Love’s Role in Our Lives and Practice
Summarizing This Essay in Five Short Sentences:
- In Christianity, Love means loving God and loving all other people equally. There is no mention of loving Earth and its biosystems.
- In the Practice of Continuing Creation (which is based on Nature, Reason, and Science), Love means taking care of three things equally: (1) The processes of Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction of the Cosmos, (2) the Earth and its biosphere, and (3) people in proportion to their degree of closeness to each of us.
- We naturally Love our friends and families more than strangers who are distant from us in geography and culture.
- It is important to distinguish between Romantic Love, Familial Love, and Creative Love.
- In the Spiritual Practice of Continuing Creation, it is just as worthy to Love our work, interests, causes, and learning as it is to Love people beyond our circle of family and friends.
What is Love?
In Western society, Love most often means a very strong, self-sacrificing care held by one person for another, or held by a person for God (who is usually personified).
Most people in the West would say that Love appears in two ways. The first is display of emotive love, which we show to others through our hugs, sympathetic eyes, and comforting smiles. The second is the sharing of resources – the useful giving of our time, energy, food, shelter, labor, and money.
Most people in the West would also agree that Love is at once the highest virtue, the strongest emotion, and life’s greatest fulfillment. The Practice of Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction of the Cosmos agrees, and for this reason we devote this entire Essay to Love.
Love is unique in several ways. We both receive it and give it. We often receive it and/or give it for its own sake, without any prospect of exchange – “Love is its own reward.” To quote 1 Corinthians 13:13 – “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Christianity holds Love to be the supreme virtue, the virtue that is the foundation for all others. Practitioners of Continuing Creation agree, but first we must enlarge the meaning of Love.
Love is not only a virtue, it is an engine that powers a happy fulfilled life. At the same time, Love itself is often the greatest fulfillment of a life.
The best definition of Love between people is this: “Love is holding hands and telling campfire stories.”
The Book of Continuing Creation’s Definition of “Love”
For Participants in Continuing Creation, “Love” means having deep, dedicated care for and constructive involvement with one or more persons, activities, creatures, causes, avenues of work (art, welding, medicine), interests or activities (astronomy, baseball). We also Love Nature, the Earth, and Life itself (which the French call “joie de vivre”). Finally, we Followers of Our Way practice Creative Love within and for Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction of the Cosmos.
When we love, we often enter a flow state, where our being, in a sense, merges with the object of our love. For Practitioners of Continuing Creation, Love is caring about someone or something as much (or more) than you care about yourself.
All the things and all the events of Life are encompassed within the span of the Processes of Continuing Creation. Therefore, in order to Creatively Love Continuing Creation…first Love Life. The reverse is equally true: Love of Continuing Creation leads us to love our Lives and all the things within them.
The Mammalian Template for Our Human Experience of Love
When any human being thinks of love, we think first of our love for spouses, children, parent. We picture hugs, adoring eyes, kisses, sharing meals and laughter. Our close second vision is of romantic/sexual love. We follow the mammalian template of Love, and that’s as it should be.
Love is not unique to human beings. Dogs love, elephants love, whales love. In fact, almost all mammals love their young (at least until they are grown and independent); many love their mates; and a number of them love their brothers and sisters. 1
Animals of different species may also learn to love each other, particularly if they live in a protected environment. For examples, See “Animal Odd Couples,” from the television series Nature, PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/animal-odd-couples-full-episode/8009/.
Love is the deepest form of interconnection that humans can experience, because it involves not just intellect, but also emotion and great sharing of time, effort, and wealth. Family love especially enlists our genetic drive to pass on our genes. Love makes it possible for human parents to fulfill our children’s needs during their uniquely long period of childhood dependency.
While the sharing of time and resources is limited, human love in the forms of empathy, kindness, and emotional connection can flower and grow over an entire lifetime.
Ants or computers may succeed the human race as principal occupier of Earth, but it’s unlikely that they would have the same capacity for love as humans… or as dogs, elephants, or whales.
The Book of Continuing Creation’s vision of Love calls for different levels of love and concern for the different circles of each person’s acquaintance, and this is consistent with our biological Nature. Usually, we naturally have more love for members of our immediate family than we do for our extended family, and we have even less for strangers who live far from us.
True, a small minority of humans – including Jesus, Saint Francis of Assisi, Gandhi — may elect and succeed in manifesting universal love of all human beings. But their lives should not be held up as the model for the rest of us. If we all became St. Francis of Assisi, no Thomas Edison would have invented the light bulb; no Jonas Salk would have discovered the polio vaccine; (both standing on the shoulders of earlier inventors). Instead, Edison would have become, say, a missionary in Africa; and Salk would have become a monk or an officer in the Salvation Army. Who did Continuing Creation most need: The inventor of the light bulb and the inventor of the polio vaccine, or two more monks?
How the Major Asian Religions Interpret the Concept of Love
— Love in Taoism
Of all the major old religions, Taoism is the most like Our Way of Continuing Creation.
In Stephen Mitchell’s English translation of the ancient Tao Te Ching, the very short foundational text of Taoism, the word “Love” does not appear. The words with the closest meaning that do appear are harmony, simplicity, patience, giving, helping, teaching, nourishing, and compassion. But none of these words are the same as “Love” in the Western sense of Loving God or Loving humankind. note] LaoTsu, Tao Te Ching: A New English Version, translated by Stephen Mitchell,1988, Harper Perennial. [/note]
The Tao, translated into English as the Way, the Flow or the Path, is portrayed as an impersonal force that pervades the universe. Unlike the Western conception of God, The Tao does not communicate directly with people, nor does it proactively “reach out” to influence or persuade people to do certain things. People can “align” themselves with the flow of the Tao, but people don’t “Love” the Tao; nor does the Tao “Love” them.
