I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
- Psalm 89:1-2
So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good,
so with the sinful;
as it is with those who take oaths,
so with those who are afraid to take them.
This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
- Ecclesiastes 9:1-4
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
- John 17:25-26
“The German philosopher Walter Benjamin was an afﬁliate of the Frankfurt School, a group of neo-Marxist social theorists who explored the signiﬁcance of mass culture and communication. Benjamin was also fascinated by the techniques of ﬁlm and literature, and his 1926 essay One-Way Street is an experiment in literary construction. It is a collection of observations-intellectual and empirical—that apparently occur to him as he walks down an imaginary city street.
“In the essay Benjamin does not set out a grand theory. Instead he wants to surprise us with ideas in the same way that we might be surprised by something catching our eye while on a walk. Toward the end of the essay, he says that ‘Quotations in my work are like wayside robbers who leap out, brandishing weapons, and relieve the idler of his certainty.’
“The idea that the only way of knowing a person is to love them hopelessly appears in the middle of the essay, under the heading ‘Arc Lamp.’ In a ﬂare of light, Benjamin pauses and thinks just this, and no more-the essay moves immediately afterward to a new section. We are forced to guess what he means. Is he saying that knowledge arises out of love? Or that it is only when we stop hoping for some outcome that we can clearly see the beloved? We cannot know. All we can do is walk down the street alongside Benjamin, experiencing the ﬂare of light of these passing thoughts.”
- Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) was trying to make his escape from the Nazi extermination of the Jews when he committed suicide in Spain. He was both a Marxist and a Jew, two groups that Hitler wished to exterminate.
If we wrote about what Walter Benjamin truly meant by his statement, we have already moved too far. We can only speculate or speak of our own moments of love. And, no, this is not a tell all – okay, a little of my “romantic” side or the lack there of.
I was almost an accidental groom. I was an introvert. I did not go to bars or clubs (in Texas, meaning line dancing). I went to work, to graduate school, and to church. After a few months, my landlady wanted to play matchmaker. She had no idea that I had given up on even trying to date. Her husband worked with the lady who would become my wife. But even then, I nearly screwed everything up.
After everyone had their calendar’s set to attend the wedding, we decided to give each other personal wedding gifts. We both knew how to embroider. I hand drew Charlie Brown, Linus, Woodstock, and Snoopy on a set of pillowcases and embroidered them for her. We were both into bowling, and she embroidered a bowling shirt for me. Knowing that I was a football fan, she embroidered a football helmet on the back of the shirt with a star on it. Only one problem. I hated the Dallas Cowboys. We both loved the Houston Oilers. With weeks to go before the wedding, I suggested, in a huff, that she could change the star to an oil derrick. But because I had obviously gotten upset, she wanted to back out of the marriage entirely. I apologized, and she realized that her cold feet were just cold feet. But if she had left me at that moment, I might have never gotten married. I might have never dated again. Note: The bowling shirt never saw the light of day, but we used my pillowcases until they fell apart – maybe the one with Woodstock sighing beneath a daffodil in full bloom is still in the linen cabinet – on the bottom so that we don’t use it again.
I give that one little confession as an example of what Walter Benjamin might have meant. Do you really love anyone unless you know them? And his point about being hopeless in the relationship is that you are not loving them based on what you might get out of the relationship.
For most love-starved guys, the hope may not go further than what might happen after the wedding, and you get to the hotel. But I have known some people who married for money. I have heard of some who married for power, prestige, etc. Arranged marriages over the centuries have been arranged to affect peace between warring clans or countries or simply to get a nice dowry.
But after all our talking, and my future wife and I did a lot of that, did we really know each other? My wife knew I liked football and the easiest thing to embroider on a football helmet was a star, the emblem of a team that I had said that I did not like. We lived in Texas. Everything was Dallas Cowboys and anything else was the enemy. One of those “enemies” was a team in Houston, Texas, a town with more Cowboy fans than Oiler fans. When you were an Oiler fan in Texas, you were almost a third-class citizen, lucky to be called a citizen at all. But I was a Johnny Unitas fan, even though he had already retired, and the Cowboys injured Unitas in Super Bowl V. The Cowboys still lost, but I had labeled them “dirty.” A fan does what a fan does. And my favorite AFL team was the Houston Oilers, with George Blanda, Hoyle Granger, and Ode Burrell. Hoyle Granger (pronounced Grahn-JAY) had played football with my brother at Mississippi State University, or at least they were on the team one year together. I was already an Oiler fan before I moved to Texas. If you have no idea who the Houston Oilers were, now the Tennessee Titans, I may write about sport team names this afternoon.
But to my wife’s defense, a star is a lot easier to embroider than an oil derrick. I had gotten upset because I thought she knew my likes and dislikes. But there are still things about my wife after nearly fifty years of marriage that I do not know. And Walter Benjamin says that we cannot know unless we love hopelessly, but is that not backwards? Should it be that we cannot love unless we know?
I have often commented that I find it hard to believe that someone can say that they love Jesus with all their heart, soul, and mind, and yet their Bible collects dust. If we really love Jesus, we should have the desire to know everything that we can possibly know.
But love for Jesus can never be hopeless love. We know that when we die, we will go to be with Him forever, another reason to learn more about Jesus now. We avoid the lake of fire. We get a mansion in Heaven. There is a lot of Hope there, but before death, Jesus is with us, strengthening us, giving us Joy, Hope, and an inner Peace.
And in return, God has numbered every hair on our heads. What can we do in return, other than to serve Him? A relationship built solely on what you can get out of it for yourself is a poor relationship. But in our relationship with God, He is the Creator of all things, and we have nothing to offer, other than our devotion, our worship, and our gratitude. God is a spirit, and He really loves those “spiritual” things in the relationship. God needs nothing, but we need God. Is that being hopelessly in love? Not hardly, but maybe Walter Benjamin got a few of the details slightly off a bit.
If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.