[9 minute read]
[also about the nature of feelings, human nature, childhood innocence, addiction, hypocrisy, shame, value hierarchy, neurochemistry, psychology, Carl Jung, archetype, the unconscious, the conscious, persona, the Self, familial and filial love, mystery, Yeshua, Christ, incarnation, Trinity, God, love your enemies, enlightenment, and pizza]
A friend asked if I think “love” and “like” are synonymous, and whether we can feel one without the other. She wrestles with them often, so I thank her for this exercise.
I wonder if a difference lies in the potential for reciprocity by the object. When the object is a person or pet, they can return the sentiment. And then on top of that, it is a matter of intensity or degree. I like John. I really like Jimmy. I love Joey. But that doesn’t really circumscribe either word. You can say the same of ice cream. It doesn’t have to be a sentient being, or even an animate object.
It depends on the intention of the subject, and the subject’s relationship to the object: Context is everything. Do you love your mother the same way you love a romantic partner? Do you love your brother the same way? Is love just a deeper or wider sentiment than affection?
I do believe they are synonymous metaphysically. For God there’s no distinction between things liked versus loved. Think of God merely liking something, stopping short of loving. Nope. God’s affection is full and complete, so the notion of degree loses meaning. I absolutely believe that God loves rocks. How can God bring forth into being something which God does not love?
I suppose, friend, that in the end, they are not synonymous in a subject’s intended degree. The subject situates the object in a value hierarchy. The choice expresses a sort of strength, breadth, or depth to how the subject relates to the object. Who wants to think of themselves as putting a subjective value on ice cream in the same realm as their love for their mother.
Yet, the value we ascribe to a thing is no simple thing to understand. Love letter to my siblings led me to the conclusion of: Mystery “only.”
Our value of a thing is inaccessibly mysterious.
We can make statements to ourselves or others only in our conscious mind (our ego). It’s the arena where we attempt to resolve mystery. And inevitably fail.
These two verbs straddle and criss-cross the boundary of ego—the edge of our conscious dimensions of Self. We can make ego-only-statements about things that we *should* or should not like or love, according to a moral value system, as I hinted at in Love letter to my siblings. Is it merely a statement of my ego that I love my siblings? An expression of merely how I want to be perceived? Jung calls this the “persona”—the mask we present to other people (and, largely to our own egos).
Do I say that I love my mother out loud, because I would be judged negatively were I to say that I did *not*?
So our value hierarchy has its own persona. It’s not necessarily an expression of our unconscious value hierarchy. I might say out loud that I love my mother, when inside I feel nothing for her. Shame is about who I am versus who I wish I were. I “know” that I should love my mother, but I cannot feel it. My ego defends that shame by expressing aloud the value which is not truly a reflection of my inner relation. Shame and hypocrisy are unstrange bedfellows.
These dynamics have to do with feelings. Feelings are relationships. They are *the* exchange between the conscious and the unconscious. They do not reside in the conscious alone, nor in the unconscious alone. They do not “reside” anywhere. They are the very substance of that relationship per se, as such. When nothing is moving between the conscious and the unconscious, there is no feeling.
So feelings inform our conscious about our unconscious. They are a language or a verb about the relationship between the conscious and unconscious. That’s why we are advised to pay them full attention. To let them “be” fully. Feel our feelings.
When we choose “love” instead of “like,” we are expressing some larger, more wide-open flood of chatter between the conscious and the unconscious—more feeling. That which we love more frequently, or more deeply, touches our unconscious with greater affect and effect. Taps our soul. Tapping into our soul. Transcends our ego/conscious. Deepens/widens mystery. Expression in soul-language, not ego-talk.
The soul adores what discomfits the ego: Mystery.
