Monday, January 26, 2009

The expansive logic of love…

…versus the sterile logic of contraception.

Love by its very nature seeks to issue in something greater than either the beloved on his own or the lover in the abstract. Love seeks to issue in a higher synthesis comprised of the lover-with-his-beloved. Love is, therefore, intrinsically generative and expansive. Bene ergo dicitur bonum diffusum sui (Therefore is it well said that the good diffuses itself). So expansive, in fact, that love will not stop at this one step higher into harmony. Love between two lovers expands to encompass the very objects and people in their lives: this is why “inside jokes” are such a powerful signal, and reinforcement, of friendship and love: they conscript something ordinary and innocuous, the coal of everyday life, and transform them into diamonds forged by the power of love. For better or worse (Romeo and Juliet, anyone?), “worlds collide” precisely because lovers instinctively draw their surroundings into their inner circle. Because humans are essentially embodied, historical beings, our efforts to love one another inextricably draw matter, money, artifacts, and other flesh into the dance.

As love proceeds, it seeks higher harmonies and greater fecundity. A shared bank account, a shared apartment, a shared house, and the like, become tangible, virtually living testaments tot he vitality of the relationship. And such objects and places are ‘consecrated’ by the lovers in the very act of sex. This is why “getting it on” in all kinds of places is such a titillating aspect of “wild love”; the world of inert objects becomes animated by the insatiable passion expressed and deepened in the act of sex.

No matter how passionate such erotic love is, however, it too argues for its own inner logic. The seed cast away in “safe sex” (only those who know nothing of ‘the power and the glory’ of sex would call it safe!) retains a mute but incessant power to generate ideas of literally embodying the love in a way that cannot fade as easily as an organism fades as an ember blinks out. The most obvious response to this fecund plea, is children. I have witnessed time and again how couples, initially intent on ‘controlling’ their lives by ‘preventing’ children, gradually find reproductive sex as tedious and artificial to maintain as the Berlin Wall became. It need not issue in a conscious, explicit desire to get pregnant, but, as time passes, the original ‘logic’ of contraception becomes incoherent, distracting, tedious––much like a theoretically pristine melody in one rehearsal room increasingly becomes mere dissonance for the musically fecund power of genius in another. As love grows, the inhumane ‘logic’ of protecting yourself from your own beloved in the most intimate bond becomes truly absurd. One’s ideological guard drops, the eyes droop, a longing for unaffected embrace and complete self-donation weakens the technologically trained will. At some point, the prophylactics simply get lost in the shuffle of love lived as one life and one day a couple finds themselves pregnant. And in every case I’ve known, they look upon the living, breathing embodiment of their love without a hint of regret. If this logic writ by love is opposed, however, one spouse invariably grows to resent the other. Hence, lovers face a dilemma: the logic of contraception eventually, and intrinsically, works to undermine the logic of love, and vice versa.

If we do not allow the fire of love to burn outside the tranquilly sterile furnace of our own finitude and biological entropy, we will end up melting by it. Openness to life in marital love not only keeps the furnace whole and warm, but also warms and illuminates those around it. Any form of love, therefore, which intrinsically stifles the fecund potency of love–-such as masturbation, homosexual fornication, or contraception––dooms the fire of love, and its world-warming power, as surely as fire wood tossed on the floor but not in the furnace, coal dumped in the flue but not in the furnace, or an oxygen-blocking sheath over the vents, respectively, cannot but be rejected as a threat to the life of love.

In any case, once the logic of love is allowed to expand into the very blood of a new life, we have a family. And the family, being a nucleus of love, naturally displays the same desire for higher harmony and fecundity as found at every lower level. Hence, we have neighborhoods, and community soccer teams, and carpools, and sleepovers, and town councils. Soon, though, a problem surfaces: what more is there than the local community? Love answers: the City, the Nation, the People, the World, the Cosmos. Mankind, which is invariably generated in and for families, is driven by love to find higher and greater harmony as far as the collective consciousness (and conscience) can reach.