However, Chapter 10 of the The Tao Te Ching talks about “the Supreme Virtue,” which is close to what we define as “Creative Love” later in this Essay. The Tao’s Supreme Virtue is “Creating for Creation’s sake.”
Giving birth and nourishing,
Having without possessing,
Acting without expectations,
Leading and not trying to control:
This is the supreme virtue.
— Love in Hinduism
Hinduism has different words for different kinds of love. Kāma is the word for selfish or pleasurable love, while prema refers to elevated love. Karuna is compassion and mercy, which impels one to help reduce the suffering of others. Bahkti approaches the Western meaning of Love for God, but it lacks Judeo-Christianity’s intensity. The best translation of Bhakti into English is fondness for, and the following of, an individual’s chosen Hindu deity.
“In the most ancient texts of Hinduism, such as the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, the Sanskrit word bhakti means participation in, devotion to, and love of any endeavor. In the Bhagavad Gita, a later Hindu text, Bhakti connotes one of the possible paths of spirituality and towards moksha, which is the Hinduism’s analogue to Nirvana in Buddhism. In modern common usage, Bhakti means having fondness for and devotion to any one of the hundreds of Hinduism’s major and minor deities. 2 But fondness and devotion are not the same as Love in our intense Western sense of the word Love.
Hinduism says very little about any of its Gods having love for human beings. For most educated Hindus the Gods are essentially avatars that illustrate paths on which humans can learn the dharma (the teaching of the right way of living).
— Love in Buddhism
In Buddhism, there is no Creator God, and no Personal God. The word Love does not appear in any of Buddhism’s 4 Noble Truths; nor in any of the steps of the 8-fold Path, the 5 Precepts, or the 6 Paramitas (Virtues). The closest thing to Love in those lists is the word “Giving,” which is one of the 6 Paramitas. (However, this giving is made primarily to Buddhist monks, not to suffering poor people.)
Why is Buddhism so bereft of spiritual Love? Likely it’s because their ancient authors had a more realistic grasp of the massive amount of suffering endured by people in those times and places. They could not explain how a God could have caused so much suffering, so likely they concluded that suffering “just is.”
The three eastern Religions we have mentioned here (which are the largest in Asia) are more accurately “Ways” (or disciplines) by which humans can mentally transcend the suffering in the world. In Hinduism and Buddhism, meditation and yoga are aids in following those paths.
We should note that the Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism have many parallels with the Path of Continuing Creation. For more discussion of these three major Asian religions, see our Essays on them.
— The Words for Love in Ancient Greece
Western culture has a generalized version of Love as strong attachment to wider, conceptualized categories of things. For example, Love of humanity, Love of art, Love of Nature, Love of God.
The Love of God is a prominent topic in the Old Testament, but it really expands in the New Testament, which was greatly influenced by the Greco-Roman culture of the times. (All the lands surrounding the Mediterranean, including Judea, were governed by the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus and the New Testament.)
According to the Wikipedia entry, Greek words for love, Ancient Greek had at least six distinct words for love: agápe, éros, philía, storgē, pragma, and philautia. However, classics scholar Dr. Matthew Carter remarks that “It has been historically difficult to separate the meanings of these words when used outside of their respective contexts. All can conceivably bear the translation “friendship”, and that of love. They are quite slippery, and not fully distinct. Even the Greeks changed the usage of their words over the centuries.”
Agape, often translated “unconditional Love”, is one of the ancient Greek words translated into English to mean extended, generalized, or universal “Love.”
- The noun form of Agape first occurs in the Septuagint, the earliest extant Greek translation of “Old Testament” scriptures from the original Hebrew and refers to the covenant encompassing God’s Love for humans, and the reciprocal Humans’ Love for God. As a result of this reciprocity, Agape extends to encompass the love that each human being should have for our fellow human beings.
- The verb form of Agape goes as far back as Homer, and is translated literally as affection, as in “greet with affection” and “show affection for the dead.”3 Other ancient authors have used forms of the word to denote love of a spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, in contrast to eros (an affection of a sexual nature).
https://continuingcreation.org/2200-christianity-taught-jesus/Agape is more about a person’s love for humanity as a whole; while the terms Fraternal Love or Brotherly Love usually describes love for specific persons or groups of people… but the distinction is blurred.
Our Book of Continuing Creation will use the term Fraternal Love to mean Love for people outside our circle of family and friends. For us, Fraternal Love also includes love for humanity in general, and for individual animals who live with us or very near us.
Altruism (a word in English) is the practice of concern for the welfare of others. Altruism is Agape and/or Fraternal Love put into action.
— The Abrahamic Religions Focus on Loving God & Humans.
Why don’t they also Focus on Loving Earth?
One reason is that in the times of early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Earth’s entire biosphere was not threatened with destruction by the industrial activities of humankind as it is today. Nor was the world-wide human population as massive as it is today.
Recognizing the environmental danger threatening today’s world is a major reason why we wrote the Book of the Growing, Organizing, Direction which calls for active and equal care for Continuing Creation, Earth’s biosphere, and humanity.
