- February 26th, 2012
Strange. I'm considering the path from the beginning to the end of a love that is at some point disappointed utterly and yet becomes, ultimately, altruistic.
It is amazing that a process as deep, painful, and humanizing as this could start out with such a trivial, pleasant, even giddy, emotion as infatuation. Infatuation seems so ultimately beside the point, even more so than lust (though that's a whole different discussion); it doesn't seem as though it would ever grow into anything either meaningful or fundamental. But that is the way of things. Although, there are certainly many more silly infatuations than those that do develop into real love.
And once the admittedly intensely personal but nevertheless fairly commonplace romantic love does develop, how does this emotion, sown as it is with the seeds of so much pettiness (envy, spite, bitterness, and most notably, self-absorption, among many others), survive without damage its own utter frustration? And by frustration, I don't mean anything trivial: I mean the continued indifference of the object of love, or his death, or some other absolute obstacle--or more than one of these things.
But however unexceptional mere romantic love may seem in the context of all humanity, it does sometimes survive such trauma, and even (I assume, rarely) can become something much greater: altruistic love, or more plainly, altruism itself.
I have an ongoing internal debate about the existence of "true" altruism. My intuition and higher, spiritual instincts insist, or are utterly convinced, that true altruism MUST exist, while my reason knows that this is highly debatable and probably it is in fact a logical impossibility. But perhaps these two facets of myself define their terms differently, and thus function on different, incompatible levels.
For instance, the word "existence" to Reason suggests that there is a real example out in the world, or definitely could be. It doesn't matter if this example can be quoted or brought to one's attention specifically, but the idea that something "exists" implies that it fits in with the practical, real world.
To Intuition, "existence" might mean something more along the lines of Plato's conception of ideals in mathematics. (i.e. Ideals are more "real" than mathematical concepts; mathematical concepts are more "real" than you or me.) Using this definition of existence, one could argue that true altruism exists without reference to the inherently flawed nature of human motivations and moral makeup, because "true" altruism exists not only on a different, but a higher level than we normally think of: an ideal level. The only reason that altruism is perceived as imperfect, this argument goes, is because the nature of our non-ideal reality is, by definition, imperfect, and thus warps the expressions of altruism at this level of reality.