Love, as the foundational principle of a loving society, is analogous to the arithmetic which forms the foundations of rocket science. Today, however, we live in a society that does not know the basic laws of love. Our society must once again learn to love, turning its back on pride, or it will destroy itself with the tools of its own cleverness.
Learning how to live in a loving society is not rocket science. It’s much more difficult than that. Many people could learn rocket science, given the time, the opportunity, the right attitude, and the right teachers. It is simply about learning the rules and then applying them. Although living in a loving society is also about learning the rules and then applying them, it’s not as easy to actually do it, even when we know the rules. And, just like rocket science, it’s impossible to do it if we don’t know the rules.
Let’s begin with the basics of the loving society, or what we might call the Loving Society 101. Knowing these basic principles is as important to the loving society as simple arithmetic is to rocket science. It is the foundation upon which everything else is based. If we get the basics wrong, no further progress is possible.
To love is to be selfless. It is to cease putting ourselves first. It is to put ourselves second or even last. Love is the very cement that forms a society and holds it together. Without this practical selflessness, society disintegrates into warring parties which hate each other. Nor is it possible to make people love each other through legislation. This is why T.S. Eliot warns against dreaming of systems so perfect that nobody will need to be good. You can’t make people love “systemically.” The act of love is a free and rational choice. If you try to force someone to love, you are likely to turn him into someone who hates.
The paradox is that love is inseparable from freedom but is also inseparable from responsibility, the latter of which is a voluntary constraint upon freedom. Love is freely choosing to limit our freedom for the good of others.
These are the basics. These are the foundational principles which are analogous to the arithmetic which forms the foundations of rocket science.
We live in a society that does not know the basic laws of love. It is a society that preaches selfishness. It is narcissistic. It is about “doing our own thing” which is impossible without trampling on the lives and loves of others. Irrespective of any claims to the contrary, the culture of Pride means that the other can go to hell if he threatens my right to be what I want to be. And, of course, we are all the “other” in such a society. We are all being trampled on by the selfishness of our narcissistic neighbours. We are all living in the hell on earth that our selfishness and the selfishness of others have caused.
If we insist on egocentrism, we will become alienated selves who are as victimized by the selfishness of our egocentric neighbours, even as we make victims of those whom we hate for victimizing us. In refusing to sacrifice ourselves for others, we end up sacrificing others for ourselves. And we end up being sacrificed by others for themselves. The self-destructive nature of this narcissistic weltanschauung was epitomized graphically by Salvador Dali in his painting Autumnal Cannibalism, which is a surreal dramatization of the auto-cannibalism of the loveless society.
The irony is that John Lennon was right when he proclaimed that all we need is love but wrong when he told us that love was doing our own thing. The doing of our own thing is not merely the absence of love but the destruction of love. Such simple reasoning is beyond those blinded by Pride.
No, love is not rocket science. It’s more difficult than that. And it’s more important than that. We can live without rocket science. Indeed, we have lived without rocket science until relatively recently. We cannot live without love. If we won’t live lovingly, we will kill each other hatefully. This is why all technological progress, including rocket science, is perilous in the absence of love.
Dreaming of “progress” without anyone needing to be good is as perilous as dreaming of systems without anyone needing to be good. The “progress” of rocket science is a case in point.
Rocket science was developed to make weapons of mass destruction. The Nazis perfected it first, developing the V-1 rocket-powered bomb, the earliest cruise missile, to target London. In this sense, rocket science can be seen as a metaphor for the “progress” that the culture of Pride is using to make war on nature. A loveless “progress” will prove more deadly than any of us dare to imagine. It will put cleverness at the service of cruelty.
The lesson is simple, even if putting it into practice is difficult. Our society must once again learn to love, turning its back on pride, or it will destroy itself with the tools of its own cleverness.
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The featured image is “Autumnal Cannibalism” (1936) by Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) and is a fair use image, courtesy of WikiArt. It has been brightened for clarity.