A second reason is that the Abrahamic (“Desert”) Religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — were preached and written by men who had no understanding of modern science, evolution, or emergence. Their vision (their “model”) for God was based on male leaders like the father of a patriarchal family, or the leader of a tribe or city-state.
— Judaism’s Vision of God’s Love
The Jewish concept of God evolves over the 3,000 years of Jewish history. In early Judaism, Yahweh (“Jehovah” is an early English translation) was the tribal God of the Hebrews. Yahweh helped the Tribes of Israel win military battles and received sacrifices of animals burned on the altar. 4
“… in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.”
— Deuteronomy 20:16-17
“If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect…. You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.”
— Leviticus 1: 3 and 9.
Later in Jewish history, Yahweh became a law-giver God. He bestowed the Ten Commandments on Moses, which Moses then used to unify the Twelve Tribes of Israel into one nation. 5
The Jewish people had no right to expect that God should love them: God was all powerful and could do what he wanted to do. However, the people of Israel were expected to love and obey God.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
— Deuteronomy 6:4-5.
So, was Yahweh a loving God in practice? The Old Testament shows that Jehovah was sometimes a loving God, but he was also a strict punisher of disobedient humans and a remorseless God when he led “The Heavenly Host” in battle. Various Gentile enemies of the Hebrews were slaughtered or subjected to plagues and floods. Jehovah also had some very “human” faults. He tolerated slavery and the subjugation of women. He cruelly commanded Abraham to kill his son Isaac, only to reverse his command at the last moment. And Jehovah put his loyal servant Job through living hell just to win a bet with Satan over Job’s righteousness. 6
In other words, Yahweh’s “Love” was the love of a harsh, distant, disciplinarian “father” who also displayed the very “human” faults of imperious narcissism, violent vengeance, and occasional cruelty.
The God we see in the New Testament has had a serious change of heart, a transformation, and is portrayed as manifesting boundless, forgiving Love… as the result of sacrificing His son, Jesus.
— Christianity’s Vision of God’s Love
Christian Love is an “Agape” – a universal Love — among God and all humans. Translated into practical human behavior, this Love means caring for and sharing with disadvantaged people everywhere.
When Christians say that “God loves us,” the image that comes to mind has God embracing us, providing for us, reassuring us. So, when the New Testament says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, it means we are to love God as a child dependently, admiringly, and adoringly as one loves his or her father.
One of them [the Pharisees], an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” — Matthew 22:35-40
As we’ve said, most people recognize Love as the vital emotion that connects romantic couples, or that connects parents and children. Christianity models its love of God, and its commandment to “love your neighbors” on the second of these – the connection between parents and children.
In other words, Christianity’s concept of Love is directly based on our mammalian experience of family love; and, to a much lesser extent, on mystical-romantic love (e.g., Catholic nuns become “brides of Christ” when they take their vows).
Many Christians, when asked to define God, will say, “God is Love.” But Christians can mean different things by this phrase. They may mean that God is mystically both Love and a super-person Creator. Or they may mean that the Super-person Creator radiates love everywhere and all the time. Or, they may mean that there is no super-human creator, only the abstract emotion-virtue-power constellation of Love (which can maybe appear sometimes as a super-human image if the “constellation” wants to). (For more discussion of Christianity, see our Essay, Evaluating Jesus’ Teaching.)
Our own Spiritual Path (which is non-Christian) holds that the Growing, Organizing, Direction of Continuing Creation does not (cannot) Love either individual people or groups of people. Why? Because Continuing Creation is not a super-person, but rather a set of natural, scientific, and historical processes. If there were an anthropomorphic God who Loved us, He or She would not have created or permitted war, cancer, or the parasitic worms that infect human eyes and brains. (For a more complete discussion, see our Essay, Suffering and Evil in Continuing Creation.)
Continuing Creation does not Love us; but can we Love Continuing Creation? Yes — we call this Creative Love, and we experience it whenever we constructively interact with Growing and Organizing Direction. (This includes constructively interacting with other people and Earth’s biosphere, because they are part of Continuing Creation.) Creative Love can feel like the deep involvement an artist has with her art, like successfully rebuilding an engine, growing a garden, or like the soaring connectedness a person may feel while walking along a seashore.
Do Weavers of Our Way think that Continuing Creation is Love? That they are one and the same? No, not in the way Christians do. We hold that the Processes of Continuing Creation, which create and sustain us and everything around us, are not themselves Love.
Continuing Creation’s Vision of Creative Love
For Followers of Continuing Creation, Love is not given, bestowed, or bequeathed to Humans by some God or Higher Power. For us, Love is a deep form of biological cooperation, one that has evolved over the milennia.
The Book of Continuing Creation’s definition of Love is broader than Christianity’s, because it specifically includes and emphasizes people’s dedication to creative and constructive work. As we redefine God to be the Growing, Organizing, Direction so we must widen the scope of Love by including Creative Love.
Take another look at our definition of Love from earlier in this Essay. It contains many different objects of love, different kinds of love. And the Path of Continuing Creation places emphasis on all each of those objects of Love. The last part of this Essay lists and looks at all our Varieties of Love.
Our concept of Creative Love includes loving our work, loving, building, learning, discovery, reform, and invention. Love for us is not focused only on God and humanity. It is focused equally on three things: 1) the processes of Continuing Creation, 2) Earth and Earth’s biosphere, and 3) humanity.
