♦ LAST UPDATED ON January 30, 2021 ♦
Badiou laments that ‘the arranged marriages of yesteryears have been repackaged in new clothes of today.’ Online dating sites, he suspects, promise ‘love without chance; love without falling in love; perfect love without suffering.’ Badiou beliefs that this hype reflects a ‘safety-first concept of love.’
‘It is love comprehensively insured against all risks: you will have love, but will have assessed the prospective relationship so thoroughly, will have selected your partner so carefully by searching online — by obtaining, of course, a photo, details of his or her tastes, date of birth, horoscope sign, etc. — and putting it all in the mix you can tell yourself: “This is a risk-free option!”‘
Several years ago, as I had tried to compete a bit with these large and popular dating sites, I had become guilty of the same approach – that of offering a convenient, low-risk option and plenty of ‘rosy, upbeat’ advice. Over time, however, I have come to also sound Badiou’s vocals that ‘love gives meaning and intensity to almost everyone’s life,’ and that singles are well-advised to act out of courage and give love a chance.
I say that it is ok to hold out for a person if one then really feels passionately inclined toward, instead of defaulting for a safe route by lowering one’s sights and settling with the good-enough ‘single-next-door’ for possibly less than love, for limited pleasures and limited pains.
Of course, either way has its pros and cons, that is love may eventually still arise in the latter case. In any case, a single person ought to have some clarity about his or her motivations, objectives, and intentions before making monumental decisions.
Obviously, love means so many things to so many people, and often people use that word fairly indiscriminatorily. Author bell hooks suggests that ‘love is too watered down by overuse of the word.’
‘I will love myself some ice cream,’ someone told me the other day. ‘Love is all you need,’ blared the Beatles a few decades ago. ‘God is love,’ declare most theologians. ‘Love is a felt emotion, an enchanting feeling,’ say some psychologists, while others say that ‘love is an act of benevolence.’
So, what is it? That’s what I am trying to come to grips with on this blog — for myself and the benefit of my readers. But it is not just a question of what it is. Ever thought of what love does?
Love — an ultimate illusion, a ladder to the good, or a blind desire to procreate?
Real love, in my view, is important, as in contrast to just being loveable as a good sport for sex. Real love, in my view, is meaningful, as in contrast to just starting a family with the primary concern for proper lineage.
Is love, real love, a misunderstood and underrated notion, or the most over-rated idea in a long time? The iconic ‘dramatic love story’ is perhaps the most profitable Hollywood movie theme ever, making me believe that ordinary people are not sure about love. Is that so because people believe that love is too intangible for them, that is out of reach — for better or worse? But they like a little taste of love, and find it at least in the movies. It stays with us long enough to create meaning and purpose in our daily lives, yet escapes us to preserve its singular and uncontained essence.
This whole website is about love because most everyone else already seems to think about sex and talk about family. Love, to me, is the ladder to the good — regardless of all else.
Most dating sites only talk up romantic love, and some only “amorous love”, and so they do not talk much about the meaning of real love. The popular dating sites produce their matches based on cold algorithms, and thus advocate their idea of ‘passionless compatibility’ so as to preempt against obvious no-nos, overwhelming choices and unexpected risks.
That isn’t giving romantic love, risky as it is, much of a chance. Looking at pre-selected online profiles in one’s relative safety and comfort is possibly underwhelming as a single may never encounter his or her true One.
Talk to real people, and you will be surprised to learn how many dating people “strike a chord” with each other in spite of not being particular “compatible” at the outset, and not being able to say much about the meaning of true love. Honestly, do you know what, in the end, will tickle your fancy regarding the One? Attraction, affection, as well as romantic love can be very mysterious affairs.
Badiou continues to pique that love is under threat: ‘on the one hand, you can have a kind of well-planned marriage pursued with all the delights of consummation and, on the other, fun sexual arrangements full of pleasure, if you disregard passion. Seen from this perspective, I really do think that love, in today’s world, is caught in this bind, in this vicious circle.’
So, then, what is love to a philosopher like Badiou? It is a quest for truth or an act of discovery, he says. ‘What kind of world does one see when one experiences it from the point of view of two and not one?’ Yes, when two singles come together and acknowledge and endorse their mutual dependency, their intimate interdependency, life will not be the same anymore for either of them. And they, most likely, will be a unique generative unit that the world has not benefitted from before.
And this one sentence encapsulates it all, not in terms of what love is, but in terms of what love does — ‘love invents a different way of lasting in life.’ Now, each of us has only one life to live and cannot compare what life overall is, or would be, with or without love. Illusion or not, blind desire or not, do you think that the lived experience of real love is desirable, that the lived experience of real love would make a difference to you?
Again, life and love are risky affairs, always will be. Having to take chances is not a bug but a feature of living and loving. The meaning of love is not simply about getting married and having lots of children. If love will end up to be a safe and comfy affair, it may not be that adventure but rather a habitual accommodation.
Please give love a chance.