Sunday, April 29, 2012

Depth and intensity of love

Some of this post came from a conversation with graduate students and is based on their ideas.

It looks like we can measure love along what initially are two dimensions: depth and intensity.

The depth of a love is a measure of how thoroughly intertwined the love is with one's character, how deeply rooted it is, how much of one's personality is in some way dependent on this love. The intensity of a love encompasses two dimensions: there is emotional intensity and there is intensity of will, which one might call zeal. Intensity of will measures how much effort and how much sacrifice one is willing to make for the love.

An intense love, whether intense in emotion or in will, may very well come into existence quickly, though a love can also slowly and gradually grow intense. But a deep love is unlikely to come into existence quickly, unless one's character has already been prepared for this love. Grace can prepare character in this way, but there may also be natural cases of someone who can say "I was waiting all my life for you" (I tend to be sceptical of these—I think soulmatehood between people is somewhat more likely to be something they produce over time than something they simply find preexisting).


Craig said...

A depressed person might be willing to sacrifice his life for a stranger, or for his cat, but this isn't because his love is particularly intense. Likewise, an extremely shallow person might have a personality that is deeply dependent upon the doings of a particular contestant in American Idol. Should we say that such a person's love is deep?

Craig said...

Because of the way intensity seems to affect effort it might not be possible measure the former by the latter. That the big sacrifices are so effortless for the lover might even be a sign that the love is intense.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Nice points.

1. The depression case is easy: I should measure the willingness to sacrifice in terms of how one values what one is sacrificing, not in terms of the objective value of what is being sacrificed. If I value myself but little, my giving myself to you is not much of a giving. The depressed people, presumably, value themselves little.

2. The American Idol case is harder. Maybe we want to distinguish between relative and absolute depth. What I said about intertwining only works for relative depth of love--how much you love relatively to how much there is in you. If this shallow person loved God with all his heart, his relative depth of love would be the same as when St Therese de Lisieux loves God with all her heart, but St Therese's love is absolutely deeper, because she has more absolute depth of person, maybe.

Then, roughly:
(absolute depth of love) = (relative depth of love) x (absolute depth of person).

In the case of the shallow person, the relative depth of the love is great but the absolute depth of the person is low, and so the product is moderate in size.

We're called to love God with all our heart, strength, soul and mind, but ideally that heart, strength, soul and mind all grow in depth.

3. You may be right about effort.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

I would like to add this to the conversation: That love, agape, is stronger than death. I have read that love is as strong as death; though I am absolutely certain beyond any doubts that love is stronger. This has come down to me from personal experience and the experience of my friends. Also, I have sometimes discerned this by prayer and meditation. It comes from something I sense at a deeper level.

When we discuss the depths God's love (and to this I will add mercy as well) I would like to quote from a homily I heard from Father James Finley, who was a student of Karl Rahner, That the depth of God's love and mercy match the depths of our pain and suffering. That God's love and mercy come from His depths to go to the depths of our suffering. It is a from depth to depth transfer. I am trying to recall this from memory as best as I could, and I know I got the basics of what Father Finley was saying.

On another occasion when I spoke with Father Finley, he discussed that this capacity for love is because we are made in the image and likeness of God. We have been made to be the image and likeness of God as Jesus was God made man. Or words to that effect.

I also know that love is an action much more so than a feeling. What I have been able to read is that true love is willing the good of the person loved. That this is very much opposed to "falling in love" or the "I love you" as most people understand it. The "love" as most people understand it is often selfish and self-serving. It is the he/she meets my needs type of love. This is really not love at all, but a form of selfishness, although it looks and feels like love and definately has emotional intensity. The true love is different because one seeks not to have the other meet one's need but to meet the needs of the other. To place the good of the other ahead of one's own needs (really actually wants). Because of this we shouldn't measure love along just the two dimensions of depth and intensity, we need a third dimension here. I suggest amount of willing the good of the person loved. Using just depth and intensity to measure love, is rather like having a love that is more like a flat plane in x-y coordinates. Adding "willing the good of the one loved" is adding the z axis.

Craig said...

I intuitively think that I understand what we mean by "how much one values" what one is sacrificing and by the "depth of person". But I find these notions--particularly the first--difficult to suitably explicate.

What do we mean when we say that the depressed man values his life less when he's depressed? A natural response to to think about what the depressed person is willing to exchange for his life, or what exchanges he would react to with indifference. But if the depressed man is indifferent about exchanging his life for a doughnut, what blocks us from concluding that he simply values the doughnut a lot more when depressed?

Huume said...

I have a late birthday wish, Mr. Pruss, will you make a syllogism based off of the phrase "Well, his (or her) heart was in the right place."

Only if you have time, or even want to, and your heart is in the right place. .

I couldnt resist, I apologize.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

I am again looking at this post on love, and the two dimensions: depth and intensisty. That depth can involve sacrifice. Perhaps willing the good of the one loved can come under sacrifice. Yet I sense there is still a missing ingredient. I would like to suggest obedience. That obedience is love (agape) and love (agape) is obedience. This came to me from a homily today at Mass by Father Mike Dolan. Father Mike said that this was plain basic to love, that is love as the Lord intends. That Christ said that if we love Him we would obey Him. If we do so, I believe that this would open us to have Grace prepare our characters in this way. I will now try again with the cartesian coordinates, with depth and intensity being the X and Y axis and obediance being the Z axis.

I stress obediance to Christ as the important Z axis here. Reason being that depth and intensity of love, especially if it ivolves and intesnsity of will, can become a form of idolatry with the object of one's love, if it is something or some one other than the Lord, becomes an idol. This sort of idolatry is evidenced in the "I can't live without you" syndrome (if that is the word to use). This is when the person loved becomes an idol, although many people will not see it this way. Or put another way, when some one "loves" another person to the point where he/she is willing to part with his/her faith in order to maintain the realtionship. I have heard it said that the soulmates we should look for are those who love God more than they love us. Then out of obediance to the Lord will they be able sacrifice to maintain the relationship. Here again is where we are open to the deep love and this is what prepares our characters for it. I am doing my best here to describe this though getting this understanding into words is not easy.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Is there any possibility that these coordinates I've been talking about in my past two comments might be spherical and not cartesian?