By all means we need to define what love is. Its truth has been diluted by the same forces that have stretched and warped politics into its unpleasant, post-truth state today. In as much as we find worrying how social scientists and philosophers trace the support of populist and rightist regimes to some forms of post-truth politics, we must be equally worried about allowing the meaning of love to be hostaged by an army of postmodernists, who mobilize battalions of metaphors in their operation to liquidate the truth.
So I will humbly attempt at formulating a definition of love. To do this, I will cite three historic moments in which I believe love’s essence was made manifest. The first was in antiquity—when the Greek thinkers began to commit themselves to the task of forging what is today called the discipline of philosophy. Philosophy is a form of love—a love of wisdom. In this love, knowledge is sought; knowledge overcomes the appearance of things in order to understand and see what lies behind, or what lies hidden: the essence of things. In this kind of love, deception is conquered.
The second is to be found in the messianic life of the historical Jesus. Before showing to humanity his greatest act of love in Calvary, Jesus gave a new commandment. This commandment succeeded in overcoming the long list of laws in the Pentateuch in the Old Testament. To love one another as Jesus himself has loved became the requirement of discipleship. In this love, the promise of the New was directly addressed to those who in the Old were deemed unlovable, untouchable, and marginalized. Morality was reversed, and it was only in this new reversal that the prophets’ cry for justice in the old order gained new meaning, hope, and space. In this love, the Old is conquered.
The third is to be found in a not-so-distant part of our own history—the overflowing love of Gregoria de Jesus, or Ka Oryang, for her husband, Andres Bonifacio. The historian Ambeth Ocampo, in a piece published in the Inquirer on Nov. 25, 2015, told us how Ka Oryang resolutely fought for her choice of Andres, as her father was against the young Freemason. It was this type of persistence that, despite Oryang having been physically separated from Andres and imprisoned in Binondo, still managed “to scribble a hasty note to the gobernadorcillo of Binondo” asking him for justice for her predicament, to summon her boyfriend, and to “fulfill the necessary requirements” for their marriage. This is not a typical story of a woman in a patriarchal society whose marriage was arranged in advance and without her consent. This is a story of a defiant woman who overcame not only the authority of a father, but also the authority of patriarchy itself. In this love, fear and individualism are conquered.
So what is love? Love is an overcoming, an act of conquering. It overcomes and conquers that which is deceptive, old, fearful, and individualistic. Love emancipates us from our givenness, which oftentimes only draws us toward decadence and narcissism. If contemporary politics showcases deceit and instills fear, love challenges us to resist. If consumerism invites us toward mindless and individualistic consumption, love dares us to resist. And when a paramour holds on to old, oppressive practices, love summons us to resist.
Love allows us to be who we are not. Love transforms, love empowers. Love is resistant.
Regletto Aldrich Imbong is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of the Philippines Cebu.
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