Augustine stresses love as an important player in his moral philosophy. Man naturally loves. For Augustine people love in many ways and there are two most common ways. One is love for something instrumental where in someone loves something for the utility that it has for us. We see this in advertising quite often a prime example would be McDonald’s which proudly uses the slogan “love ko ‘to”. A kind of love that springs from something satisfying our own desires, just like McDonald’s satisfies one’s desire for a burger. The other kind of love which Augustine describes is a more intrinsic love. This is the kind of love we have for other people. Augustine asserts that this love differs from the instrumental kind of love because we don’t simply only love others because of their utility sometimes this is actually the opposite. Augustine asserts this love as inhuman because as a human being people are made in God’s image. And that human beings deserved to be loved both as the image of God because none of us are independent of God, who created us, and as their own individual person.
This is where the idea of morality and virtue steps in. When in loving people we love their utility rather than who they are. Virtue for Augustine is rightly ordered love. It is not virtuous to love an object that is instrumental and expect it to give us true happiness. Augustine also points out that we cannot love God unless we love ourselves because in learning to love ourselves we understand ourselves as creations of God from whom all good things come.
On the other side of the spectrum Augustine considers choice to be the thing that gives birth to evil and that the pursuit of good is born out of moral illumination that is given by God and rooted in love.
Someone once told me that if someone had a crush on me it might not be something they would admit because I’d be pretty only if I was thinner. At first it sounded like a compliment but I was instantly taken aback. Does liking someone even just on the level of a crush so conditional on one’s looks? I honestly didn’t know what to think but the truth is that I’ve always looked different from all of my classmates. In high school everyone was thin and dainty with pin straight black hair and ivory skin while I was big with a loud head of curls. It took me some time to accept the fact that I would never be that kind of pretty.
I know it seems shallow but today appearances are so important they are everywhere and let’s face it advertising and celebrity culture doesn’t make it easy to have self-esteem. It took me a while to feel comfortable in my own skin and realize that I’m not a dainty Asian flower, I’m a giant “mountainous woman” to quote my uncle. Having finally accepted it I gained more confidence and I felt more open and I knew that appearances weren’t everything. The new challenge that sprung up it seemed was that because I’m fat and tall some people thought that I shouldn’t be confident or that the word fat is immediately equated to ugly. This was something I couldn’t wrap my head around. Why does my weight or appearance matter so much to other people? And how does it dictate how kind or intelligent or honest I am? In a world like this are looks the first step to loving oneself, it seems the my stretch marks go deeper than just my skin.
Do these angry red marks go down into who I am and therefore make me less than anyone else?
It was Augustine’s idea of loving yourself and why you should love yourself that resonated with me the most. I think that it is also hard for non-Christians to relate to Augustine because his philosophy is so God centred. However, I think that his progression of loving oneself first then realizing that there is something more to it all is something that is true for anyone. Personally sometimes it is hard to do this and it is especially hard to do without looking at the physical side of things especially today when there is so much emphasis on physical ideals. Looking at the times when I have just sit there with my thoughts quietly thinking to myself about who I am and it has made me realize that it is moments like that wherein you truly discover how to love yourself. I realized there isn’t really merit in loving myself because I am thin or because my skin is flawless. As Augustine says there is a right order to love and that in many toxic relationships people have quite disordered love. People love for the wrong reasons such money and status and people ask for something that the other can just simply not give. It has made me realize that a lot of disordered love is rooted in insecurity people love things that they thing can make them complete instead of first loving themselves and essentially knowing who they are to begin with. It is so easy now to say that you are how you look and that’s it or you are the gadgets that you own but
To go even further it seems to have become taboo to even just sit silently and be alone with your thoughts. I think what makes it quite hard is that sometimes when I find myself doing this I get overwhelmed by my thoughts and soon enough I am submerged in it all. Soon enough though I find myself being able to ride the waves of my thoughts and finding what I truly value in myself. And the answers honestly aren’t about anything physical or about anything external from me. The answers I find to all of the questions about myself come from somewhere very internal. The answer to where this voice I hear comes from in Augustine’s philosophy would most definitely be God, a supreme God who has created me and therefore my love is rooted in Him. In essence when I was able to look past all of the physical ideals and the comments others would have about whether or not I was deserving of love I realized only I could answer the question of whether or not I feel I could love or should be loved. It is from this insight that the rest the role of love in Augustine’s philosophy follows and it is something that I think many people tend to forget.
While reflecting on this it insight it made me wonder about those who truly love themselves and yet do not necessarily believe in God and whether or not Augustine’s philosophy would still apply to them. It is this part of Augustine’s philosophy that I had to really think about. And after hours of thinking about it I realized that there are many people who have ordered love and are not necessarily Christian because no matter what religion you are to love seems to be something natural for humans. When people are faced with great tragedy and bleakness the natural response isn’t necessarily hate or revenge its love. In the recent and very tragic Newtown shooting the children wrote notes to their parent’s about how much they loved them for fear that they may never be able to say it again. From here we see that it is so natural and unpretentious to love intrinsically. While for Augustine true happiness is found in God and comes from God it made me realize that happiness in its many forms is found in love. Love for love’s sake not because of what it can give you but because love is something natural that we do.
After having reflected on love in my life and out of it I’ve realized that the only response I can give that can truly make a difference is to ponder how I love and why I love. It is so easy to doubt yourself as worthy of being loved and when other’s perceive you as not good enough or not of the norm and I think the best response is to be secure in the fact the that your body isn’t the only reason there is to love yourself and that it should definitely not be the primary reason that you find to love yourself. I think that this is something important that I can actually share with other people. Loving connotes openness and that in loving others for who they really are and not treating them as an object is how I should really love. I think that the best response I can possibly have is to be mindful of how I love and what I love lest it become disordered and self-destructive even.