If you love ice cream, eating it evokes some feeling originating from your soul. Your larger Self “relates to” eating ice cream. It is a moment when the ego and the soul are not being hypocritical, and shame is momentarily annihilated. Ego and soul are dancing in ignorantly blissful unison. The ego and the soul are both pleased by the experience. I do think that is authentic love—an overwhelming flood of communication back-and-forth between the conscious and the unconscious. Love as a verb. I do think that is an experience of mysterious relationship—union between the ego and its soul. Happiness. Joy. Pleasure. Self completeness.
As adults, rapturous moments of indulgence are frequently followed by shame. Psychology might call this “sabotaging self talk.” Your soul loves this joy, loves this attention. Your soul is that divine spark within you. It loves the ego back—very, very naturally. The experience of eating ice cream has tapped into your divinity. There should be no shame in that. But shame comes from social scripting that attempts to reflect an objective, abstract value hierarchy, and our attempts at placing bodily health within it. Yet,…
The body serves the soul. This is a mystery, not a rigid hierarchy. A relationship. Bidirectional. The flow of mysterious “speech” back-and-forth. So if we ultimately die from eating ice cream, who cares? We have to die of something?
Remember, feeling is action. Action itself. It is not a state of the conscious or the unconscious. It is not of the ego or of the soul. It is the relating between them. Biologically, it has very interesting neurochemical underpinnings. To trivialize or ignore that biology is a big mistake. We absolutely are our biology. We absolutely are also more than our biology: Our biology is necessary, just not sufficient.
Our divine spark, our soul, was created to inhabit our body. In part. But absolutely in part. Mysteriously. The archetype of the Christian Incarnation is an inevitable evolution in the self-understanding of our species. Of our Selves. It is a crystal-clear sign that the mystery of soul is to include the body AND transcend it. NOT supersede it. Both the human soul AND the human body are thereby glorified. And shall be perfectly united by resurrection. Not blended in unity which obliterates one or the other. Blended in a coexisting unity of separateness, linked together (unified) by relationship to one another. As the triune Godhead subsists in each of three Persons relating to the Others (and to us).
The beautiful value of feelings is not the feelings themselves. It is their effect and affect of communication between the conscious and the unconscious. That does not happen only in the mind. It also happens in the body. We are both conscious and unconscious of our body, just as we are both conscious and unconscious of our soul. The beauty is the motion, the relating.
Ice cream is a trigger for union between the unconscious and the conscious—-both for the body and for the soul. They are separate but inseparable. What is “it” which unifies them? It is the very fact — the reality, the existence — of us, ourselves. Our Selves. We *are* body and soul, conscious and unconscious. That is our mode of being—of existence.
It is the nature of the human being to experience being human—to experience the relating of soul and body.
We ourselves are the organizing principle of these mysterious abstractions. It is not our conscious which does the organizing, as some sort of intellectual exercise. To speak of them separately is to speak of human being separately. They are not truly separable.
Christ exhorted us to love our enemies. We struggle with that in our conscious minds. We define an enemy based on how they make us feel. Christ’s exhortation is a bulletin that feeling is not everything. We are not our whole Selves when we merely think, feel, and act. To understand and know our full Selves, we must “understand” and “know” in a very different way than our mind and feelings are accustomed to. The soul must be an integral part of that way. The “mind of Christ.” The Way.
Have you ever shamed a child for adoring the experience of eating ice cream? That delight is a pure and innocent experience to behold. Matthew 18:3: “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This is part of the gospel, which means good news. How so? All of us were once a little child, and largely still carry some remnants of that little child with us today.
Conversion is reversion, not a transformation into something we are not. In that passage, it is also translated “turn.” There’s no sense in which it implies becoming something we are not.
As a child, there is nothing that I liked without loving!
Extreme passion IS childish.
Childish humility is passionate, liberating, childish indulgence (Mt 18:4).
So, back to love implying the potential for reciprocity…
When I am loving ice cream, it is stirring my soul, and my soul is very capable of loving my ego back. A relating occurs. That action can be called “loving.”
I LOVE pizza! Truly.
1 the disciples came to Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, 3″Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me;
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.
Neil D. 2020–04–29