Our best image for Love of Creating, Love of Constructing, might be a photograph of Architect Frank Lloyd Wright at his drafting table, perhaps drawing the elevation view of his masterpiece, the house he named Falling Water. The opening Photo for this Essay — of NASA Control Room people celebrating a Mars landing — demonstrates Love of team, Love of Enterprise, Love of Achievement, Love of Discovery, and Love of Learning… in other words, Love of Continuing Creation itself.
Creating and Building Relationships
When we think about it, we can see that the Our Path’s emphasis on Love as a building and creating activity even applies to our love of family members and friends. When we love a friend, we are building our relationship with that friend.
If we are successful builders, we are also enriching the mind of our friend, by giving him or her such things as knowledge, emotional support, and motivation. This aspect is particularly important in the relationships we have with our children as we “raise” them.
It also works in reverse: the relationship can give us the same sort of things to use in building our minds and character. Lastly, the relationship could have an enormous effect on humanity at large, as when two scientists, inventors, or artists collaborate to build or discover a new thing that is important to everyone.
Note that when individual humans contribute to a relationship, it is an example of parts coming together to make a new and different Whole, which is the essential process of Continuing Creation. These relationships in turn, are the elements that make up larger wholes we call “community” and “society.”
Is the Love that builds a relationship between a mother and a son as important as the Love that builds art, science, or technology — such as the innovative architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright or “building” the science of medicine?
Clearly the mother-son relationship is more important to the mother and the son. But Could the Love that builds a mother-son relationship be more important to humanity in general, and/or to the Progress of Continuing Creation? Well, it is possible that a particular mother-son relationship could lead to amazing discoveries a generation or two in the future.
But in general, the answer would be no: in nearly all instances, the Love that builds art, science, and technology and institutions is more important to humanity (and to Continuing Creation) than the Love that builds personal relationships.
If we are talking not about a personal relationship between family members or friends, but between a person of some means and a needy stranger (e.g., the Love that leads to acts of caring charity) then it is even more often true that the Love that builds art, science, and technology is more important to humanity and to Continuing Creation. Of course, the religion of Christianity, with its doctrine of universal Love, would not agree. (See our Essay: Radical Sharing and Universal Love Don’t Work.)
Is Love Infinitely Expandable? Or Can Love Be Taken to Extremes?
A very strong and persistent love – of any kind – is often called a passion. As in, “They had a passionate love affair,” or “She has a passion for rock-wall climbing.”
Some people say that Love has no end; that Love is boundless and never-ending. Here are three famous quotes to that effect:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”
― 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2.
The Practice of Continuing Creation says — The internal experience of love may well be expandable. For example, St. Francis of Assisi is known for embodying more love than most people. Such a person is said to have a “loving “heart.” We practice Mindfulness in order to expand the reach of our Love to include more of our daily lives. However, the practical extension and application of love is limited by each person’s time, energy, and resources. These are the same things that limit each person’s sharing and charity.
Like most human behaviors, Belonging can be overdone. Extreme pursuit of belonging can lead to incessant but shallow socializing. In today’s age of electronic social media, it is easy to become over-connected to other people, spending hours each day of vapid text messages with shallow friends. It is important to limit this activity and to set boundaries.
The over-extension of Loving presents even greater dangers, including love-addiction, co-dependence, subservience, and cult membership. Of course, it can be well-argued that these experiences are not “true” love.
Creative Love Calls for Action
Note that our definition of Love calls for “positive involvement.” In other words, it calls for action – for constructive, creative work.
When followers of the Abrahamic religions see God anthropomorphically as a person (super-person), they are following the type of Love modeled on children loving a parent — specifically a father-figure. This model of Love limits our understanding.
But when we see continuing Creation as a progression of interrelated positive processes, our understanding is widened to embrace our roles as designers, builders, learners, explorers, and creators within Continuing Creation. In that participatory sense, we can say that Creating is Love-in-action, which we call Creative Love.
Which Came First, Love or the Creation of the Universe?
For people who believe in an anthropocentric Creator-God, Love seems to come before the Creation of the Universe. They hold God existed and loved before he created.
People who follow Our Spiritual Path hold that the Initial Creating (Big Bang, Original Singularity) likely came first. Later, Continuing Creating constructed molecules out of atoms, and Life out of molecules. Still later, our own human varieties of Love, including our ability to Creatively Love emerged after there had been sufficient evolution to creatively generate consciousness. (See our forthcoming Essay on the Evolution of Consciousness.)
Love and the Purpose of Our Individual Lives
For Weavers of Continuing Creation, feeling Love is not the purpose of Life. The supreme goal of Life is helping to achieve the growing and balanced flowering of Continuing Creation. Love-in-action or Creative Love only contributes to achieving that overarching Purpose.
We’ve said that for people who believe in an anthropocentric Creator-God like Jehovah, Love came before Creating: God existed and loved before he created the universe. In this tale, God, being perfect and all powerful, needs no help from humans. So, in heaven we are to be assigned to superfluous, dead-end jobs like God-adoring and praise-singing.
However, unlike God, The Growing, Organizing, Direction use some help, right here on Earth. Because Creation isn’t over – Creation Continues! Humans already play and can continue to play a very big role. In this story, it is a good thing that humans can think thoughts, create designs, and do work. The Growing, Organizing, Direction “needs” to have the biosphere healed, nuclear weapons abandoned, and cancer cured, just to mention a few of the tasks at hand.
Continuing Creation doesn’t “want” humans to play harps in heaven, nor to sing kumbaya around campfires here on Earth (not all the time, anyway). Our role is to think, work, solve problems, and create… and to take occasional breaks for campfire singing and playing soccer! (Plus, truth be told, a month-long vacation each year and a “sabbatical” every six years.)
