As I’ve been branching out into creative writing, I also have felt a pull to move toward other sorts of writing. I’m going to try my best to keep these essays non-political and positive, or at least not negative and spiteful.
Since this blog is no longer strictly about games, I feel that it’s a good time to diversify, since a lot of the work I’m doing on my game projects is strictly in the background.
Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Without love, people don’t do much. That sounds like a bit of a bold statement, but I can explain it, so don’t worry yet.
Much of who we are as people is shown in archetypes; elements of stories and psyches that get repeated over and over because of our biology, society, and circumstances. This is the reason why we study literature and creative works, and why we have such strong emotional payoffs for doing so. We learn through stories, and in stories we can fill our psychological needs for certain emotions and experiences without having to go through them ourselves.
This vicarious lifestyle is important to us. Every great story plays on the archetypes we have integrated in our minds, and love is one of the most powerful stories, from the Christ story to modern Hollywood cinema, the notion of love is one that gets discussed in every way.
And the ways we discuss love are all elements of its power.
Of course, we don’t always treat love positively. Even Shakespeare, often considered a great poet for romance, spoke cautiously of it in the story of Romeo and his lover Juliet, who managed to leave a trail of bodies in the wake of their suicidal affair.
But even this dangerous, damaging love changed the world.
Why is love powerful? Because people are creatures of inertia. We live in our own little worlds, isolated from causes and people because of how our physical perception of existence works. At best, without some tricksy philosophical and psychological games, we see and rationalize the exterior of people.
That’s enough to inspire us sometimes, but usually only to short-sighted survival related tasks.
And just getting by isn’t.
Love is the force that makes us undertake great endeavors.
Love is the nuclear bond between families that makes them sacred, the way that we sacrifice ourselves for the greater good, the way we can ultimately improve ourselves.
If we don’t love ourselves, we destroy ourselves. If we don’t love others, we destroy them. It’s the nature of a world where resources and time are first-come first-serve and irreplaceable.
It takes a power greater than will to change. Will alone can do quite a bit, but the ego exists only to react to stimulus. It can, occasionally, approximate some implementation of change, even positive change. But the ego is concerned with the self, and the self is concerned with staying the same as it is, or avoiding a state that it knows will lead to destruction (but not a state that it knows won’t lead to greatest success—that might require sacrifices that are too odious and so many changes that the ego might balk and back down, not willing to annihilate itself in the transfiguration).
One of the greatest enemies of love is pride in the self, what we would typically call hubris. Pride destroys both self-love and the love of others, because it is the manifestation of the ego’s self preservation writ large.
Pride is denial and self-deception, the unwillingness to confront flaws. It’s possible to have pride in others and not tempt damnation. Pride in oneself is sin—concentrated moral failure—in its purest form.
Love, on the other hand, sees fault in everything.
If that sounds terrifying, it is.
Love is the desire to come together and grow. With love, faults are recognized, and then fixed. In self-love, this takes the form of fighting against flaws (not the “demons afflicting good people” that are so commonly talked about in greeting-card psychology, but the actual deep core flaws in our natures).
When you love someone else, however, you want to work on improving them and making them all they can be.
In the shallowness of everyday life, and the flawed linguistic space of English, we have often forgotten what love really means. We do not “love” a cheeseburger, even if it is prepared in such a sublime manner that it provokes contemplations of the divine.
The true nature of love, however, is to be willing to sacrifice without foreseeable gain to the ego.
This may even mean changing the ego by altering lifestyle and worldview.
The Bible has a verse that says: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
That passage has been included in countless epitaphs, but it doesn’t necessarily refer to death. In fact, the original language comes from a passage in which instruction is being given to Christians, and includes following text that implies that people will be very much alive.
The Christian metaphor of being “born again” also applies here, since it ties in nicely to the notion of sacrifice: to be born again, the old life has to end, perhaps even in a metaphorical death.
This image is carried out across countless stories in the form of archetypes. Our greatest heroes sacrifice themselves for love: it is a source of inspiration and of madness.
And to that extent, love has its limits. A bad love can be destructive; pride, for instance, is often viewed as a sort of love of the current self, and becomes that resistance to change. Falling in love with notional ideas instead of truly loving other people and helping them grow is another problem that people face.
But by and large, we live in a flawed world. People who remember that have only two options: despair or love.
And despair is a dark place.
Despair ends in drowned livers and broken marriages. Pride may be the greatest manifestation of sin, but despair is the greatest manifestation of its consequences.
Love is our only hope. When we give love truthfully and honestly, pouring it to everyone we meet, without considering whether it is going to benefit us—without the attachments of desire—we enable ourselves to grow, and we make the world a better place.
That is a quest worth undertaking.