Our Deepest Loves Cannot & Do Not Err

Provided they spring honestly from motives of true charity, and to the extent that we are sane, our deepest loves must point toward reals. They must be reliable guides, or they would interfere with survival, and we would not have them.

So then also likewise with our deepest sorrows.

Notice that all those deepest, truest loves, and greatest most painful sorrows, turn out to be about – to be of, and for, and toward – other persons. This is clear enough when we look back on the great tragedies of our personal lives with family and friends; on death, parting, irreconciliation, heartbreak, loss, personal failure, alienation, loneliness. Yet even the love we feel for a particular place or, say, an institution, or a tradition, or a way of thought or practice, or a work of art, must I would argue be at bottom a love for the life of a person. Things can be important only insofar as they are taken up as such in the lives of persons; so whatever we deem important must be such only in virtue of its importance to persons, as aspects of their lives.

And it would be inapposite to characterize our deepest loves and sorrows as concerned only with their importance to our own persons; for, that would be to contradict the very notion of love, and render it only, and nothing but, a sordid omphaloskepsis. That would be to betray love; to eliminate it, and leave behind only lust, avarice, gluttony, and so forth. It would be to eliminate virtue, and leave behind only vice.

As it would be inapt to reduce love to self-regard, thus ruining all regard for others of our own sort, so a fortiori would it be stupid blithely to treat only our own human sort as persons. In this, I stand firmly with Saint Francis, and with all other nature mystics. I am nowise loath to characterize a place or a time or a way, let alone any sort of society, as a person – as a subject, with a life of its own, that suffers and enjoys, that remembers and acts, and that in its own right intends; that loves. I would not after all cheat you, or myself, of the recognition, respect and honor due to persons. Yet I do not know you, and indeed it seems often that I hardly know myself. How then could I do less for utterly other sorts of things, that do seem to perdure over time, through suffering and adventure, than I do for you and for me? I mean such as trees, cathedrals, watersheds, great and noble nations, and so forth. Are any such less noble than I? On what true knowledge could I possibly base such an evaluation? What basis, then, have I to grant them less respect than I feel is due to me?

Think of angels.

The modernist urge is to Humean skepticism and Ockhamian parsimony, and so tends to improper reduction, which cuts too deep, so undermining every aspect of human experience – thereby devouring itself. But any adequate notion of reality must account for the deepest best urges of the human heart in such a way as not to render them either stupid or nonexistent. To fail thereat would be to miss the whole reason of philosophy; would be to fail at explaining the most important things of all. A philosophical system that writes those most important things out of reality, and so renders our deepest intuitions illusory, simply must be wrong. This, in just the way that it can’t be correct to suggest such fatuous autophagous notions as that we don’t exist, or that we have no agency, or that we can’t know anything about the world, and the like, that are so beloved of wonted transgressors and conventional rebels who orbit the academic sphere. The absurd logical terminus in which all improper reduction must end is nothingness: which is to say, universal death.

We find that life is not at all like universal death. Improper reduction then is empirically disproven. From this we ought prudently to surmise, not that life is anywise less than we had taken it to be, but rather that it is incomprehensibly more.

As with our deepest loves and the sorrows that color their loss, so with our deepest longings and enjoyments. Whatever is to us plainly, wholly pure, and that we want to magnify as an end beautiful and worthy in its own right rather than as merely a means to our own ends, must be somehow actually real, actually worthy; and must be about, of, for, and toward other persons.

We are fitted to reality, as key to lock. Our deepest intuitions are so made by creaturely nature and her Almighty Creator as to reckon things rightly. They must therefore be correct, in the main; or, at least, apt. Otherwise, there could be nothing but death.

******************

This essay is dedicated to my good friend Bo, whom I lost yesterday to death – for a while, at least, provided my deepest love and sorrow are any sort of reliable guide to things as they really are. I have never met a more loving and social animal of any species; or a better, truer, humbler, nobler heart. Vale, valiant sprite. I’ll see you soon again, as soon we shall both reckon soonness. In the meantime, which as I now reckon time shall stretch on long and unbearably long, I shall miss you horribly. Bless you, friend. Peace, and relief from all your sufferings; and joy.

19 thoughts on “Our Deepest Loves Cannot & Do Not Err

  1. Kristor, is Bo of that undoubtedly superior and blessed race — Canis? Almost daily, I think how God rarely sends man a more precious gift than this . . . having provided him with an entire species as a true friend.

    • Sort of, yes. Bo is a cat. But my daughter remarked the other day that he has the temperament and sociality of a particularly friendly Labrador Retriever. Bo is the only cat I have ever known who came running when I called him. The only doggy behavior he did not manifest was playing fetch. Nor did Bo ever suffer from the normal feline surfeit of dignity. He was silly.

      • Understood. My cat identifies as a dog, as well, and she is just as demanding and spoiled as the dogs. The hair, though — so much hair. While passerine passersby might disagree, all cats go to heaven, too . . . though I must acknowledge that such isn’t as much of a truism as the original. Take care.

