Sunday, March 30, 2008

love hopes all things and is not put to shame

The way Kierkegaard discusses the story of the prodigal son/expectant father (Luke 15) can leave a reader a bit stuck in the language which could lead the reader to forget Kierkegaard's larger point.

For Kierkegaard, we are the expectant father who waits and watches the distances, hoping against belief that his son will return. We are the father whose other son resents our longing for the prodigal. We are the father at whom our neighbors laugh and pity. In a "real" family (and not a metaphysical one), given a family, a father/parent raises up and knows the son/child intimately, often better than the child knows him/herself. A "real" parent has memories which remind her of her child even during long absences. A parent of a lost child closes her eyes and calls up an eye color, the curl in a lock of hair, the texture of a cheek.

If we are the expectant father waiting and watching for, for example, the Son, then we do not have such memory to remind us that we ever even had a Son. Indeed, we become a father to a Son we never raised up from infancy, with whom we were never pregnant. But this may be to become too connected to language.

For Kierkegaard, and for Christians, yes, there must be expectant waiting for the Son. But this is not the only Good for which we always wait. If the only Good we can recognize is a Son we've never seen, we may miss the Goods that reveal themselves in other ways.

If love hopes all things, then there can be no discrete content - no definite object - to the hoping. Hope is relating only to the expectation of something good. Can we be so arrogant to exhaustively know the manifestations of Goodness? If love also believes all things and is never deceived, then *all things* must be related to Goodness - we must believe them to be so. Love acknowledges that this action, word, event, relation, situation appears bad - even hateful - and persists in believing that there is a deeper love motivating it. If all things - even those that appear hateful - may be related to love, then in hoping, love hopes for a goodness which is ... everything.

To love then is to relate to the world, to existence, in a way that calls forth love continually. To love is to continually orient oneself toward hope and away from fear; toward belief and away from despair; toward goodness and away from self-pity. Further, it is to do this without any other promise, for itself and for no other wishing for reward. Love must always be its own reward and not a talisman against nihilism. Love must be an orientation and not a tool for achievement.

Love hopes all things - and wishes none of them concretely. For hope to be loving hope, it must be willing to accept everything and to continually will to orient itself toward what is as love.

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