John Caputo knows Derrida like no other philosopher; loves Augustine and knows his Bible. If you are in love, then this is what you should read. Pax. Love IS. Nothing else is.
So the question we need to ask ourselves is the one Augustine puts to himself in the Confessions, “what do I love when I love God?,” or “what do I love when I love You, my God?,” as he also put it, or, running these two Augustinian formulations together, what do I love when I love my God?”…If you do not love God, what good are you? You are too caught up in the meanness of self-love and self-gratification to be worth a tinker’s damn. Your soul soars only with a spike in the Dow-Jones Industrial average; your heart leaps only at the prospect of a new tax break. The devil take you. He already has. Religion is for lovers, for men and women of passion, for real people with a passion for something other than taking profits, people who believe in something, who hope like mad in something, who love something with a love that surpasses understanding. Faith, hope, and love, and of these three the best is love, according to a famous apostle (I Cor. 13:13). But what do they love? What do I love when I love my God? That is their question. That is my question. The opposite of a religious person is a loveless person. “Whoever does not love does not know God” (I John 4:8)…
Thus the real opposite of a religious person is a selfish and pusillanimous curmudgeon, a loveless lout who knows no higher pleasure than the contemplation of his own visage, a mediocre fellow who does not have the energy to love anything except his mutual funds. That is what the philosophers call an abusive definition, but I do not feel any great compunction about that, because the people I am abusing deserve it. They do not love God. What is worse than that? What can you say on their behalf?
…Every historical and social structure, everything created, generated, made, formed, or forged in time – and what is not? – should be measured against the love of God. Even religion – especially religion – insofar as religion takes historical and institutional form, must be tested to see how loyal it is to itself, to its religious vocation, which is the love of God. But the love of God itself, if ever we could find such a beautiful and precious jewel, is beyond criticism. Of the love of God itself I will hear no criticism; I will cup my ears…For if love is the measure, the only measure of love is love without measure (Augustine again). One of the ideas behind “love” is that it represents a giving without holding back, an “unconditional” commitment, which marks love with a certain excess. Physicians counsel us to eat and exercise in measured moderation and not to overdo either. But there is no merit in loving moderately, up to a certain point, just so far, all the while watching out for number one (which is, alas, what we are often advised by a decadent “New Age” psychology). If a woman divorces a man because he turned out to be a failure in his profession and just did not measure up to the salary expectations she had for him when they married, if she complains that he did not live up to his end of the “bargain,” well, that is not the sort of till-death-us-do-part, unconditional commitment that is built into marital love and the marital vow. Love is not a bargain, but unconditional giving; it is not an investment, but a commitment come what may. Lovers are people who exceed their duty, who look around for ways to do more than is required of them…Love, St. Paul said in his stunning hymn to love, is patient, kind, not puffed up or boastful; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (I Cor. 13). A world without love is a world governed by rigid contracts and inexorable duties, a world in which – God forbid! – the lawyers run everything. The mark of really loving someone or something is unconditionality and excess, engagement and commitment, fire and passion. Its opposite is a mediocre fellow, neither hot nor cold, moderate to the point of mediocrity. Not worth saving. No salt.
Notes: the excerpt in Sanskrit given as a blurb to this post has been translated by Swami Madhavananda as:
He [Yajnavalkya] said: It is not for the sake of the husband, my dear, that he is loved, but for one’s own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the wife, my dear, that she is loved, but for one’s own sake that she is loved. It is not for the sake of the sons, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of wealth, my dear, that it is loved, but for one’s own sake that it is loved. It is not for the sake of the Brāhmaṇa, my dear, that he is loved, but for one’s own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the Kṣatriya, my dear, that he is loved, but for one’s own sake that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the worlds, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of the gods, my dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of the beings, my -dear, that they are loved, but for one’s own sake that they are loved. It is not for the sake of all, my dear, that all is loved, but for one’s own sake that it is loved. The Self, my dear Maitreyī, should be realised—should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon. By the realisation of the Self, my dear, through hearing, reflection and meditation, all this is known.
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