      • When Bo was younger – about three years ago – he brought in a hummingbird one day. That’s how fast he was. The bird escaped, and beat himself against the ceiling of the living room, despite our opening wide all the windows. He fell to the carpet, still as death. Bo had moved on to other matters by then, and lost interest. I picked up the bird with a towel – so light was he, that I could not tell whether I had him by feel, but only by sight – and laid him on it outside, next to the fountain. My wife and I sat mournfully on the bottom step of the stoop, watching him. “Is he dead?” “I’m afraid so, love.” We watched a moment more.

        The hummer launched straight up into the soft blue boundless evening sky, instantly, too fast to see. One moment he lay there, utterly still. The next, he was gone, utterly, as if he had never been there.

        I have always thought of that moment as a foreshadow of resurrection.

  2. Pingback: Our Deepest Loves Cannot & Do Not Err | Reaction Times

  3. Thanks for this piece. Sorry bout your friend, was thinking of my nephew whom I lost very recently the whole time reading.

    • God bless your nephew, and your whole family. I’m sure he was a good boy, despite his faults, and that you shall see him again, soon.

      Universalism cannot be true, for there can be no room in heaven for any jot of evil; as any such would ruin heaven. But we may well hope that such evil as there is in every one of us when we die shall be by the infinite light of Love himself calcined utterly away, so that whatever is left of the good in us does indeed rise to new life. Whatever there is in us that is still good by the time we die cannot but feel a terrific urge to go home, back to our Father’s house, wherein all is good, and we are healed of all the pains that we suffer on account of creaturely defection from the good. So may we hope that most of us will decide in the end that his home is just where we most want to go.

      God send it may be so for your nephew, and you, and all of yours. I doubt much, hard, that he, or any of you, are given over wholly to evil, or would hesitate to repent of your sins when push came at last and forever to shove.

      God bless and keep you, all.

  4. Kristor, I have a book on Kindle which is an account of conversations between Wolfgang Smith and Father Malachi Martin. The subject of lost dear pets came up. Both were in agreement that such loving and lovable companions were part of the angelic realm and patiently await us if we can manage to follow them into Heaven.

    Although both men would be staunch followers of Aquinas, they follow Duns Scotus in this instance. Of course, Aquinas, although almost always right on the money, got the Immaculate Conception wrong whereas Duns Scotus interpreted it correctly. This other case parallels it, methinks.

    • Thanks, Mickvet. As it happens, I read that book myself just a few months ago. It’s a fascinating correspondence; the two men are incredibly erudite, and they cover lots and lots of ground.

      It was Malachi Martin who convinced me of the reality of the demonic, decades ago. And I’ve been a fan of Wolfgang Smith for many years.

    • Aye. It beggars the imagination, the beauties possible to us creatures. And love is the basis of all of it; of all acts, and so of all the beauties intended and achieved by acts. Nature could not be red in tooth and claw were she not first lively, and loving, and so therefore fruitful. Predation and parasitism of all sorts supervene a prior vitality, which is always an agreeable and indeed friendly coordination of one thing to another; which is always a mutual donation of some sort.

      In just the same way, commerce is essentially friendly. Without that basic friendliness of almost all economic agents toward their fellows, criminals and predators and exploiters would have no field of action. We don’t enter a store en garde, expecting to be abused. On the contrary. We expect, and with almost no exceptions do enjoy, friendly cooperation, and full satisfaction. So normal is that outcome that we do not usually notice it.

    • Isn’t it our Original Sin that subjected innocent nature to a world of restriction and limitation? These innocent beings can only be their true selves in Heaven, although many like Bo come remarkably close down here. Something that has didactic intentions, I think.

      • Human Original Sin certainly didn’t help the situation of the rest of our cosmos. Man and his world are integral, so that a disaster in one is a disaster in and for both. But the human Fall, which did indeed affect the whole shebang, seems to have been a latter stage of a more general moral and ontological collapse that began with Lucifer, who seems to have been the seraph charged with the administration of our universe, and whose Fall corrupted his whole realm.

        Bo and the other animals differ from us in that they are powerless to defect from their proper natures. I can be inhuman, but Bo had no way to be infeline. Even when he acted as sociably as a dog, and even though his degree of social involvement with us was extraordinary for a cat, still it must have been within the sphere of propriety for cats; for, he was doing society in the way that a cat would, and should. Viz., he didn’t wag his tail, as a dog would, but rather shot it straight up.

        The general Fall of our world wracks every creature in it, and prevents their full attainment of all the beauties of which their natures are originally capable. Much more will be possible to them as restored to life in a world made new, and right. If God send I see Bo again, and in Heaven, I fully expect that he will be even more remarkably himself, and even more extraordinarily feline, than I have already known him to be. It will be interesting to see what powers will then be revealed – what it can mean to be fully human, or fully feline.

  5. That, put very eloquently, sums up what I have thought for a while. I had concluded that my recently dead dog was a perfect example of Natural Law in Action. She was herself and could be no other. Ironically, men often do the opposite when they imagine they’re being themselves.

    • It is indeed ironic. When we do wrong, we become something other than our selves. I think that must be why sinning feels always somewhat sick. We can feel the difference between who we ought and want to be, and who we are. It hurts.

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