In fact, Creating is the Purpose of Life, of each individual Human’s Life, according to the Weave of the Universe. The purpose of my Life and yours is to constructively contribute to the Progress of Continuing Creation… in ways that sustain our Biosphere and preserve our human identity, character, and morality. (See J.X. Mason’s Blog Post, My Personal Purpose Driven Life.)
(Note: The Growing, Organizing, Direction could definitely use some help here on Earth. But if we widen Its scope to include all the thousands, maybe millions, of Earth-like planets in the universe, Continuing Creation may be doing just fine on a great many of those planets, all by itself.)
Our List of the Varieties of Love
The English language uses the one word “Love” to cover many different meanings, from the excitement of sexual attraction, to great interest in a particular subject, to the deep connection one can feel with Nature and Continuing Creation. All these types of “Love” are different in important ways.
In the rest of this Essay, we will list out and discuss the many varieties of Love known to us by common phrases in the English language.
Note: The ancient Greeks formulated seven types of love, including Eros and Agape. However, we don’t need to resort to ancient Greek words to name the varieties of love; English will do just fine. Besides, the Greeks’ seven types do not include the type of Love that’s most important for Followers of the Growing, Organizing, Direction, which is Love of Continuing Creation itself (e.g. Love of building, discovering, learning). For more about the Greeks’ seven types of Love, see the footnote to this paragraphb at the end of this Essay.7
— Romantic Love: Attraction; Romance; Sexual Intimacy
Romantic Love, which begins with Romantic Attraction, has overtones of gallantry and courtship, which evidence the male’s ideal respect for the “purity” and “honor” of the female. Historically, the term romance originates with the medieval ideal of chivalry as set out in the literature of chivalric romance.
Passionate Love does not always entail sexual involvement; and sexual involvement does not always include Romance.
Unrequited Romantic Love happens when the intended partner doesn’t feel Love or doesn’t return it. When unrequited love is clearly “off-base,” (e.g. when a 10-year-old is romantically attracted to a 30-year- old) we called it infatuation.
Here’s are the lyrics to a classic modern song about romantic love:
My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you
Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
…. I only have eyes for you… dear
The moon may be high
But I can’t see a thing in the sky
…. ‘Cause I only have eyes for you
I don’t know if we’re in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
You are here… so am I
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
…. And I only have eyes for you!
— I Only Have Eyes For You; song written by Al Dubin and Harry Warren (1934)
— Pair-Bonding Love; Companionate Love; Life Partners Love
Studies show that Passionate love and Romantic love are fleeting. They may be reinforced by Companionate or Pair-bonding Love. In fact, over a number of years Companionate Love often supplants the Romantic Love.
Pair-bonding or Companionate Love is the deep affection we feel for the Life Partner with whom our life is entwined. It is more about sharing responsibilities, resources, goals, activities than it is about sharing romance. In contrast to Romantic Love, studies show that Companionate Love can grow and deepen over the years. 8
Note: A similar but more elaborate model of Love created by psychologist Robert Sternberg talks about “Consummate” Love, as the ideal state of love for paired couples. Consummate Love combines high levels of “intimacy (i.e., liking),” “passion,” and “commitment.” 9
Over the centuries, countless novels and songs have been written about couples’ struggles with the commitment required for Companionate Love. Here are part of the lyrics from one such song, Desperado, recorded by both the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt:
Desperado, oh, you ain’t gettin’ no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they’re drivin’ you home
And freedom… oh freedom… well, that’s just some people talkin’
Your prison is walkin’ through this world all alone
Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine
It’s hard to tell the night time from the day
You’re losin’ all your highs and lows
Ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away?
Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you
(Let somebody love you)
You better let somebody love you
Before it’s too late.
– Desperado – Song written by Glenn Lewis Frey and Don Henley, 1973
Family Varieties of Love
“Family Varieties of Love” include the Love between parents and children, and the Love between siblings. Family love can also include cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, adopted wards, and even very close friends if they have frequent and close involvement with a nuclear family.
— Motherly Love
Human brains have a dedicated system just for the Love between mother and child, because this kind of Love is vitally necessary for the survival and development of children. Human adults have very large brains, much too large to get through a mother’s birth canal. Human infants must pass through the birth canal long before their brains are fully-formed. Therefore, humans have long childhoods during which their brains are not yet developed enough for the children to survive on their own. In fact, in humans the mother’s burden of care is so heavy that the fathers are enlisted to help with the child-rearing; which is true of no other mammal species to any great degree. In the language of evolutionary science, there has been co-evolution among “active fathers, male-female pair-bonds, male sexual jealousy, and big-headed babies.” 10.
Our human experience of Motherly Love is so strong that when we see baby mammals or pictures of baby mammals, we immediately smile and proclaim how “cute” they are. Human children will themselves model the love of their own mothers by doting on and carrying baby dolls wherever they go.
— Familial Love and Devotion
Familial Love is the deep caring that parents ideally have for their children; the adoration that children have for their parents and grandparents, and that siblings often (but not always) have for each other. Familial love often includes love for family pet animals, and even the stuffed toys that young children may love as imaginary family members.
Human relationships are formed in concentric circles, with the self at the center. Moving outward from the central self are the circles of immediate family, extended family, kin, tribe, neighbors, communities, nations, and all humanity. It is biologically natural that we care more for the circles closest to the center, and less for the circles farther out.
