01-07-2013 - Traces, n. 7

inside america

“Love is Love”
After the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act, a tweet by President Obama celebrated the new openness to “love.” But, beyond these “emotional ethics,” the nature of love can only be understood in the experience of truth–about the world and about ourselves.

by lorenzo albacete

If you look up, on the Internet, you will find that the saying “Love is love” has a rather complex history and variety of meanings. Among these, it has become an expression used by gay men and lesbians to defend their demand for the legalization of same-sex marriage. That is why President Obama’s use of it in a tweet to those celebrating the Supreme Court’s decisions in favor of same-sex marriage was seen as a “clever” conclusion to his informal message.
Perhaps that was not the President’s intention, but that was how many interpreted it. No one thought that President Obama was inviting all to a philosophical reflection on the nature of love. I think the President meant for it to be at the level of what can be called “emotional ethics,” such as Anita’s words in West Side Story: “When love comes so strong, there is no right or wrong. Your love is your life!”
That, in any case, is how it is being interpreted by those who want it to rise above triviality.

In response to this situation, it is worthwhile to examine  another quote, this from Pope Francis’ first encyclical, The Light of Faith (LF 27), which came out around the same time, just after the President’s remarks on love: “Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal, and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives. The truth we seek, the truth that gives meaning to our journey through life, enlightens us whenever we are touched by love. One who loves realizes that love is an experience of truth, that it opens our eyes to see reality in a new way, in union with the beloved. In this sense, Saint Gregory the Great could write that amor ipse notitia est, love is itself a kind of knowledge possessed of its own logic.”
Having discussed the relation between faith, knowledge, and truth, the Pope is focusing on the relationship between love and truth. The nature of love can only be experienced in this context: love needs truth, and truth needs love.
He calls it a relational way of viewing the world which becomes a form of shared knowledge. It is vision through the eyes of another; a shared view of all that exists.
This is a crucial observation. Although insisting on the link between love and faith, this faith is not a cold knowledge of another world. It is knowing the truth of this world, above all the truth about ourselves, the truth about how we are made, about what it means to be a human person, about the human heart–a truth engraved in us whether we are believers or not.

Pope Francis remembers the commentary on the Song of Songs made by William of St. Thierry, where the lover says: “Your eyes are doves.” William sees the two eyes as “faith-filled reason” and love. Through our contemplation of God, these come closer and closer together and love becomes a source of knowledge of reality, not pure emotion subject to endless changes. Thus is revealed the fidelity of love, of God’s love for us and ours for Him.
The Pope doesn’t hesitate to say that the basis of this experience is part of the primordial experience of every man and woman, and it is to this primordial experience that the Gospel proposes to all the view of love which we have discovered in Christ.
Now compare again our two quotes from Obama and Francis.
Maybe we can bring them together. It’s a matter of a minor adjustment on the letter “L”–instead of Love is love, we have found that love is Love.