When love becomes an ideal - when it becomes caught up in a system of values - then love becomes a problem.
Not that you would know this to hear most people speak. For the majority, love remains a final solution, not something troublesome or in any way ambiguous; not even something particularly complex. Love is simply synonymous with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
I know this having attended a public debate on the subject last night at Richmond Adult Community College, chaired by Filiz Peach. Not only did members of the audience seem to agree that Eros should be forever bound by the altruistic values of Christian moral culture, but, shamefully, so did the panel of speakers (even if they referred us not only to Jesus, but to Plato, Darwin and Freud).
Half-hearted attempts to suggest a biological or psychological basis for love, didn't disguise the fact that essentially they remained believers in and advocates of a non-narcissistic love of self and a non-exploitative love of the other; i.e. a pure love that is all-embracing, ontologically-rooted, and prepared to sacrifice anything (or anyone) to ensure its triumph. A love to live for, a love to die for, and, ultimately, a love to kill for.
This might appear to be a rather extreme interpretation of what was said by the speakers, but it is precisely because love as an ideal knows no limits that it ends by becoming suicidal and homocidal. The murderer, says Lawrence, is all too often a lover acting on the recoil.
This is lethal enough at an individual level, but it becomes far more fatal on a collective level when love as an ideal is allowed to infect our social and political life. Fascism, communism, and liberal humanism all act in the name of love and all bring death in their wake.
We need, then, to rethink this question of love. To free Eros from his ideal chains and forced complicity within a system of moral values. To make of love a game and an art; a way of playfully giving style to our lives, not of discovering some profound meaning. When we resist the urge to make love definitive of the truth of our being, we might even find we can enjoy it again ...