Our genes have evolved to create each of us – our minds and our bodies — in a way that optimizes the genes’ chance of survival through reproduction. If I die before I mate and reproduce, my genes fail to get passed on. However, my brother’s genes, which are very similar to mine, still have a chance if he survives me. Therefore, the family genes have the best chance of replicating themselves if my brother and I hunt as a team, share food, and fight our enemies together. 11
To express the principle negatively, we have the old Bedouin saying: “I against my brothers; I and my brothers against my cousins; and I and my brothers and my cousins against the world.”
In contrast, the thrust of Jesus’ teaching is to have us give Love equally to all people, regardless of the concentric circle they occupy. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In fact, Jesus was so dedicated to this extension of Love that he actually encouraged his followers to “Abandon your families, you twelve disciples, and follow me. Share all that you have with the poor.”
Followers of Continuing Creation think that this message from Jesus is unrealistic. It is too much about distant human relationships – share all that you have; show compassion at every turn. The obligations of a man or a woman are first and foremost to take care of their own children. This practical truth was restored to Christianity in the writings of the Apostle Paul, who had a far better grasp of human nature than did the revolutionary dreamer, Jesus of Nazareth. (See our Essay, Evaluating Jesus’ Teaching.)
Social Varieties of Love
By “Social Varieties of Love,” we mean human attachments to people and groups of people that are outside our circles of family and close friends. For most people, social interaction is seldom intense enough to be a variety of Love, but all people can experience it intensely under the right conditions.
- In sports, great coaches teach Love of our teammates, and Love of the game.
- In industry, it is Love of doing, building, and providing that motivates people to create.
- In the military, a strong fraternal love motivates soldiers to “leave no one behind.”
- In society, Love of reforming and improving institutions leads to justice and opportunity.
— Friendship Love
According to decades of research, strong relationships increase a person’s happiness – good marriages, loved and loving parents, siblings, and children, close friends. (Click on the link below to watch a Ted Talk by
Robert Waldinger, What Makes a Good Life: Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness, 2015, Ted Talk. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/)
“The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are in the wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are in the right. The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.” – Mark Twain
“A Friend is someone who helps you when you are down; and it they can’t, they lay down beside you and listen.” – Winne the Pooh
According to Dr. Haidt, studies also show that having social relationships “strengthens the immune system, extends life, speeds recovery from surgery, and reduces the risks of depression and anxiety disorders.” 12
— Fraternal Love: Group, Team, and Community Love
Fraternal Love (i.e., Group, Team, and Community Love) is the feeling of friendship, support, and understanding between people outside their life-partnerships and immediate families. We are talking here about what most people call the Sense of Belonging, Fraternal, or Brotherly Love. (Ironically, “Brotherly” Love does not include the love we usually have for our actual brothers and sisters, which is a far stronger and more intimate kind of love. Therefore, we use the term “Fraternal Love” instead of Brotherly Love)
Examples of fraternity are the close bonding of people in athletic teams and small military units. In combat, soldiers will often sacrifice their own lives to save the lives of their brothers-and-sisters-in-arms. A weaker version of Fraternal Love takes place among the members of actual fraternities and sororities.
Humans also have a sense of belonging with animals and plants. It is important for people to have fraternity with dogs, cats, giraffes and all the other animals, and to varying degrees it is possible for animals to have Fraternal Love for people in return. In fact, there are many examples of animals from different species developing close friendships with each other.
Psychologists now understand that the number one contributor to life satisfaction is coordinated effort with other people. Why is this need for cooperation built into us by evolution? Because most people can build and create much more as a team than they can as individuals. 13
Belonging and Fraternal Love, like all types of Love, has evolved out of cooperation. The very early forms of cooperation include single cells clumping together to achieve a common purpose, such as safety in numbers. (See our discussion of the slime mold and other organisms in our Essay, Complexity and Continuing Creation.)
Human beings are social animals. Wolves, elephants, dolphins, ants, bees, and termites are as well. Social animals usually suffer when they are removed from their societies. As the noted physician and author Lewis Thomas writes:
“As soon as [termites] are removed from the group, and the touching from all sides comes to an end, they become aggressive, standoffish; they begin drinking compulsively, and abstain from touching each other. Sometimes, they even bite off the distal halves of each other’s antennae…”
— Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, 1974, Bantam Book, Viking Press, P.63.
“Something like this has happened to the Ilks, formerly nomadic hunters and gatherers in the mountain valleys of northern Uganda. Removed by the government to make way for a national park, they were forced to become farmers on poor soil. According to an anthropologist who visited them in their new location, the Ilks had become “brutish creatures, totally selfish and loveless, in response to the dismantling of their culture. Although they physically live together in small dense villages, they “are really solitary, unrelated individuals with no evident use for each other…They talk, but only to make ill-tempered demands and cold refusals. They share nothing. They never sing. They turn the children out to forage as soon as they can, and the foraging children snatch food from the mouths of the helpless elders. They breed without love or even casual regard. They defecate on each other’s doorsteps. They watch their neighbors for signs of misfortune, and only then do they laugh.”
— Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell, p. 131.
— Generalized Affection for Humanity (Agape)
The Book of The Growing, Organizing, Direction holds that for most people it is not possible or advisable to “Love thy fellow neighbor [as much] as thyself.” However, it is possible to hold a milder Affection for Humanity in General. This affection is also called Altruistic Humanism, or Agape (the ancient Greek word we discussed earlier in this Essay).
