Manuel Ruiz Torres
Love is one of the most natural realities of the human being. It is the basis and foundation of a lot of behaviours and emotions and it guides the most important decisions of anyone of us.
A proof of its polyhedrical reality is the variety of meanings that the word ”love” has in the Royal Spanish Academy dictionary. Some of the most used are:
‘‘Intense feeling of the human being that, beginning with its own incompetency, needs and looks for the meeting and union with another human being.’’
‘‘Feeling towards another person that attracts us naturally and that, giving reciprocity in the desire for union, completes us, makes us happy and gives energy for living together, communicating between us and creating.’’
‘‘Feeling of fondness, inclination and surrender to someone or something.’’
‘‘Tendency to sexual union.’’
‘‘Care with which a work is made, delighting in doing it.’’
The objective of this article is making a short journey through the different ways in which love has influenced and goes on
influencing our life at the level of human species as well as at the personal level in anyone of us.
To make this journey we have to know how to recognize the trace of love in so many different fields and how to identify its presence. For that, we can use a common feature to some of the definitions given by the RSA: love tends towards union, unity and completion.
So altruism, generosity, tenderness, compassion, solidarity, interest, fondness, concord and courtesy are some of many ways of behaviour that have as basis a tendency towards union, love, the feeling of attraction and search as the RSA says.
Alot of these attitudes and behaviours have been fundamental in the long evolutional path that has led us to the present-day humanity. The evolution of our species has been articulated around two processes: hominization and humanization. Both are intimatel and surely have been produced in a combined way. The first one implies all the process of acquisition of the typically human morphology all millions of years long. For its part, the humanization has consisted of all the process
of acquisition of our behaviour and all the elements that make possible the appearance of culture.
In all that incessant evolution for millions of years, a series of different behaviours were appearing that have turned out to be essential for reaching the modern human being. It is about the ability of mutual help, altruism and empathy.
There are more than a hundred of proofs in fossils, some one million and a half years ago, in which it is revealed the existence of cares of ill persons and that they would show the appearance of altruism. This ability has been consolidating along the evolutional process and nowadays many experiences made with babies until one and a half years old reveal that the altruistic behavior and the empathy are innate.
Until a few decades ago it was thought that the human being is essentially selfish and that any way of mutual help attitude is a cultural patina. Today it is been accepted, according to the discoveries, that it is inside out. We are born with an innate tendency to behaving according to altruistic standards and inclined to the good of the rest of the people.
This natural tendency to the mutual help has been one of the clues of our evolution. The competitiveness is not what let us getting over the crisis situations but the coop eration. The implied selfishness in the survival instinct lets us survive in infrahuman conditions. But the mutual help and the altruism are the best tricks for managing a difficult situation.
In all these behaviours of cooperation, mutual help and altruism that have modelled the human society in our evolution, it is possible recognize a way of love, a way of unity.
The other great field where can be recognized and traced the effect of love in the evolution is at individual level. In this case we don´t talk about a evolution as species but the possibility of improvement and individual development, although the two settings: the individual one and the one of the Humanity as a whole are really intimately related, because it cannot take place an evolutional process in the Humanity without the individual progress.
At the person level, the effect of love can be recognized in different individual settings and the Philosophy is going to help us to identify them.
For example, many classic authors have established a narrow link between love and beauty. Human beings, along the humanization process mentioned before, have developed many sensibilities. One of them is the ability of recognize beauty.
All of us can find beauty around us: in nature, its living beings and its landscapes; in Art, in people, in a professional or handmade activity, in words, in Music, in imagination, in ideas. There is not a definite formula for beauty and each one perceives it in a different way, but in all of us produces an effect, attracts us. And when we perceive beauty in a repeated
way, it produces us a very special and very human feeling. It produces falling in love. A way of love towards that where we perceive beauty takes roots in us, that attract us and we look for its permanent presence. That´s how love between persons, a professional vocation, the pleasure for art or music, love for nature, etc… appears.
