Love: Amid Angst and Sadomasochism

When one seeks the completion of oneself in another human who’s also striving to become complete, the result is vanity.

Photo by Bret Kavanaugh on Unsplash

“If a human being were a beast or an angel, he could not be in anxiety. Because he is a synthesis, he can be in anxiety; and the more profoundly he is in anxiety, the greater is the man.”

Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety (1980), 155

“Surrounded by hordes of men, absorbed in all sorts of secular matters, more and more shrewd about the ways of the world — such a person forgets himself, forgets his name divinely understood, does not dare to believe in himself, finds it too hazardous to be himself and far easier and safer to be like the others, to become a copy, a number, a mass man.”

Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death (1980), 33-34

“… He must assume the situation with the proud consciousness of being the author of it, for the very worst disadvantages or the worst threats which can endanger my person have meaning only in and through my project; and it is on the ground of the engagement which I am that they appear. It is therefore, senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.”

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (1943), 554

“If Tristan and Isolde fall madly in love because of a love potion, they are less interesting. The total enslavement of the beloved kills the love of the lover. The end is surpassed; if the beloved is transformed into an automaton, the lover finds himself alone. Thus the lover does not desire to possess the beloved as one possesses a thing; he demands a special type of appropriation. He wants to possess freedom as freedom.”

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (1943), 367

Great Western thinkers like Solomon (or whoever wrote Ecclesiastes), Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Pascal and Kierkegaard see the same thing and structure their philosophy around the search for our ultimate end, the satisfaction of our deepest desire. They pass in review essentially the same three lesser answers as Hinduism does and conclude, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and (therefore) our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

Peter Kreeft. Heaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing. 1989. 49

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