary defense mechanism against threats to our survival.
In modernity a lot of our behavior and the threats we perceive have few real consequences. "You're stupid," one child says to another. And while this statement has no true life-ending threat behind it, the reaction of someone to that insult is often one as if their survival were imminently threatened by it. All fear is based on the fear of death and the need to survive. How ironic that so much bullying and belittling will often drive a person to suicide when the basis of the feelings of worthlessness are derived from the fear of death itself.
This brings up the complex problem of emotions. Too much of humanity is possessed of mystical thinking or the idea of something from nothing. It is the idea of random, unfounded occurrences somehow springing into being from an absolutely logical universe. It's impossible. Emotions are not magic. Neither is the mother of all emotions, love.
We are social animals. A social animal develops emotions to form pair bonds. The emotions we feel are drawn from others not ourselves. If humans were autonomous creatures free of the dependency from each other, we would have no need for emotions or feelings.
Nothing in nature better exemplifies the theory that all fear is the fear of death than the hummingbird. This animal is one of the most spectacular in existence. It has no fear. It had no need to develop a sense of fear since it knows no natural predators. Hummingbirds, with their fearless nature have been seen to scare off hawks.
If fear is a derivative of death than where comes loves? Understanding the law of sufficient reason means love did not spring into being from nothing. The most obvious reason for love is to establish pair bonds between parent and child. Love is derived from the parent-child bond. The closest a person can come to agape is the love they feel for a child. In certain cases, such as Francis of Assisi and other religious leaders, or generally anyone who loves their enemy, they can also express this love to others.
Eros, or romance and sexual attraction, is largely a derivative of two things. One being a biological imperative to mate with the most fit partner. Two being the formation of mate selection as derived from sexual imprinting onto the parent figure. The details of sexual imprinting are complex and won't be discussed here.
Now comes the child into adulthood and the ego is strengthened through years of perceived threats. They are protected behind a barrier of ego, isolated against the world of danger, unable to allow anyone to see them as less than perfect. Their ego, instead of a defense to protect them, has now become a suit of armor crushing their ability to know and love another person. They cannot know another person because they cannot lower their ego built walls they established early in life to protect them.
Love is a state of vulnerability and anyone with a well constructed ego will have difficulty loving anyone. To be seen as vulnerable and accepted in that state, the same way the parent accepts the vulnerability of the child, is the deepest intimacy. To be an adult, full of the awareness and consciousness that the child lacks, and to both see and be seen in this state of vulnerability is true love.