Plato made come out the quality of Beauty from the Beautiful, spiritual reality that close to the Good, the Right and the True, conform the archetypes, the first sources of all the models and representations. The philosopher of the Academy assures that the archetypes are comparable between them, that´s to say, that something beautiful includes in itself something good, has something of true and it is in some measurement in harmony with the laws of Nature.
From all the archetypes, Beauty is the only which can be perceived indistinctly by the Intellect or by the senses and the love that awakes becomes in a channel of interior improvement, because from the perception of the beautiful we can reach to know the true, the good and the adapted to the natural laws. This is a channel of moral improvement. This way of love that takes us to perceive these ideals makes us easy to be better. If I appreciate the beautiful, the good, the right and the true, I predispose myself to activate a lot of abilities and interior values relate to these spiritual ideals, such as goodness, harmony, balance, enthusiasm, perseverance and others.
Another individual setting where it is possible recognizing the improving character of love is in its side as an impulse that takes someone to look for what it´s missing. This idea is represented by Hesiodo in his Theogony when he talks about that at the beginning, before than any other thing or living being, there were three powers: Chaos (where all that it is possible is
contained), Gea or the gestated power and Eros or the Primordial Love, being the last one who created the polarities and gave the quality of movement for looking for the opposite.
This other quality of love, the one of looking for the part that it´s missing, is the impulse that leads to a constant investigation, a permanent search of that part that we don´t have yet for being full. In this way, love contributes powerfully to see us more complete.
Love is also the primordial basis of whole series of behaviours and feelings that are the basis of living together. The
concord, the courtesy, the search of the common good, the solidarity are the cement of the tendency to the fraternity for developing the living together.
Living together is the way of relation more human in a society, because it lets the inclusion of all the persons in the possibility of live and let living. Living together is the setting in which all the values that we can develop in our interior life are tested because it requires tolerance and respect towards the other, but also commitment and a certain degree of fidelity to the whole. And love in its different ways mentioned before is a powerful catalyst of this process.
The necessity of living together in any society has bien shown in the moral norms of behaviour of all the great religions, which emphasize the importance of behaving with the other as we want to be treated by the other. In this respect, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Confucionism, Judaism, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism have very similar statement for this golden norm.
By all these mentioned channels love gives happiness. Feeling more complete thanks to any of the described settings, by the moral improvement, the perception of Beauty, the search of something that it is missing or living together, makes us happier. And happiness is the good that the human being looks for. It is appreciated in itself, but also it is a
source of health.
We can state that love also gives health, activating a group of mechanisms that lead to the welfare. Each time there are more proofs about how state of minds based on fondness, compassion, desire of goodness and the own feeling of happiness disactivate the estres and anxiety situations through different routes, that include the modulation of the nervous system, immune system and including the epigenetic activity, activating and disactivating the genic expression.
As it has been said before, the experience of love through any of its expressions leads to unity. Generosity, altruism, concord, fondness, affection, tenderness, mutual help, living together, courtesy, compassion, vocation, experience of beauty and the rest of the archetypes, empathy, goodness, confidence, determination, fidelity and so many others behaviours and feelings that have as basis love in some measure, lead to union and unity. And these are the clues for the recognition of the spiritual being. In the opinion of a lot of great masters and thinkers, one of the ways for recognizing if a
decision, an action is in harmony with the spiritual, it is verifying that it leads to unity. And vice versa, everything that tends to division and fracture, keep away from the spiritual. Unity is not uniformity and requires from the multiplicity for being able to reach to everybody, that is why is so important love as a channel of integration of multiple and different. So, love under any of its multiple sides,it is above all, a direct channel to spiritual development.
In short, we need love in all its sides for aspiring to a full development as human beings and the construction of societies up to all the necessities (from the material ones to the spiritual ones) of its citizens. We need all the forms of love for, being on tiptoe, reaching the sky of the ideas and eternal realities.