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+8 votes

Having grown up in a Christian family, I was inculcated with certain beliefs about what love is, the nature of love. I was taught that there were three kinds of love - Philos (‘brotherly love’, ie non-erotic love), Eros (erotic or romantic love) and Agape (Godly love). In the Christian conception of love I was taught, love is expressed through self-sacrifice and altruism. Love was beautiful and morally good because it involved self-renunciation - you give up  your desires for the sake of others. These notions persisted with me even after I became an anarchist, and it wasn’t until I encountered Stirner that I began to seriously question them. I’ve had to work on redefining what all kinds of love mean to me, what I want them to look like when I express or experience them, and I’d like to hear what y’all think.

As an anarchist, how do you think about and practise love, in all it’s forms? Do you divide it up and categorise it? Is love altruistic? Is it transactional? Is it transcendental? Is it egoistic? Can love be unconditional? Can it be emancipatory or liberating?

I want to hear your experiences and your pontifications!

by (6.3k points)
edited by

3 Answers

+4 votes
i like the question, and the way you've framed it.

to me, love is an aspect of a relationship, and as such it is a living, dynamic thing. (i don't tend to categorize.) "brotherly love" can easily become "erotic love", and vice versa. (i have never known the "godly love", and i have nothing but disdain for the concept). love may disappear from a relationship entirely, or appear in a relationship without warning or justification.

love can be used as a weapon, to manipulate others (or oneself). love can be used as a healing tool. i surely don't find it altruistic or transactional.

can it be unconditional? not completely, not for me. mostly, yes. completely unconditional love must (by definition) ignore all context. if someone i love fucks me over (on purpose) enough, that love ain't gonna make it.

as to liberating, i definitely think it can be. but i also think it can be enslaving. both at the meta level (being in love with the idea of being in love, and that becoming a dogma in one's life) and at the specific relational level (being obsessed with someone you love, living for them).

(i might revisit this at some point).
by (13.4k points)
+2 votes
i would agree with funky that nothing human is truly unconditional (ok, my words, not funky's), but i have proven myself capable of advocating, over the years, that my friends and loved ones do things that are explicitly not what i want, because it seems like it would work better for them. it surprises me every time i do it, which is why i remember, although i don't talk about it at the time.

mostly i am suspicious of anyone talking about love; much like spirituality, it covers so much ground, and so much of that ground is ineffable (lol wut?), that talking about it makes me itchy. it is nice to think about the different words in other languages for the thing that to english-speakers gets lumped in a single term (among tons of other meaning not even mentioned here), but to actually shift the meanings in some real way i think is beyond people who are mono-lingual (eek. this gets us into a whole different conversation, so never mind).

i will just end that i think it's an awesome thing to commit to something that feels bigger than oneself, to be swept away, hildegard of bingen-style. (and yes, christianity has owned a lot of the examples i would know about, but gdmt...)
by (53.1k points)
+3 votes

Although my family growing up wasn't strongly Christian, I grew up with similar (if not explicitly delineated) ideas around love. Recently I have been thinking a lot more about love from a slightly different perspective. A group I am involved with has been reading "All About Love" by bell hooks, who, as I have mentioned elsewhere, is a major influence on me, even when I don't agree with her 100%. I have been trying to make my relationships (with my partner, my best friend, the folks in the group I mentioned, my roommate, my dog) more intentional and reciprocal. Where I once thought of love as being monolithic, I now see it as a conversation, kind of like sex (obvs not all sex is based in love, and not all love involves sex)... it is an ever evolving way of relating between two or more people. With my partner, our love has evolved over the decade and a half we have been together. It used to be built on a sense of having to love absolutely, ie I loved her absolutely, and she loved me absolutely, and that was central. In the ensuing years, our conversation has evolved. Our love has actually become more full, but we have also been able to acknowledge that we feel drawn to others, and that finding love in one person and one person only is neither realistic or healthy. That learning has been a hard and (at times painful) process, but we are a stronger couple for it, and a recognition that while we operate as a couple, that the couple-form is not the only form love can take. It is unconditional, but what makes it maintain is that we both recognize that we are flawed, damaged people.

The last punk band I was in was, while being a performance for others and an outlet for feels/emotions/ideas, to me at least was most importantly that sort of conversation, and it evolved and changed over time. The other bandmate who I have known since childhood and I fell somewhat out of love, while not fully losing affinity. The conversation with my now-bff/former bandmate led to a deepening love and affection. That latter relation of love has persisted even now that we live far apart from each other, and it has grown as I've gotten to see him come in to his own in his own romantic relationship, and in his new band. I am somewhat removed, but the sense of love I feel seeing him be the best person he can be is one of the most overwhelming feelings of love I have experienced. I would say it is a transcendent love.

So I guess it depends on the particular love relationship?

by (22.1k points)
edited by