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Is Gift Love (aka Altruistic Love or Agape)

Our Greatest Moral Challenge?

[After reading this excerpt from Michael Guillen’s Five Equations that Changed the World, 1995, would you say that Isaac Newton action’s were motivated primarily by gift love? Keep in mind that, after his mother’s death, nothing remotely similar was ever recorded of him in his behaviour towards others.]

The villagers were delighted and intrigued to hear that Newton was on his way from Cambridge to be with his ailing mother. Over the years, they had kept well informed of the strained goings-on at the Newton-Smith manor; now the gossips wondered whether finally there would be a reconciliation.

Walking into his mother’s bedroom, Newton felt like the loneliest man alive: already he had been rejected by his colleagues and the fabled Cupid, and now it appeared he was about to lose this enigmatic woman who all her life had professed, if not shown, an undying love for him.

As he approached the large bed, Newton saw that his mother looked ashen and was barely able to speak, though she did manage a faint smile of recognition. He was moved; he had hated her most of his life, but now, faced with her extreme vulnerability, her mortality, something in his heart softened, and he wept like a baby.

She had not been much of a mother, but she was the one person whom he had secretly wished most to impress. He had been defiant with her, even cruel, but that behavior was behind him. Now, he pledged, his eyes awash in tears, his only desire was to show her how much he had loved her all along and had wished for her love in return.

Word of Newton’s dramatic repentance spread throughout Woolsthorpe, and the villagers watched in wonder. According to one witness, Newton: “sate up nights with her, gave her all her Physick himself, dressed all her blisters with his own hands & made use of that manual dexterity for which he was so remarkable to lessen the pain which always attends the dressing.”

Sustained by a lifetime’s accumulation of unexpressed love, Newton hardly ate or slept. He was unfailingly at his mother’s beck and call, one villager reported, “the torturing remedy usually applied . . . with as much readiness as he ever had employed it in the most delightful experiments.”

Within a few weeks, his mother died and was buried in the village cemetery. In the aftermath of it all, Newton cursed himself for not having had a change of heart sooner than this, but the young natural philosopher also rejoiced at finally having discovered the feeling of a son’s love for his mother.

Whoever continues to love in spite of disillusionment succeeds at last in loving the object for itself.

Gerald Vann

I was taught when I was young that if people would only love one another, all would be well with the world. This seemed simple and very nice; but I found when I tried to put it in practice not only that other people were seldom lovable, but that I was not very lovable myself . . . you will find yourself making friends with people whose opinions are the very opposite to your own, whilst you cannot bear the sight of others who share all your beliefs. You may love your dog and find your nearest relatives detestable. So don’t waste your time arguing whether you ought to love all you neighbours. You can’t help yourself; and neither can they.

George Bernard Shaw (from a broadcast to sixth forms in 1937)

It is obviously impossible to love all men in any strict and true sense. What is meant by loving all men, is to feel well disposed towards all men, to be ready to assist them, and to act towards those who come in our way as if we loved them.

J. H. Newman

Love implies giving and its fruition and continuance must depend upon giving, not indeed without hope of return, but without consideration of return. Love must give itself beyond all tangible proofs of return, beyond all considerations whatsoever. The other person must be loved for himself or for herself, not for what he or she can give. Love must strive to give itself totally. Until this fundamental act of self-renunciation has been made, love must remain precarious, for its continuance will depend upon such factors as states of mind, thoughts of return, demonstrations of affection, all or any of which may fail at any moment.

Dom Aelred Watkin

A distinction has to be made here, which is not always an easy one. On the one hand, it is not only impossible not to have pleasure in the love and the expression of the love of another, but it is right and suitable, since the fruition, as opposed to the essence, of love means to love and to be loved. On the other hand, it is self-indulgence and not love to bestow the expression of love in order that we may derive pleasure from what in return is bestowed upon us. It is the difficulty of the distinction between a reasonable pleasure in another’s love and the giving of love motivated by a desire for pleasure which is often so hard to distinguish either in words or action.

Dom Aelred Watkin




Thoughts about Gift Love

An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.

John Wesley

Love and understanding are one and the same only in God.

Flannery O’Connor

Communication is at the heart of love.

The heart is never successful. It does not wants power, honours, privileges or efficiency. It seeks a personal relationship with another, a communion of hearts which is the to and fro of love.

Jean Vanier

If you wait until you’re moved by feeling before loving another, you will love but few . . . and certainly not your enemies.

Fr. Michel Quoist

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus of Nazareth

Love is a matter of feeling, not of will or volition. Hence there is no such thing as a duty to love.

Immanuel Kant

Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional.

M. Scott Peck

Love is an act of endless forgiveness.

Peter Ustinov

Most people experience love, without noticing that there is anything remarkable about it.

Boris Pasternak

Love seeks not to possess, but to be possessed.

R. H. Benson

Love conquers all; let us surrender to Love.

Virgil

Love seeks to make happy rather than to be happy.

Ralph Connor

Love can be deep without being strongly emotional.

Love does not mean to be moved by another, to feel something towards another, to let oneself go, to admire another or desire another, to want to possess another. Love is essentially the gift of oneself to another and to others.

Fr. Michel Quoist

All God wants is gratitude and self-surrender. He needs nothing from us except our love.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Love, to be true, has to hurt.

Mother Teresa

I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.

Mother Teresa

One of the happiest men and most pleasing companions I have ever known was intensely selfish. On the other hand I have known people capable of real sacrifice whose lives were nevertheless a misery to themselves and to others, because self-concern and self-pity filled all their thoughts.

C. S. Lewis

There are many people who know how to sacrifice and yet don’t know how to please.

Socrates defined the highest form of love as the love of the good, for the good. True love is inspired by the beloved’s effort to behave virtuously.

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.

George Bernard Shaw

The first duty of love is to listen.

Paul Tillich

There is no greater folly than to seek to correct the natural infirmities of those we love.

Henry Fielding

Men have to be reminded that things must be loved first and improved afterwards.

G. K. Chesterton

Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in this world but people capable of giving them their attention.

Simone Weil

Attention is, in many ways, the heart of charity.

True charity consists in putting up with all one’s neighbour’s faults, never being surprised by his weakness, and being inspired by the least of his virtues.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

You can only love the other if you accept him from the outset as he is, as he was, and without reserve as he will be.

Fr. Michel Quoist

We always deceive ourselves twice about the people we love—first to their advantage, then to their disadvantage.

Albert Camus

Beware of disappointment turning into bitterness and love into hate—for hate and love lie very close to each other.

We love things because they are lovable; with God it is the other way round: things become lovable because he loves them.

There is something in each of us that cannot be naturally loved. It is no one’s fault if they do not so love it. Only the lovable can be naturally loved. You might as well ask people to like the taste of rotten bread or the sound of a mechanical drill.

C. S. Lewis

What is mature love? It is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality. . . . In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.

Erich Fromm

It is a great mistake to suppose that love unites and unifies men. Love diversifies them, because love is directed towards individuality. The thing that really unites men and makes them like to each other is hatred.

G. K. Chesterton

Without love, benevolence becomes egotism

Martin Luther King Jr.

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