Objection #7. Insufficient attention is given to love.

By "love" here, I'm assuming we mean universal love, like the agape of Christianity or the metta of Buddhism, rather than the kind of love which is merely possessive egoism. Such love is the positive emotional implication of the Middle Way. One aspect of love is wisdom, and what makes our love universal, objective and well-channelled is the Middle Way. Another aspect is the positive emotional energy we have for reaching out to others. Our capacity for positive emotion increases with the integration of emotions, as energies that were formerly in conflict pull together, but positive emotion can also be directly cultivated in meditations such as the Buddhist cultivation of loving-kindness (or metta-bhavana). I've never found this meditation practice easy to do myself, but this is a matter of temperament or conditioning.

Love can be seen basically as emotional objectivity. If we hate someone, we construct a partial view of them which provides a convenient object for hatred. At the other extreme, if we are attached to someone with a possessive love, we also construct a partial and one-sided view of them. To love them in a balanced way in accordance with the Middle Way, then, means being aware of those aspects of them that are not in accordance with the possessive or rejecting emotion. When we love someone we get closer to what they are really like, rather than the version of them that we have got into the bad habit of substituting for them. The person may then continue to treat us badly, if that is what they have been doing, but at least we are relating more to what is really there, and not contributing to unnecessary conflict from our side.

Love in accordance with the Middle Way is also neither "selfish" nor "selfless". It aims to integrate the things we identify with and the things we reject, whether or not we identify very much with ourselves or reject others. For example, a mother who already (rather possessively) loves her child, would need to be able to extend her identifications to others beyond the intensity of that single concern, perhaps including more of herself. A man who was obsessed with himself, however, might need to start identifying more with others. The Middle Way always involves recognising the limitations of our current emotional conditions, but the kind of love it cultivates just makes those emotions a little wider and more open. There is no point in demanding the impossible - that we should suddenly love everyone - as the fact is that we do not and cannot.

So, whether or not it has received the amount of attention it deserves in my writings on this site, love is an integral part of the Middle Way, and there is much that could be said about it. Some other points where it is discussed on the website are linked below.

Ethics of personal relationships from "A New Buddhist Ethics"

Cultivating the integration of emotion from thesis (scroll down to e.ii)

For online information about the Buddhist meditation to cultivate loving-kindness see http://www.wildmind.org/metta

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