Note: Altruistic Humanism is poorly called “brotherly love,” because it tries, but largely fails to extend the strong love we can have for actual brothers and sisters outward to encompass strangers. In that extension, the Love is diluted into affection. Similarly, we will share out all our food with our immediate family members, but not with the whole world population.
In ancient Greek, Agape, as we said earlier, originally meant generalized affection for humanity. As such, it cannot substitute for the companionate love of specific, well-known people in our lives. Family members, close friends. “Family values” are very much part of the Our Spiritual Way. 14
Some people, however, can and do demonstrate a heightened involvement, or even life-central concern and charity for humanity. This motivates them to devote much of their live to eradicating malaria, educating the poor, campaigning for women’s rights. When their involvement is that intense, it can surely be a kind of Love, in the same way that a serious musician Loves music.
Love of Earth, or Biospheric Altruism
On the Path of Continuing Creation, we strive to have and demonstrate Agape not just for all humans, but also for all the plants and animals on Earth.
Another name for this is Love is Earthship, or Altruistic Earthship. “Earthship” is the heightened, often life-central concern and charity people may have for our biosphere, climate, species diversity, and ecology. Earthship means being a citizen in the ecology of the Earth.
Many of us will devote a large portion of their lives to a heightened involvement – Love – with Nature and her living things.
“The oldest, easiest-to-swallow idea [about our planet] was that the Earth was man’s personal property, a combination of garden, zoo, bank vault, and energy source, placed at our disposal to be consumed, ornamented, or pulled apart as we wished….
… [Now we know] that we are not the masters of nature that we thought ourselves; we are as dependent on the rest of life as are the leaves or midges or fish. We are part of the system. One way to put it is that the Earth is a loosely formed, spherical organism, with all its working parts linked in symbiosis. We are, in this view, neither owners or operators; at best, we might see ourselves as motile tissue specialized for receiving information – perhaps, in the best of all possible worlds, functioning as a nervous system of the whole being.” — Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, Page 122.
Love of Ideals and Causes
A heightened, constructive involvement (Love) of Humanity or the Biosphere often takes the form of dedication to (Love-in-action with) a specific cause or ideal.
Patriotism is another example of Love of Ideals and Causes. Here is a quote from a famous letter written by Union Army Major Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah on July 14, 1861, the eve of the First Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War. The major was killed in that battle:
“I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in this hazarding the happiness of those I loved, and I could not find one. A pure love of my country, and of the principles I have often advocated before the people, and “the name of honor, that I love more than I fear death,” have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
“Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with mighty cables, that nothing but Omnipotence can break; and yet, my love of country comes over me like a strong wind, and bears me irresistibly on with all those chains, to the battlefield.”
(Note: The full letter can be read at https://www.nps.gov/resources/story.htm%3Fid%3D253.)
Varieties of Creative Love
Creative Loves are active. They are all acts of building, improving, and working.
Creative varieties of Love include Love of a profession, craft, activity, or interest. Love of learning is included among those activities. Many people enjoy a great involvement in endeavors such as music, science, tennis, coin collecting, politics, history, gardening, sailing.
Many Creative Loves take place during a person’s work, including Love of nursing, welding, cooking, designing, carpentry, programming, farming, forestry, and countless other examples.
“The artist produces for the liberation of his soul. It is his nature to create as it is the nature of water to run down the hill.”
— Somerset Maugham
“I know the purpose of life: The purpose of life is to create and the by-product is happiness. To create: Everyone does it, some at the instinct level, others in the arts. My personal definition… includes every waking activity of the human being; to have a creative attitude towards things is a more exact meaning, to live and deal with human beings, which to me means seeing the God [G>O>D>] in them…”
— “He Who Loses His Life,” Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Ed. p. 535.
“A great building must begin with the unmeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed, and in the end must be unmeasurable.”
— Louis Kahn, Architect
“The people I love the best
jump into work headfirst
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight…
“…The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
— Marge Piercy, To Be of Use, from Circles of Water, 1982.
Transcendent Wholistic Love
In the Way of G>O>D>, we know that Continuing Creation is the Whole of all Wholes; and we know that every whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Therefore, our Love of (positive constructive involvement with) Continuing Creation can be described as Transcendent Wholistic Love. 15 It is analogous to the Love that members of the Desert Religions feel for God.
Transcending Connection is the feeling of spiritual unification with the Growing>Organizing>Direction> of the Universe, in all its forms – Nature, God, Cosmic Evolution, the Great Spirit, and many other names.
Transcending Wholistic Love can be experienced in at least four different ways:
Love of Nature
Love of Nature includes love of animals, love of forests, love of all living things, and love of the ecosystems that link all of them together to form Earth’s biosphere.
As Frank Lloyd Wright said, “I believe in God, only I spell it N-a-t-u-r-e.”
Naturalist John Muir said it like this:
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” — John Muir, Our National Parks (1901).
“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of the sun,— a part of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal.” John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (1911).
Love of the Earth; Love of Gaia
On this topic, we also can’t do better than to quote John Muir:
“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.” — from John of the Mountains (1938)
“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” — from Travels in Alaska (1915)
Love of Life (joie de vivre)!
What is Love of Life, joie de vivre? It is the daily habit of gratitude and positive attitude. It is fully appreciating “the now” when you are looking at the now; and fully savoring the past when you are looking at the past. It is taking the best action you can… and leaving the results up to the processes of the Growing, Organizing, Direction.
