So how can we be sure if love is present and is what propels us forward? Where do we go to find out what it really is so that we can begin the process of harnessing it? There are volumes of literature, music, psychology, philosophy and theology that have tried to depict what love really is. What more could I possibly say about love that would amount to a major discovery? Are there any new ways to talk about the true nature of love? Well, based on humanity’s past observations and experiences of love, we should be able to understand a few things about what it is and what it is not. So I offer another kind of construct or tool that may offer us a unique perspective.
Let’s start with a short discussion about love via logic and mathematics. During law-school, I was re-introduced to Boolean logic as a research tool. When searching for cases on West Law or Lexis, my classmates and I would use Boolean language which reduces words, mostly connectors like “and” and “or” to symbols. (search engines like “Google” and “Yahoo” also use this tool) George Boole, an Irish school teacher of the mid-nineteenth century, reduced logical statements to simple arithmetic by inventing an artificial language which reduced ordinary language to its barest form. It introduced symbols for complete sentences and for the conjunctions that connect them such as “or,” “and,” and “If/then.” It uses different symbols for the logical subject and the logical predicate of a sentence and it has symbols for classes, members of classes, and the relationships of class membership and class inclusion. A picture description of this would be a Venn diagram. It also differs from classical logic and its assumptions regarding the existence of the things referred to in its universal statements. The statement “All A’s are B’s” is rendered in modern logic to mean, “If anything is an A, then it is a B.” When applying this kind of logic to the word love (A), we cannot assume that A exists, but once we do prove it does it will be the standard for everything that flows from it. So if we can prove that A exists and know what A is, we will know if anything else, B or C for example (let’s call them given expressions), fit into the class.
I’ve already suggested that love exists beyond the human plane making it virtually impossible to “prove” in a definitive sense. I can say emphatically, however, that love is endemic to all people. Perhaps that is proof enough of its existence. Having studied world religions, there are some universal qualities that give even further clarity to what love is. Using these universal qualities (some of which will be laid out in a moment) helps to define “A”. We should be able to exclude or include other classes, some of which, according to my research have been incorrectly applied. How do we go about the process of inclusion/exclusion? What follows was my first step in harnessing the power of love.
When teaching a science and religion class, I, with the help of our math teacher, used symbolic language and resulting truth tables to determine whether two statements were logically equivalent or not. When something is A, when would it be B as well? The reason for this approach is because when you begin speaking about love, especially to a group of individuals in the throes of hormones, not only is it hard to be objective, it’s almost impossible to break away from all the cultural baggage that they already associate with love. Most students could not get out of the rut of interpreting or defining love merely by their physical senses, especially in a sexual or romantic sense. While senses are important in understanding the effect love has on humanity, love is not an effect or expression, because they are unique to each individual. But because effect and expression, or “the results” of love are what we observe, it is understandable why we have so often tried to define in love in this way.
By using a language that is, by nature, devoid of subjectivity, it’s easy to avoid defining love just as an effect or expression and see it from a different angle. Using a truth table can tell you the conditions for which a conjunction (two statements joined by the word “and”) and dis junction (two statements joined by the word “or”) would be considered true or false from a logical perspective. My concern was to help students apply this simple logic to qualitative statements and not only determine whether or not they were logically equivalent but also if they were true. Not to infer that this particular approach reduces love to a mere logical process, but if we begin with universal definitions of love, then any expression (B), or effect (C) of love (A) should, logically, flow from that definer. This seemed to be one approach to help clean up the past conclusions we have made about love. For demonstration purposes let me use two of my favorite authorities on love: Jesus and Shakespeare.
Initially, students were provided with quotes from Shakespeare and Jesus that defined aspects of love: “A rose by any other name…”, “love is patient, kind…”, “love has no room for fear…”, “love is not love which alters when it alteration finds…”, and a host of others too numerous to list. After discussion about these statements and their validity, we listed those traits as being in the class of “A.” We then posited conditional statements: If “A” then “B” or “C” to see if the statements were logically equivalent.
The conditional statement I always liked to use, and which was certainly apropos to high school students, went like this: “If you love me then you will have sex with me.” Students set up tables that included converting the statement “If you have sex with me then you love me”, adding negation “If you don’t love me then you won’t have sex with me” and what is called the contrapositive, “If you don’t have sex with me then you don’t love me,” which interesting enough, should be true (or false) when the original statement is true (or false). The crushing blow for this particular phrase (to the students I taught anyway) was that in every word or phrase we use to define love (love is patient, love is kind, etc.) sex was never used. So, if sex were in class “C,” it wasn’t a logical equivalent of “A.” In fact, we discovered by our truth tables that (I admit this may have been manipulative on my part) sex, which inherently focuses on the pleasure of the individual, can actually oppose love (in its purest sense of course). Besides generating many loud discussions by many students, they were also challenged to view love differently.
Love, like a constant in math (k), is an immutable force in the face of which an individual expression is of small consequence. The Bhagava-gītā, states that love is indestructible and eternally existing, its constitution never changes. So let us not define ourselves by how we express love to each other, but rather allow love to define who we can be as individuals. The result, my friends, is heaven. Any time I start to judge someone else’s expression of love, I remember that love is a lot bigger than I am.
Let me go even further. Even if we can find some universal qualities to better understand the nature of love, as far as individual experience of love goes, it is as unique as a snow-flake. Love as experienced by me is always different from how it is experienced by someone else, even if the difference is only subtle. That is not to say that love is a personal invention. As an individual, though, I am a unique accumulation of millions of observations and experiences so accordingly, my expressions of love will be unique to my journey. Here is my challenge: the more we each discover about the true nature of love independently, and share it, the broader our understanding of love’s true nature will be. The result is like a spectrum of colors, the likes of which has never been seen before. Mind you, this kind of discovery is a process of trial and error; most of us will be burned a few times. Despite the painful risks the rewards have to be worth it. Whenever I feel defeated, I just try and image what modern life would be like had we not harnessed the power of fire.