Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
- John 13:34-35
“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
- Leviticus 19:18
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
- Deuteronomy 6:5
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
- Luke 6:27
“The strangest, but most popular, book written by philosopher and literary critic Roland Barthes is A Lovers Discourse. As the French title, Fragments d’un discours amoureux, suggests, this is a book told in fragments and snapshots, somewhat like the essay One-Way Street by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin. A Lovers Discourse is not so much a book of philosophy as it is a love story; but it is a love story without any real story. There are no characters, and there is nothing in the way of a plot. There are only the reﬂections of a lover in what Barthes calls ‘extreme solitude.’
“At the very beginning of the book, Barthes makes clear that a plot is not possible, because the solitary thoughts of a lover come in outbursts that are often contradictory and lack any clear order. As a lover, Barthes suggests, I might even ﬁnd myself plotting against myself. The lover is somebody who might be affectionately described as having ‘lost the plot.’ So instead of using a plot, or narrative, Barthes arranges his book like an extraordinary encyclopaedia of contradictory and disordered outbursts, any of which might serve as the point the reader might suddenly exclaim, ‘That’s so true! I recognize that scene…’
“It is in this context that Barthes suggests ‘language is a skin.’ Language, at least the language of the lover, is not something that simply talks about the world in a neutral fashion, but it is something that, as Barthes says, ‘trembles with desire.’ Barthes writes of how ‘I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of ﬁngers, or ﬁngers at the tip of my words.’ Even if I write cool, detached philosophy about love, Barthes claims, there is buried in my philosophical coolness a secret address to a particular person, an object of my desire, even if this somebody is ‘a phantom or a creature still to come.’ …
“But what of the language that we use when talking of other things? ls only the lover’s language a skin that trembles with hidden desire, or is this also true of other types of language? Barthes does not tell us, leaving us to consider the idea for ourselves.”
- Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained
Roland Barthes (1915-1980), as a literary critic, may have seen many love stories pass by his desk. I can see that in a fictional story and most love stories within life, there is a certain amount of lost plot involved. But Barthes may have been onto something that even he may not have understood.
Barthes is the first of the contemporary philosophers, philosophy from 1950 to the present, or near present, that will be discussed.
In any earthly love between two physical people (no ‘phantoms’ for the moment, if at all), you have the hopes and desires of each other. When the two mesh, everything can happen according to the plot.
My wife claimed recently that I gave her the impression that I loved to travel, and I had deceived her. I told her that I loved to travel, but the traveling was curtailed when it took years to pay off our first big two-week long traveling adventure. My wife has been bringing it up into conversation recently with nurses at doctor offices (where we do most of our traveling these days) that I had ensured that the family had been to all 48 contiguous states. She is a bit off in that our youngest son was on a mission trip to Alaska when we went through several of those states in the northern middle, and I may be the only one in the family to go to Vermont. But let’s not quibble. Her lament that I do not travel as I once did has much more to do with factors other than desire. Money is near the top. Her health is probably at the top. And the aches and pains slow you down. We have a Christian bookstore about an hour’s drive away and we are both thoroughly exhausted when we get home.
But just in that one little discussion of one small part of our life, our love story of 47 years of wedded bliss and counting, one can easily see how there is no plot, and the lover is often the one that loses the plot, that is if there ever was a plot in the first place. Sure we create a plot before we go to bed, but lately the plot has one major condition applied – if we feel like doing anything when we get up in the morning.
But what transcends Barthes philosophy slightly touches on Barthes’ idea of the desire for ‘a phantom or a creature still to come.’ A Christian’s love for God is a desire to be with God. God is not a phantom. God is a Spirit. God is not a creature still to come, not technically a ‘creature’ at all in that He is not created, but we, as Christians, prepare ourselves to go and be with Jesus, that is unless Jesus returns. That “still to come” can easily be rephrased as having come before and is still to return.
But while our free will can bring sin into the “love story,” our free will can misinterpret God’s perfect will for each of our specific lives. Maybe not necessarily “sin” in that we stepped out in faith, but it changed the plot slightly and, in some cases, wrecked the plot. But there is a plot line, and within God’s sovereignty, the key factors of that plot will remain intact.
We, as true believers, will one day be with Jesus forever.
Now that is the plot of the ultimate love story, and it cannot be shaken or lost.
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.