Here are three quotations which capture joie de vivre, the Joyful strategy for Living Life:
“Sing like no one is listening,
Love like you’ve never been hurt,
Dance like nobody is watching, and
Live like it’s heaven on Earth.”
– Mark Twain
“Grab your coat
And get your hat
Leave your worries on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
On the sunny side of the street”
— The Sunny Side of the Street, song written by Fields & McHugh
“To us and our good fortune!
Be happy! Be healthy! Long Life!
And if good fortune never comes,
Here’s to whatever comes.
Drink, l’chaim, to Life.”
Drink, l’chaim, to Life!” –
— “L’chaim,” song by Lewis Block Jerrold and Sheldon Harnick — from Fiddler on the Roof
Love of Continuing Creation: The Growing, Organizing, Direction of the Universe
Transcendent Wholistic Love has been called the love of God, the One, the Great Spirit, Allah, the Tao, the Alpha and Omega, the Whole of All Wholes and by many other names.
We Co-Creators in The Growing, Organizing, Direction, maintain that Transcendent Wholistic Love is positive, loving care for, and constructive involvement with, the Continuing Creation.
We are all created through the processes of Continuing Creation. If we define “Creative Love” as positive, constructive interaction, then it is true that Continuing Creation Interacts with us, and we with It.
Transcendent, Wholistic Love encompasses everything, because G>O>D> encompasses everything. That includes generalized affection for humanity and caring love for the biosphere.
However, a human being’s time, energy and resources are limited, and those limitations place real-world limitations on the scope of our Love-in-action.
How does Transcendent Love feel? Here’s how the father of American Transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, described it in his classic book, Nature:
“Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball — I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me — I am part or particle of God. The name of the nearest friend sounds then foreign and accidental: to be brothers, to be acquaintances-master or servant, is then a trifle, and a disturbance. I am a lover of uncontained and immortal beauty.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, 1836, James Munroe and Company
In older religions, saints, hermits, Christian monks and nuns, Buddhist monks, Hindu Sahdus, Sufi Muslim Dervishes, and assorted adepts worldwide would spend (and do spend) an adult lifetime pursuing states of spiritual rapture – a kind of joyful merging with God that has overtones of romantic and intimate love.
However, Our Practice says we should not devote that much time in a state of spiritual ecstasy, because persons in that condition contribute little to family, friends, humanity in general, the biosphere, or the progress of Continuing Creation.
The Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson (quoted just above) and his protégé Henry David Thoreau, did not spend their lives meditating and trying to dissolve themselves in rapture. Instead, Emerson published dozens of widely read essays and gave more than 1500 public lectures across the United Sates. Thoreau wrote the classic Walden Pond and many other works, participated in the Underground Railroad, and later in life ran a highly successful pencil factory, where he revolutionized the manufacture of wooden pencils. Both Emerson and Thoreau were thinking persons of action. That’s why American Transcendentalism is a forerunner of our Spiritual Path of Continuing Creation.
- Vicki Croke, “Animals Do Have Emotions, But What Should We Call Them?” 8/28/14, WBUR’s The Wild Life.
- Wikipedia entry for “bhakti.” References: Monier-Williams, Sanskrit Dictionary, 1899. Also, Bhakti, Encyclopedia Britannica (2009). Also, Karen Pechelis (2011), “Bhakti Traditions,” in The Continuum Companion to Hindu Studies (Editors: Jessica Frazier, Gavin Flood), Bloomsbury, ISBN 978-0826499660, pages 107-121. Lastly, John Lochtefeld (2014), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Rosen Publishing (New York), ISBN 978-0823922871, pages 98-100.
- Henry George Liddell; Robert Scott, A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon,1901, Clarendon Press. p. 6.
- Jo Ann Hackett, “‘There Was No King in Israel’: The Era of the Judges,” in Michael D. Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 2001, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-513937-2.
- The Ten Commandments, sermon by the Reverend Mark Edmiston-Lange, Minister of the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church, Houston, Texas, circa 1998.
- See the Book of Job in the Old Testament.
- Based on reading Plato and Aristotle, and on J.A. Lee’s, Colours of Love, 1973, New Press, the seven types of Love in Ancient Greece were: eros (sexual, passionate, romantic love); philia (friendship); storge (familial love), agape (universal love, e.g. for humanity, nature, or God); ludus (playful, uncommitted love); pragma (practical love based on shared goals, compatibilities); and philautia (self-love, which can be bad as in hubris, or good as in self-esteem).
- Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis, 2006, Basic Books, pp.126-127.
- Robert Sternberg, Cupid’s Arrow – the Course of Love through Time, 1998, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47893-6.
- Jonathan Haidt, Ibid, pp. 112-3.
- Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 1976, Oxford University Press.
- Jonathan Haidt, Ibid. p.133.
- Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary, “The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation,” Psychological Bulletin, 117 (1995): pp. 497-529. See also Alex Pentland, “The New Science of Building Great Teams,” Harvard Business Review, April 2012, accessed August 2, 2017, https://hbr.org/2012/04/the-new-science-of-building-great-teams.
- Jonathan Haidt, Ibid. p. 131.
- Some dictionaries say that the only correct rendition of the word “wholistic” is “holistic.” However, other dictionaries say that both “wholistic” and “holistic” are correct, but they have very different meanings. Specifically, these latter sources say that “holistic” has to do almost exclusively with methods of “natural healing.” The Book of G>O>D> elects to use “wholistic,” because we are talking about wholes.