But then finitude comes crashing down. The obvious goal of love is an infinite embrace of all things in one thing––the cosmos loved and redeemed in the merest touch of the beloved. Love is infinitely ‘cosmophagic’, ‘ontophagic’––transcendentally driven to consume the cosmos and all being by sacramental (i.e., concrete) means. The insatiability of love bears within it the awful risk of consuming and destroying anything finite. The law of diminishing returns sets in. The finitude of any object loved in, and with, the beloved renders it prey to the tireless chomping hunger of love. Nostalgic repetition with enforced variation (“Tell that joke again,” etc.) seeks to extract from finite being all it can, and in the process, shatters finite creatures into increasingly tiny bits of shrapnel.

Only if love is allowed to tap into an infinite Being will its insatiable ‘lust for life’ find a safe way to exhaust itself, and thus, by maximizing its intrinsic nature, perfect itself. Love seeks heaven the same way a water fountain seeks the sky; but love invariably comes tumbling down just as water does into the pond around it. The only means by which such grave love does not become a mockery and refutation of love's upward striving, is a hypostatic condescension by God which sacramentally infuses His own love into the drooping matter of our world. Thus, there is hope for failed and confused love––hope in Christ who overcame the severest rejection of the greatest love by burrowing with love so deeply into the matter of our world, in the very belly of the earth, that He rose again to generate all new and lasting life. If we unite ourselves to the Sacrament of Divine Condescension (i.e., Christ in the Eucharist), we will find that, upon death, we can evaporate into the heavens and find ourselves transfigured and reunited with our past loves like clouds shimmering in the sun.

I close by asking you to ponder Matthew 3:8–11:

Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Facite ergo fructum dignum pœnitentiæ. Et ne velitis dicere intra vos : Patrem habemus Abraham. Dico enim vobis quoniam potens est Deus de lapidibus istis suscitare filios Abrahæ. Jam enim securis ad radicem arborum posita est. Omnis ergo arbor, quæ non facit fructum bonum, excidetur, et in ignem mittetur. Ego quidem baptizo vos in aqua in pœnitentiam: qui autem post me venturus est, fortior me est, cujus non sum dignus calceamenta portare: ipse vos baptizabit in Spiritu Sancto, et igni.

Sehet zu, tut rechtschaffene Frucht der Buße! Denket nur nicht, daß ihr bei euch wollt sagen: Wir haben Abraham zum Vater. Ich sage euch: Gott vermag dem Abraham aus diesen Steinen Kinder zu erwecken. Es ist schon die Axt den Bäumen an die Wurzel gelegt. Darum, welcher Baum nicht gute Frucht bringt, wird abgehauen und ins Feuer geworfen. Ich taufe euch mit Wasser zur Buße; der aber nach mir kommt, ist stärker denn ich, dem ich nicht genugsam bin, seine Schuhe zu tragen; der wird euch mit dem Heiligen Geist und mit Feuer taufen.

Produzcan frutos que demuestren arrepentimiento. No piensen que podrán alegar: "Tenemos a Abraham por padre." Porque les digo que aun de estas piedras Dios es capaz de darle hijos a Abraham. El hacha ya está puesta a la raíz de los árboles, y todo árbol que no produzca buen fruto será cortado y arrojado al fuego. »Yo los bautizo a ustedes con[b] agua para que se arrepientan. Pero el que viene después de mí es más poderoso que yo, y ni siquiera merezco llevarle las sandalias. Él los bautizará con el Espíritu Santo y con fuego.

你 們 要 結 出 果 子 來 , 與 悔 改 的 心 相 稱 。 不 要 自 己 心 裡 說 : 有 亞 伯 拉 罕 為 我 們 的 祖 宗 。 我 告 訴 你 們 , 神 能 從 這 些 石 頭 中 給 亞 伯 拉 罕 興 起 子 孫 來 。 現 在 斧 子 已 經 放 在 樹 根 上 , 凡 不 結 好 果 子 的 樹 就 砍 下 來 , 丟 在 火 裡 。 我 是 用 水 給 你 們 施 洗 , 叫 你 們 悔 改 。 但 那 在 我 以 後 來 的 , 能 力 比 我 更 大 , 我 就 是 給 他 提 鞋 也 不 配 。 他 要 用 聖 靈 與 火 給 你 們 施 洗 。

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