thoughts from today

froggies315's picture

It was interesting for me to hear Sruthi’s and Ursula Le Guin’s ideas on boundless love.  These two things made me think of quotes/stories that were seared into my memory in high school.  The first is from an essay that my older sister wrote about bare feet.  She wrote: “I don’t know if it’s possible to measure a thing like love, but the two people in this world who I care for most fiercely are my younger brother and sister.”  

The second is from a book about a doctor called Mountains Beyond Mountains.  The whole book is one of the best I've ever read.  The only specific scene I remember is the scene where the doctor realizes the limits of his love.  He delivers a stillborn baby and then begins to cry.  It wasn’t because the baby he delivered was stillborn; it was because he imagined that the baby he had just delivered was his own daughter who was born--full of life--a few months prior.  The doctor says that this experience exposed his “failure of empathy.”  It was impossible for him to care as much about the people who he was working with than for his own family.     

From the outset, these two quotes/stories appear to strike at different ideal conceptions of love.  My sister bounds her love with superlatives, and this doctor wants no boundaries.  Le Guin and Williams are on the doctor's side.  Perhpas I have been poisoned by a "distracted and domesticated life," but to me it seems both obvious and good that the nouns I love the most will be the ones I know the best.  As I said today in class, this is problematic.  Especially when I think about land.  I don't see a way around bounded love.  It seems like these authors and some of you do.  Would you explain more? 

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Sarah Cunningham's picture

maybe boundaries are not the point

I don't see that loving most what is nearest, what you know best, is the same as setting boundaries. Can't it be a continuum? Loving what I know does not have to be to the exclusion of what I know less. This is what bothered me about that LeGuin quote. It's true that people use the idea of patriotism in that way; but I don't see any necessary contradiction in loving one's native land, but also loving the wide world. I don't see why one should pass judgment on loving one's own children with the most intensity. That doesn't mean we don't care at all for the children of others.

I have lived for long periods in several countries other than my native land. I have dual citizenship in the UK and the USA-- in the UK just because I lived there for so long. I identify in different ways with the US, England, Ireland, and France. I'm a citizen of the world. So maybe that experience loosens up my sense of boundaries. There are countries I love that I have never been to at all!

It doesn't seem to me either reasonable or realistic to expect "unbounded" love to be completely undiscriminating! Such a love would have to be too abstract to mean anything much. Nobody loves all people exactly the same-- if they do they must actually be rather cold. I don't see why this would not apply to countries as well as people.

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