Love and Autonomy

Yesterday, while at Disney world, I had this super intense moment of joy. My girlfriend and I were watching the fireworks, and I fully realized that she was another person complete with her own values, desires, predispositions, fears, quirks, strengths, and weaknesses. Of course, on some level, I’ve realized this before, but this realization was different.

I began to see the beauty in the complexity and the autonomy of her, the “other”. Every movement that she made was both different than a movement that I would make and, simultaneously, engendering joy inside of me because of that fact. It was super weird, but also super awesome.

This is the sort of moment when I actually feel that I love her. I often times worry that the charges of the egoists and game theorists are true and that all relationships are attempts to dominate each other by using various methods of manipulation. In that moment though, I loved everything about her. I wanted nothing to change. I didn’t want her to do anything differently. Those sentiments seem like a complete eschewing of power over the “other.”

All of this, made me think of God. I wonder if God gets a similar kick out of our autonomy. Something tells me that God does. Is there a part of God that rejoices in our imperfections? This is probably heresy. The orthodox position, is that “God hates sin.” Wait a minute, can we make a distinction between imperfections and that which separates us from God? Yes. Drawing an imperfect circle has little to do with sin.

I think I am talking about the imperfect circle aspect of us that I enjoyed in my gf, and the aspect that God enjoys in us. Its not just about perfection, though, its about diversity. Its about the beauty in the different “other.” This is going along nicely with the stuff that I’ve been reading on developmental psychology lately.

When we are tiny tots, we do not understand the distinction between others and ourselves. Once certain cognitive developments occur, we can make that distinction. On a side note, psychologically speaking, this gives a hint to the question that’s been nagging me for the past couple weeks: Are we atomistic or are we encumbered beings? According to the developmental psychology, we shift towards becoming more atomistic as we get older.

Is love, then, the desire to be “one” or completely unified as Aristophanes suggests in The Symposium or as ancient Hebrew writer suggests in Genesis? Or is it joy in the autonomy of the other and a desire to see their hopes and dreams and wishes fulfilled?

I leaning towards the latter, for it seems to be the expression of God’s love that I’ve found in my life. Of course, immediately after I’ve said that I realize that the answer to an either/or question is often “both/and.” I can definitely think of instances or circumstances where being of “one accord” is a part of love.

I thought I was gonna get away without a mess on this one, but that was a silly expectation. Our task, as lovers, then is to figure out which “mode” of love is appropriate for which situation.

God, give me the wisdom to see the distinction and the strength to exercise that love, for You are Love itself.

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