Leaving aside the scaffolding of the metaphysical systems with which I am familiar, how does one then address the two issues, love for oneself and love for the other? Bearing in mind that metaphysical worldviews are themselves based in three sources:  revelation, reflection, and experience wrought by practices such as meditation, which experiences are then in turn themselves often interpreted through prior meaning-making systems afforded by revelation and reflection.  Also bearing in mind that the binary, self and other, itself breaks down when considered either metaphysically or biologically, since in the former all discrete life forms are nought but extensions, manifestations of an enlivening power, and in the latter, all life forms are DNA combinations ranging from the simple to the complex, and further are interconnected through interdependency—we are, in some elegantly and beautifully complex way, attached to some inexplicable force that enlivens us and to air molecules that allow us to respire.  We each have imbedded within us the capacity to find nutrients and a certain range of motion and information-gathering ability with a range of responses available to that information.  Such that the moving ball of black and white fur, otherwise known as my cat Pippin, is animated by life and breathes and eats and chooses when to come up for a cuddle.  Pippin is distinct from me and yet, from another angle, not distinct from me when considered as a carbon life-form dependent on sources of air, water, food and comfort; in other words, a different manifestation of genetically coded material, which is different in its combinations and components, but held together by an inescapably mysterious force we simply call life.  Of course, I write this on a day when perhaps the life force that so achingly disappears at death may no longer entirely continue to be a mystery, as “Man-made DNA has booted up a cell for the first time” http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/05/scientists-create-first-self-replicating-synthetic-life/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Findex+%28Wired%3A+Index+3+%28Top+Stories+2%29%29&utm_content=Yahoo+Search+Results

Without any metaphysical or religious considerations, all I can do is simply acknowledge the intrinsic worth and value of a life-bearing entity:  acknowledge that it is, a unique being-in-itself that now-is, with no guarantee for how long it will continue to be.  Do I have to love it? No.  Do I even have to like it? No.  Is it possible for me to dislike, even hate it? Yes.  Is it possible for me to be indifferent to it, even when I see it? Yes. These apply equally to self as they do to the other.  It is difficult to like someone who treats you ill, or like oneself when one is aware—has the moral sensibility–that one has been willfully sharp or mean or outright cruel.  It is difficult not to dislike a person who holds a viewpoint markedly in opposition to something one feels strongly about, or not to hate someone who rapes and or kills one’s best friend or a member of one’s family, or decimates an entire group of people because they happen to be bright blue in color and believe that earth is a goddess.  In such a scenario, without the twin supports of metaphysics and religion, all one is left with is ethics and aesthetics, perhaps, in determining whether that which is acknowledged as intrinsically worthy and of value, simply because it is alive, is then also worthy of love.

Which then suggests that one has to ask whether there is power incipient in the range of choices—love, like, dislike, hate, indifference (and there are many more, such as those identified by Robert Plutchik http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emotions )—for how to feel toward self and the other that alters relations and the encounter, alters both the ways of knowing (including both theoretical and experiential knowledge) and the content of that knowledge, and alters even outcomes, both immediate and ongoing. Something to think about, or better still, experiment with.

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